Sunday, November 13, 2005

Is it all just childrens' stories?

I never read any of these Narnia things or Tolkien. Of course there's lots of literature I've never read. But in perusing this NY Times article on the upcoming movie, I remain nonplussed at the whole thing.

In fact, there are some Hollywood observers who seem to believe that there is a good reason Lewis is among the last of the classic children's authors to be adapted for the movies, and that in taking on Narnia, Disney has backed itself into a corner. If the studio plays down the Christian aspect of the story, it risks criticism from the religious right, the argument goes; if it is too upfront about the religious references, on the other hand, that could be toxic at the box office. Disney, which is producing "Narnia" with Walden Media, the "family friendly" entertainment company owned by the politically conservative

financier Philip Anschutz, is hedging its bets and has, for example, already issued two separate soundtrack albums, one featuring Christian music and musicians and another with pop and rock tunes.

"The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," published in 1950, was the first of the Narnia books. It now comes second in the order established by HarperCollins, Lewis's publisher, but it remains the most famous and is also the most essential volume in the series. It tells the story of the four Pevensie children - Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy - who have been sent by their parents to stay with an elderly professor in the country as the blitz rages in wartime London. While exploring the professor's house, Lucy, the youngest, comes upon an old wardrobe in an empty room and, pushing aside some fur coats there and groping to the back, finds herself in a snowy wood at nighttime. This is Narnia, it turns out - a more or less medieval version of Paradise, populated by dwarfs, fauns and talking beasts, that is now under the wintry spell of an evil queen (the witch of the title), whose hold over the place is broken only by the arrival of a supersize lion named Aslan.

Aslan is fierce but beautiful, stern but loving; his breath is perfumed like incense; and the mere sight of him is enough to set most creatures tingling. He is, in fact, nothing less than the Son of God, who dies and then comes back to life and through the seven volumes repeatedly tests but ultimately saves the children and leads them to eternal safety - all except Susan, that is, who will become too interested in "nylons and lipstick and invitations."

I don't think it's good for adults or children to foster ideas of coercing behavior on the pain of eternal damnation.

The article goes on to put in juicy details of C.S. Lewis's life I'd rather not consider; life's too short. And it's not the point. My overall feeling of this stuff is that it's so mediocre. At any rate, in reducing the sacred (to some folks) to an allegory, might not the allegory be written in reverse? Is this not an allegory of an allegory? Is this type of portrayal of Christianity as favored by the literalists not simply an especially bloody children's story of dubious moral import?

Questions, questions...

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