Thursday, December 08, 2005

more Narnia! (paca)

I managed to catch a couple items yesterday related to the Narnia movie. One, believe it or not was the 700 Club. It was an interview with an author who had written a book about the religious meaning of the Narnian stories. First, he has seen the movie and it met with his aesthetic and religious approval. He encouraged all Christians to see the movie in order to show Hollywood that religious stuff makes money. The interview then turned to the oh-so-important question of "but this is a fantasy novel. Isn't that icky devil stuff like Harry Potter?" No, no, he assured us. Despite the presence of imaginary gryphons we won't all become satan worshippers by seeing the movie - unlike Harry Potter. The difference you see is that the children of Narnia utimately need Aslan's help, while Harry Potter solves his own problems if he thinks of the right spell. I will let you have your own thoughts on the vileness of Potter, but I can't help but feel that Lewis wouldn't have disliked J.K. Rowling all that much. Oh, I don't mean he'd be a fan. Not his sort of thing. I think Lewis would rather curl up with Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queen, but Potter leading towards Satan, I think not. In case my ironic tone is not clear, I will add that as soon as I can find a baby-sitter, I want to go see Goblet of Fire with N.

On the other side, I was driving home from my office around 2:45 AM listening to the BBC World news. A lead for the next segment came on: "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - a harmless children's fantasy movie or a way to get religion in through the back door."

I almost wrecked.

Look, I'm a good agnostic and if you press me I will confess I don't particularly believe in God, but the BBC announcer needs to calm down a bit. The lead-in sounds like there is this sinister plot to sneak religion into children's head through hidden means. Come on. It's a freaking allegory. Lewis loved Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress and wrote his own Pilgrim's Regress about his conversion to Christianity.

Spoilers are about to come if you've never read the books...

Aslan appears as a lamb at the end of the world.
He sings the world into creation.
Whosoever believes in him when the world ends journeys after death to a brigher, happier world.
He sacrifices himself to redeem a traitor and is reborn.
He is the only son of the Emperor over the Sea.

There is no sneakiness here. It's a straightforward allegory that is wholly transparent. Lewis wrote that he hoped it would be easier for children to find Aslan in our world by knowing him in Narnia. There's no mystery or controversy. And there is no harm in a child of strong atheist parents seeing this movie. I fully plan on buying B a children's Bible in a couple years. Those are good stories with good values and are one of the foundation's of our culture. And unless the direction of the movie is heavy-handed, you can actually just ignore all this religious stuff and watch a fantasy movie of some kids running around with talking animals and getting presents from Father Christmas.



kristybox said...

While I am certainly not agnostic (and am even on my way to becoming a full-fledged practicing Catholic again), I totally agree with you about the stories. Of course, I would let my Catholic kid read stories about agnostics (or even Satanists - shrug) so I'm probably not the best meter.

Having said that, you're no fun. I agree with you way too much. :).

katze said...

I love, love, love the sentiment in this turn of phrase: "Lewis wrote that he hoped it would be easier for children to find Aslan in our world by knowing him in Narnia."

And I agree wholeheartedly with your post here. While there is no doubt that the things we read and watch have an influence on us, it would take far more than a children's book (or movie) to convert someone to anything-- Christianity, Satanism, cigarette smoking-- and to say otherwise makes light of our intellect and free will... and if you're Christian, free will is a pretty important part of the equation.

Sammy Jankis said...

Uhm, I haven't read the Narnia books and I haven't seen the movie. However, your average child is not going to pick up on any of the subtext or allusions of a fictional film. I sincerely hope parents aren't going into this telling their kids it is a great Christian model for them to live their lives. We're going to have a generation running around worshiping Simba. Oh, wait, that was the children of the 1990's, it's already happened.