Friday, November 30, 2007

The Golden Compass

Today I got one of those call-to-action type emails that I hate to see littering up my inbox. Usually I just delete these without even looking at them, but this came from a trusted friend who is not usually the type to forward such things, so I figured I'd at least take a peek and see what it was all about. It was an outcry against an upcoming children's movie called "The Golden Compass." Now these things show up in my inbox pretty regularly, and most of them are pretty harmless in my opinion (Harry Potter, Pokemon, et al) but this one caught my eye for some reason. So, I went to my favorite source for such things, Strangely, it seems this internet warning checks out. (Yeah, that's a first.)

The movie is actually based on the first in a series of books in which the heroes wage war on God. It's kinda like the opposite side of the Chronicles of Narnia. Of course, most of the really bad stuff is taken out of the movie, but that seems more dangerous than leaving it in to me. Even parents who are careful about what their children watch and read may be fooled by the surface harmlessness of the movie and let their kids get involved with the book series, which apparently culminates with the celebrated death of God. Seems like a pretty sneaky way to indoctrinate kids into the world of angry atheism to me.

So, am I here to tell people to picket the box office, burn movie posters or even boycott the movie? No. I just want to make sure people know what they're really watching, should they make the choice to go see The Golden Compass with their kids.


jan said...

Thanks for the heads up on this. I hadn't heard anything. And you are so right. Railing against this kind of thing just gives it publicity and makes people curious. Better to just inform people and let them know what is going on.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the book isn't that bad. It's correct, they wage war on "The Authority" as it is termed, but in fact if you finish the series you'll discover that the one they're waging war on is an interloper, having trapped the previous one, who is also not God but in fact just an Angel who claimed to be the first one around.

God actually never enters the picture, it simply appears that way for a bit because precisely what's going on isn't always clear (it reads partly as a mystery).

I think if children were to draw any lessons from the book as written,it would be that it is more important to judge people on their actions than their stated beliefs. Many of the characters associated with the institutional system behave in clearly reprehensible ways, using their association with the semi-religion of the alt-earth as a cover and excuse.

Similarly, characters from difficult backgrounds rise above their past to improve themselves - and it's not clear cut, realism is necessarily compromised by the need for a readable childrens story but at least two of the major characters perform acts both evil and good, eventually redeeming themselves.

I think in the end a parent should judge this series for themselves. See the movie or read the series by yourself and (try and) avoid judging its use of religion until you've got to the end and had a chance to see where it goes.

If nothing else, while the characters are fiction, the characterisations are all too true in our world and it should act as an excellent springboard for discussion with your child - why is The Authority in the book different from God (trust me, The Authority acts nothing like the God the vast majority believe in). Why does the old rector of the college try to kill a likable character? do the ends justify the means? if so, when? was Lara too trusting/too suspicious? what does loyalty mean and what are its limits? what is duty? how does a group of individuals become more than the sum of its parts?

And, more to the point, where was God in the book in truth? because in fact there is no mention of God in terms of the final supreme being, and yet if you chose to read it that way the signs are everywhere, from the "coincidences" and prophecy, to the sheer unlikelihood of victory without *someone* helping out.

In a sense Laras journey is as much a Quest as that for the Holy Grail, and she has to suffer the same doubt and trial that those of us living in the world do, without any burning bush or final proof to bolster her faith that someone was watching out for her and everything would be fine in the end.

If it were my child, I would encourage them to read it, and be ready for the discussion that ensues. It is a series that can inspire, given the right context. I do not believe it advocates atheism in any sense, although it doesn't argue against it either.

Given the choice though, I'd get them to read The Hobbit instead. Better book :)

Bun-Girl said...

Thanks for the input, anon. I am mostly just concerned that from the previews I've seen, I would have thought it was just a fun children's story. Of course, it's always best to read the information and judge for yourself. My biggest complaint is that it's being marketed as something completely harmless, while it seems that the books themselves are a bit deeper than that. Like I said, I'm not calling for a boycott or anything like that. I just want people to be aware that there may be more to this series than meets the eye. Personally, I probably won't see it. But then, I had pretty much decided that before I ever knew any of this.

Simple PC Guy said...

The author is a devout atheist and is anti-Christian.

My kids will not be seeing his movie.

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