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    AmP Countdown: Time left to demand that Congress make health care reform pro-life: 2009-11-07 18:00:00 GMT-05:00

    Sunday, August 19, 2007

    The Golden Compass is pointing towards anti-Catholicism

    Update: Recent coverage: "Golden Compass author Philip Pullman calls critics "nitwits" (Nov. 27)

    CathNews alerts us to the potential problem:

    Nicole Kidman has denied that a new film she's making is anti-Catholic. The movie features an organisation known as "The Magisterium", which kidnaps children to remove their souls.

    The Brisbane Times reports that Kidman told a US magazine that her Catholic faith affected her consideration of the script for the film, which is titled The Golden Compass.

    The fantasy film is based on a novel by Philip Pullman called Northern Lights. It is already attracting attention in the US for avoiding much of the book's perceived anti-Catholic rhetoric.

    Kidman said some of the religious elements were removed from the movie script.

    Kidman told the magazine: "I was raised Catholic, the Catholic Church is part of my essence.""I wouldn't be able to do this film if I thought it were at all anti-Catholic."

    The Golden Compass is due for release in the US on 7 December.

    I watched the extended trailer for the movie recently, and remember raising my eyebrows during some parts:

    Narrator: "[This] is a world dominated by the Magisterium, which seeks to control all humanity, and whose greatest threat, is the curiosity of a child." (oh darn, he's on to us!)

    Scientist Good Guy: "... [there is a] parallel universe, where there is no Magisterium." Religious Evil Guy: "That is heresy." Scientist Good Guy: "That is the truth." (aw shucks, science proved us wrong again!)

    What's worse, I found an Amazon review of the novel that this movie is based upon. The review more than collaborates first-hand what CathNews mentions about the books being anti-Catholic:

    A shock of bigotry

    I read all three of these books and I kept waiting for the Anti-Catholic crap to be explained and rectified. I was horrified particularly that this is a book directed at children when the point of the whole story was to kill the "Authority" aka God. Not only that but all of the Priests of the Church were horrible, evil men who are lacivious, dirty, and murderous. Not one of them is good. And then the only way that the world can be saved is for two 12 year olds to make out.

    There are so many other details in the story that I could name as examples of the vemonous anti Christian and particularly anti Catholic bigotry in these books. The 'tempter' is an ex nun who flat out tells the two children that Christianity is a mistake...and there is also a thinly veiled reference to sex when the book says her greatest time of 'bliss' was not when she was a nun. She also goes on to tell these two 12 year old kids that she was not married but lived with a man for four years. Then there is a bizarre story of the two male 'angels' who are in love with each other.

    I'd like to tell any parents to steer clear of this book that is supposedly for children or even young adults. And also for people who are fairminded individuals and who dislike bigotry in any form.

    I rated this item one star but I would give it NO STAR if I could.

    And that's just a start! Read what another Amazon reviewer, from another viewpoint, had to say:
    I am not a religious person. I wouldn't say I'm an atheist, but I'm seriously leaning toward agnosticism. However, this series made me feel not just uncomfortable, but downright unclean because of how it dealt with religion. Mr. Pullman is an atheist, and I do not take exception with his right to his beliefs. I probably share some of them. The problem is, this series has been published and marketed as a children's fantasy novel, with no mention of the active dislike - hatred, even - in it's portrayal of religion. Mr. Pullman is free to believe what he chooses, and I'll defend to my dying day his right to do so. However, readers (and their parents) also have a right to their beliefs, and should not be blindsided by a seemingly harmless children's book. We label music with violent lyrics, restrict access to movies with adult themes, even rate television shows so parents have some idea of the content before allowing their children to watch. It disturbs me that this book is marketed directly to children, without any indication of its anti-religious themes.

    This is not a series for young children, no matter how precocious they are. Religious issues aside, it's just too dark. Even young teens should not read this series without adult input. If your child wishes to read it, you should read it first and be prepared to discuss it with them. This is especially true if you are even casually religious because it's unsettling to have your beliefs twisted into something evil and spit back at you. Adults and older teens should be aware of the subject matter before reading it. If you don't have a problem with it, fine, enjoy the books. They're certainly well written. If I had been prepared for the subject matter before going into it, I might have actually liked the books.
    ... and here's a third negative review along similar lines, for good measure.
    Now, tally these objections with the fact that New Line Cinema is trying to market the movie as a logical/related continuation of their Lord of the Rings productions (and thereby trying to take advantage of its huge audience), and I'm not at all pleased.

    The official trailer begins with the line "In 2001 New Line Cinema opened the door to Middle-Earth. This December they take you on another epic journey", while the Golden Compass is falling through air and spinning around to look like the One Ring from the LOTR promotions. How cute, but also how wrong.
    I don't think I'm being pedantic on this point. People love LOTR not just for its fantasy world, but for its philosophy. To say that LOTR and the Golden Compass are two epic journeys is to ignore what kind of epic journey the LOTR presents. While perhaps sharing a similar genre of fiction, these sound like two very different tales.
    Of course, you might be wondering why people are making a fuss over the anti-Catholicism of the book if the movie has tried to remove the offensive parts. Well, these types of movies always generate a renewed interest in the original titles. In the case of the LOTR and Chronicles of Narnia, this is great. In the case of the Golden Compass, this is a problem. Moreover, it seems that the Golden Compass isn't just sprinkled with the occasional anti-Catholic/anti-religious sentiment - it is deeply-inundated with the bigotry of a bitter atheist.
    .... and it's marketed as a book for children?!
    Update: Christopher Blosser has previously treated the problematic nature of Philip Pullman's work. If you want a more in-depth analysis of the issues involved I highly encourage you to read Christopher's post.
    Update 2: Carl Olson at Ignatius Insight has also posted today on this topic (he was planning on doing an updated story about Pullman anyway, since he has covered his works in the past). Quite a triple takedown, this.

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