The masters of double standards strike again

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.

dark materials


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22 thoughts on “The masters of double standards strike again

  1. A family member DID buy me the first book of the series when it very first came out and gave it to me for Christmas however many years ago. I read it, enjoyed it, and went on to buy and read the rest of the series.

    COMPLETELY missed the anti-Church message until Pullman and everyone else started talking about it. Just as I missed the biblical allusions in the Narnia books that I also adored when I first read them many years before that. (Let’s ignore the irony that Pullman supposedly wrote this series in part as a reaction against those books – not sure if that’s even true.)

    Pretty sure I’m not the only person who would have read them without catching the underlying message on first pass.

    You’re right – the books are WAY better than the film; but what a shame, if it’s true, that the films have been prevented from being made by such a campaign.

    Surely by now, everybody knows that readers take their own messages from the books they read? Not even the author has any control over that.

  2. You’re absolutely right – more often than not the underlying intentions of the author are missed. In many cases, even the author doesn’t realise what colours their personal attitudes and therefore their writing.

    We have to hope that there are more people out there like you and me, which only incenses me more that New Line might cave in to the religious fools.

  3. I had a similar discussion of this series with a family member. His complaint besides it being Anti-Christian (he said the author wrote it explicity to be AntiChristian) was something sexual. I don’t care about the atheism, because I’m atheist. But I was a little concerned if the books promoted sexuality in young children. That said, I don’t read them and haven’t. Though with all the controversy, I might be tempted. I already checked out “And Tango makes three” for Banned Book Week. 😀

    I’m inclined to agree with the previous poster that people probably wouldn’t even get the religious reference or it would at the very least be lost on younger children. I read Narnia, didn’t love it though, but I never got the religious reference. Later someone told me and I was surprised. In the end, most kids (imo) will just read a good adventure story.

    As far as New Line, I don’t have much sympathy for them after the crap they pulled with the Tolkien estate. At least that’s been settle though.

    Now, I must be off to read something unsuitable now… 🙂

  4. Oh, almost forgot to mention, ‘Last Temptation of Christ’ got all sorts of free publicity when Catholics protested. Perhaps Pullman can expect some healthy jumps in his revenue from people buying the books out of curiousity. I thought ‘Temptation’ was a great film.

  5. If Pullman did write it to be anti-Christian that’s entirely his prerogative. Christians wouldn’t think twice about writing something anti-atheism and they would be outraged if people told them they couldn’t. As for the sexuality, I have no idea where that comes from. There’s nothing sexual in the books at all. Sounds like more religious scare-mongering to me. You should read His Dark Materials – it’s a great story.

  6. Yeah, like I said, I haven’t read the books yet. I probably will in the future. What gets me is that other people who also HAVE NOT READ THEM are spending so much energy on this. Why not READ them first if you’re going to go to all that trouble?

  7. does the church have some kind of financial stake in New Line? If not, New Line should tell them to mind their own business! You can pretty much read whatever subtext you like into any story – as Christians do with any vague passage in the bible which seemingly translates to whatever they feel it does anytime they need to justify their blind faith in that best selling fiction book of all time.

    Does any other group get their way if they dont like a film? Did weird looking blue people prevent Avatar from being made.

    I think its hilarious that christians believe a collection of short stories that happenned 2 thousand years ago or more can hold ANY relevance today – How outdated do the policies of the 60s feel for example – Can you imagine people in the year 4009 living their lives based on what we are doing today? We would think them mad for not progressing!

  8. ganymeder – It’s the principle of the thing, apparently. Besides, these people, if they did read the books, would only see what they were told to see anyway. They’re conditioned that way by their faith.

    Chris – Who knows who has a stake anywhere there days!

  9. I just found Alan’s site through looking into his Kung fu School. I must say that I was very impressed by most of what Alan had to say on the topics he has posted, and his credentials as a martial arts and fitness instructor. I even agree with all he said in his post. I would never call myself a christian in the contempary sense of the term. Most “christians” seem arrogant and controlling, Not all, but most. I do however believe in the bible and God and Jesus Christ. For Alan to open this topic with “Those faithful believers in the best selling epic fantasy of all time, the Bible,”. he has just exposed himself to be just as arrogant and judgemental as the “Believers” he was debunking. No, I won’t be making any further inquiries into his Kung Fu School, and I should thank Alan for exposing his true nature before I committed to his School or reading any of his novels. Live and let live dude, everybody finds their own way through life and spirituallity in their own time.

  10. Bill Donohue? But he’s like the most insane public Catholic in the world! In fact this is probably the most reasonable of the scores of press releases the Catholic League does each year. This is the same man who abused a victim of the Irish Catholic child abuse scandal on the radio basically telling him to shut up and that he’s blowing things all out of proportion because some of the elements counted as abuse were as “mild” as touching, kissing and emotional abuse

  11. Mark – Live and let live? That applies to what I think of the Bible too, right? You should also read what it says on the banner at the top of this blog.

  12. Michael – is that right? Shame he seems to have such an influence then. You’d think the moderate Catholics would shout him down and denounce him as a spokesman.

  13. Alan – I have mate, I also don’t preach my beliefs, if somebody is interested i will happilly expain myself, but i will not preach.

  14. I think I’ve sent you that radio link before:

    Donohue is really really funny and worth Googling.

    Here’s the choicest quote:

    The culture war is up for grabs. The good news is that religious conservatives continue to breed like rabbits, while secular saboteurs have shut down: they’re too busy walking their dogs, going to bathhouses and aborting their kids. Time, it seems, is on the side of the angels.

  15. Mark – I’m a writer and a blogger. It’s what I do. You don’t have to read, but I’ll happily debate. Incidentally, I would never let your beliefs affect what I taught you if you came to me to learn Kung Fu. You will let that affect your perception of my ability to teach you though. Interesting, no?

    Michael – You’re right, I remember him now!

  16. Good things to think about. I hate when religious people do stuff like this. It’s as if they think God is too weak to fight his own battles.
    Christians should honestly just be taking care of each other, feeding the poor, visiting prisoners, speaking out against injustice, worshipping God, and quit wasting time with political crap. Then people will really get a glimpse of the God in the “best selling epic fantasy of all time”.

  17. Hello Alaln,

    I’ve read both the books (loved them) and see the movie(blah). Honestly, I think the sequels are not goingto be made because New Line wanted another Lord of the Rings franchise and Compass didn’t deliver the same mega-returns.

    The movie was not bad, but it could have been so much better. They picked the wrong director, basically. It plodded.

    I think people are letting this Catholic nutcase take too much credit. Basically, money is what talks.

  18. Lynne, I’m sure you’re partly right. But the film was the first of three and it did return. That means they would have made the next two and then cashed in on all the DVD sales too. Sure, it was no LOTR, but it wasn’t a flop.

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