03 November 2007

Controversy over "The Golden Compass"

Maybe you have heard of the His Dark Materials trilogy, by Phillip Pullman. This series of excellent books The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass, the trilogy tells the tale of Lyra Belaqua and her quest to understand the Dust and her father's war. The Dust may be the secret to the (multi)universe itself and her father's war turns out, rather shockingly, to be against God. It is easily one of the most imaginative, and touching fantasy series to be penned since Tolkien's lines, "There was a hobbit that lived in a hole." HIs Dark Materials is not only well written fantasy it is full of wonderfully challenging stuff. It was aimed at young readers, but it manages to transcend that boundary into the more general catergory of literature. And fine literature at that.
I will not spoil the particulars of the novels, needless to say, bound within their pages are creations as wonderful and nuanced as Ents, hobbits and Elves, and as evil as goblins, orcs and cave trolls. They are more wonderful still because they often as not fantasitical but inspired by our own history. Where the creatures are new creations the author takes great pains to craft an evolutionary history of particular plausiblity, and-importantly-utter readablity.

The books have inspired a cinematic treatment that looks more or less faithful to their spirit. This has of course inspired the easily inspirable anger of the ever odious Bill Donehue and his consistently otiose Catholic League. They have issued a call for all Christians to boycott this movie. Not because they will be terribly offended by the film (it is softening much of the polemic of the books) but because it may encourage kids to want to read the books and thus be exposed to the "atheistic message of the books." In so doing they expose the essentially fascistic character of religion and its inability to deal with dissenting voices. Mr. Donehue would hate the comparison (which makes it all the more amusing to make), but his haranguing of other view points based soley on writting and thought, make him no different than some verminous mullah in London demanding that Orwell's Animal Farm be rememoved from school library shelves, or English reading lists because its central characters are pigs. Donehue will of course boost sales of both movie tickets, and Phillip Pullman's wonderfully written books by his antics.
One senses in Donehue's vitriolic rants that he longs for the credible threat of violence that so help the Islamic calls for aquiescence to the demands of their ancient desert monotheism (Donehue did threaten to kick the ass of journalist Christopher Hitchens during a conversation about the saintly old bitch Mother Theresa). There are no porcine heroes or foes in this film so it seems as if Bill and fascistic Catholic friends will likely have no help from the Muslim League on this one.
Here are a couple of links to Bill and his League's attack on the books, which I imagine they didn't read. I am unsure if Donehue could read a long book at all. That must be why Catholicism appeals to him. The priests, likely much more educated, do all the interpreting, and that heavy work of reading for him.

To show my support of the film, and ideas in general, I've gone to the film's website and found my daemon (what is that you ask? Read the books! You have till 7 December 2007). Which felt wonderfully pre-teen of me. Here's what I got.


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