Those faithful believers in the best selling epic fantasy of all time, the Bible, are at it again. At what, you ask? Promoting amazing levels of hypocrisy and double standards, that’s what. According to today’s Sydney Morning Herald, the Catholic Church has been accused of derailing the second and third movie of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy.
The novels are fundamentally about the struggles of young Lyra against an institution called The Magisterium. The Magisterium is clearly based on the institution of the church, most closely the Catholic church. And so what? Allegory, analogy and appropriation are basic tools of storytelling.
The first film in the series, The Golden Compass, already had the role of The Magisterium toned down to appease religious thinskins, which is irritating enough in itself. According to actor Sam Elliot, who plays aeronaut Lee Scoresby in the film, the campaign by Bill Donohoe of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, has successfully scared New Line Cinema away from making the remaining films. Donohoe reckons the films would prompt kids to buy Pullman’s novels which he describes as “atheism for kids”. No, don’t let the children buy novels! He also said, “The reason I protested was the deceitful attempt to introduce Christian children to atheism in a backdoor fashion at Christmas time.” He seems to assume that all children are Christian by default or something.
Seriously, what a tool. He would be the first to campaign for the inclusion of prayers in school assemblies. He would be the first to insist that Christianity is an integral part of the school curriculum. He would be happy to see movies like The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, with their “deceitful attempt to introduce normal children to Christianity” (to appropriate his own quote) released at Christmas. He also complains that each volume in the trilogy becomes increasingly anti-Catholic. In fact, each volume becomes increasingly anti-Magisterium. The fact that the Magisterium is based on the church doesn’t matter. It’s a story. People will take from the story whatever allegory they see and that’s the prerogative of the storytellers and the people that go to see the films. Let them decide what they think. Is the church really so fragile?
Once again, the religious cry foul at something that might make people think. Critical thinking is, after all, the greatest enemy of organised religion of any kind. So what if the films espouse an idea of atheism? Does free speech only apply when you’re talking about Christianity, Mr Donohoe?
The thing that pisses me off the most, however, is not that people like Donohoe strut around with their attitude of self-importance and sense of Christian entitlement. After all, Donohoe is entitled to think and say whatever he likes. What grinds me is that New Line would cave in to this kind of bollocks and scurry away from the movies, whimpering with their tail between their legs.
After Donohoe’s campaign against the first movie, a campaign designed to affect box office takings, The Golden Compass took a “modest” US$85 million in the United States. What the fuck is modest about eighty five million? Besides that, the movie made US$360 million worldwide. For a movie that might take even US$100 million to make, that’s a pretty solid return.
Author of the books, Philip Pullman, says that the chances of the trilogy being completed in film are fading. Warner Bros, which absorbed New Line last year, have not been in contact with him. And according to the Herald, New Line declined to comment.
I read the trilogy long before the movies were touted and I really enjoyed it. It’s a great series of books. Let’s give a big fuck you to Bill Donohoe and New Line and buy the trilogy for all the young people we know this Christmas. The books are always better than the films anyway and we’ll get young people reading more, thinking more and enjoying a good story. It’s a far more coherent and engaging fantasy than the Bible anyway.