Tuesday, December 06, 2005

For Aslan's sake

I'm not exactly her biggest fan anyway, but I was irritated by this article written by Polly Toynbee in The Guardian, wittering on about the Christian conspiracy (in her head, at least) that is the new film version of The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, the latest money-spinning serial franchise from Disney.

In what was, I think, supposed to be a review of the popular children's story, she instead proceeds to spin out a really rather pointless polemic about the religious overtones in what is, famously, a Christian allegory. "Narnia represents everything that is most hateful about religion" she bleats. Really? You think that's as bad as religion gets? What about suicide bombers, mandatory female circumcision, the Spanish Inquisition and ethnic cleansing? I'd say they are all slightly more hateful than a CS Lewis paperback.

Regular readers of this blog (all six of you) will know that I am not, by any means, a fan of religion. In fact, The Realist and I arguably bang on about it more than is healthy. But the fact is, we don't believe, and we enjoy berating it from time to time. Another fact is that we were both, in different ways, brought up with Biblical stories and prayers at school. We just chose to reject it all as the unfeasible nonsense it is. I am a non-theist, but I found Toynbee's commentary po-faced and churlish. She's really only giving those on the opposite end of the spectrum an opportunity to throw the epithet "loony left" at her. And with words such as these, it's almost understandable:
Because here in Narnia is the perfect Republican, muscular Christianity for America - that warped, distorted neo-fascist strain that thinks might is proof of right.
Oh come on, you're being silly. I understand that there are Christian groups in America using the movie as a means of recruiting young members and, yes, that is a bit sinister. But these are the same groups who held book-burning ceremonies of Harry Potter novels because they "encouraged occultism". These people are fuckwits, ignore them - millions of fans of the boy wizard did, and countless millions will ignore you too. Children are no more likely to become blinkered acolytes of the Christian Right from watching this film than they are likely to sacrifice goats and hold ouija board sessions after watching The Goblet Of Fire. (In fact you could also argue that the Harry Potter books contain religious overtones: there is good and evil, sacrifice, you name it. Ditto the works of Tolkein.)

The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe is a much loved children's story. I read it myself as a kid and, when I have children of my own, it won't cause me any distress if they read it too. If they're anything like I was, they'll consider it a pretty good story, but not good enough to read the whole series. Although if they did, again, fine: I'd be happy just to see them reading. They can make up their own minds about the subtext some other time. Relax, Polly. They're man-made pieces of fiction, works of fantasy. Like the Bible itself.

7 comments:

mAc Chaos said...

You have to wonder about people who put so much thought into what's supposed to be a children's story. And of course it's an allegory, so what? This has been common knowledge. That article acts like it just blew the door off Abu Ghraib.

Tolkien himself described LOTR as "fundamentally a Catholic work." I'm not sure how one reconciles that with his statements that there was no allegorical nature to the story, though.

ph said...

CS - I have misjudged you. I also read PT's article in the Gaurdian, and thought 'It bet this is meat and drink to the folks of the L.L. website'. How wrong I was. Normally I do not buy the Guardian if Miss Toynbee is pontificating - I just cannot stand her po-faced, humourless, North London-champagne-socialist righteousness. But I did buy it and she hasn't changed.

ph said...

Didn't the children's author Pulman call The Narnia books one of the most hateful works ever written.
Do you think that it is possible that he and Polly just hate the idea that there are movements (faith) around them that they themselves cannot control or understand, and if they cannot understand it then it must be forecfully condemmed. You would think as liberals that they could just let these faith groups just get on with it, but somehow they can't.

Citizen Sane said...

I just recognise needless political posturing when I see it. It's one thing to shout out about church involvement in the state - I'd back her all the way. But to foam at the mouth over a kid's film is just as deranged as the McCarthy witch hunts. Just because it's coming from a different ideological viewpoint, it doesn't make it any less deranged.

As for Pulman, I'm not sure. All I know is that when I tried to read the first of the Dark Materials trilogy I put it down after about 50 pages because a) I was bored and b) I did not have a clue what was going on.

Joules *Dances with Haddock* Taylor said...

I'm so glad someone else feels the same as me! After reading some of the OTT stuff being spouted about the film on some of the political blogs I check I was beginning to wonder if I was the only person who saw it as a story rather than a conspiracy...

sparx said...

Read the Narnia books as a child. Didn't get the Christian sub-texts but did get very bored with them. Preferred LOTR.

The big thing most people seem to miss about this film isn't it's subtexts but the fact it's made by Disney. This most cynically capitalist, self publicising studio will jump onto any bandwagon if it sniffs a buck or two. All the trailers i've seen appear to show a movie without anything new to offer the cinema-goer after three Jackson films of the same genre. They've even gone to the same country and used the same backdrops. And used the same orcs and goblins.

Laura said...

But sadly there is no Aragorn in Narnia

*sigh*


:-)