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What Would People Think?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

No Narnia Yet

Ok, so my many fans (a.k.a. Mike) demand I write about The Chronicles of Narnia. Well, I can't yet. I haven't seen it. I promised Christy that I'd wait to watch it the first time with her. I probably shouldn't drive over to Nashville, kidnap her, and carry her bodily into the nearest movie theater.

Can't say I haven't considered it. But a little kidnapping is a hard thing to explain to the future in-laws.

One thing I can say is that some critics of the film need to grow up. Especially the very, very angry review in The Guardian entitled "Narnia Represnts Everything That Is Most Hateful About Religion." Salon has a more subdued review asking whether moviegoers can enjoy the film knowing its Christian subtext. Even that review talks about feeling "betrayed" after finding out that her childhood favorite books were "peddling the same stuff as dreary old Sunday School."

It astounds me how easily offended some people are. A lot of folks can't take it as much as they dish it out. I joyfully see movies with titles like Sin City (which, trust me, does not share my values) with nary a complaint. I can find value in movies I disagree with, such as Million Dollar Baby (I vehemently disagree with Hillary Swank and Clint Eastwood's choice at the end of the movie...really her choice since she almost forced it on him). A lot of movies simply proceed on the baseline assumption that religious Christians are bigots and/or morons. Certainly most movies don't share my values as to sex. (Yes, I intend to wait until marriage, dammit!) That doesn't mean I sit there with a sour face at every film I disagree with. I try to accept a film on its own terms and see if it does that well.

But let a movie have Christian subtext and oh, the horror!

Certainly part of the blame is the none-too-subtle marketing campaign by Disney. But - with rare exceptions like The Blair Witch Project - a movie should be judged outside of its marketing campaign. A random-ass example: Changing Lanes was billed as some sort of revenge flick and looked pretty darn mediocre. In fact, it was a smart character drama about two flawed, but not evil, men who bring out the worst (and best) in each other over the course of one life-shattering day.

Don't judge a movie by its marketers. Marketers are morons.

Besides...the symbolism of the Chronicles of Narnia doesn't slap you in the face. (I'm basing this on the book, having not had a chance to kidnap my future wife and see the movie yet.) Ok, so one character dies for another's wrongdoing and then comes back to life. The symbolism is certainly there. But the story also works entirely on its own level. It's also just a great adventure yarn about 4 kids who are transported to a magical world with talking animals and a kick-ass battle scene.

If you see the movie and choose to hate it for its religious symbolism, so be it. I think you are missing out, but at least you've seen the movie. But if people start bashing the movie without having seen it like they did for The Passion of the Christ and The Last Temptation of Christ (which would be a shame, since Narnia is just a kids tale....not an intentionally controversial film like those other two), then I shall be forced to label them fools, morons, and philistines.

And on that "fools" note, I must give you the following quote from the popular Web series Red vs. Blue:

O'Malley, giving orders to his robot army: "Now kill all those fools. And those fools over there. And those fools. Leave no fool left unkilled. This army has a no fool discrimination clause, mwahaha!"
Doc: "I like that we have a no fool discrimination clause. This makes us progressive!"
O'Malley: "Shut up you fool"


  • "They eat their wounded." "Just like chiropractors." Props on the RvB quote.

    Elements of the Christian story have been prominent in many movies, not just Narnia and Passion. The Matrix is the most memorable example from the past five years. And if the Guardian guy is so burnt up about the resuscitative power of Aslan's self-sacrifice, might I point him to the Harry Potter series, where Harry's mom's self-sacrifice saves baby Harry?

    ***SPOILER ALERT - if you haven't seen "Million Dollar Baby" or "The Cider House Rules", proceed no further. Come to think of it, I haven't seen "Cider House Rules" - but I still know this plot point, so it doesn't matter.***

    That having been said, the marketing campaign is to blame for the reaction of non-Christians to Narnia. If "Million Dollar Baby" were marketed as an evangelical tool for the right-to-die campaign, or if "Cider House Rules" were marketed as pro-choice propaganda, it would have received similar condemnations from the Christian community. Think of it as a perverse Newton's Third Law of Cinema - an aggressively topical ad campaign is met with an equally aggressive opposite reaction.

    I agree, though, that a film should be judged on its merits, and we can leave the philosophical/theological debates for another discussion.

    By Blogger Jeff, at 12/11/2005 6:42 PM  

  • Note: if you haven't seen the movie or read the book, read no further.

    I have, in fact, seen Narnia myself, and found it quite enjoyable even knowing its Christian subtext (though I admittedly made snide comments like "Wow, that was the quickest three days ever!" when Aslan returns to life). It is a good family film and a good adventure film. Oh, and it has vague references to Christianity.

    The author in "The Guardian" does make some interesting points, such as Christ should probably be represented as a lamb rather than a lion. (Also, I fully expected Aslan, being representative of the forgiving Christ, to spare the White Witch's life - but that's neither here nor there.) But basically, children will enjoy it because they won't get the subtext, and adults can enjoy it on whatever level they choose to approach it.

    Still, Ben, I have to admit I'm starkly disappointed (get it?): you could easily have seen it by yourself and then lied to Christy about it, but you didn't. What kind of a husband do you expect to be? :-P

    By Blogger Mike, at 12/11/2005 7:03 PM  

  • Yeah, just saw Narnia myself, and the Christian subtext is hidden under layers upon layers of heroic fantasy epic. For most people, the only faith it will spread/reaffirm is the faith in Tilda Swinton as an awesome actress. She creeped me out, man.

    By Blogger Jeff, at 12/11/2005 11:10 PM  

  • Amen to that. (Can I still say "amen", or does it have too much Christian subtext?)

    By Blogger Mike, at 12/12/2005 3:47 PM  

  • Actually, it has a gendered subtext... you might want to change that to "Apeople."

    By Blogger Jeff, at 12/12/2005 6:49 PM  

  • Touché. On second thought, can I still say "touché" or is it too French?

    (And with that, we stray ridiculous far off subject.)

    By Blogger Mike, at 12/13/2005 5:11 PM  

  • Mike, why do you hate America?

    By Blogger Jeff, at 12/13/2005 5:52 PM  

  • Hey, you think the same about movies as I do! (I felt the need to comment to show that I had returned to reading your blog, whether or not I comment frequently.)

    By Blogger Matthew B. Novak, at 12/15/2005 4:46 PM  

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