The Golden Compass Controversy

Posted: Dec 7, 2007 in Opinions

There are several great articles out there today about this movie that give another perspective on this movie based on the trilogy by J.K. Rowling that spark in me an interest to see what this movie is all about. Here are those articles. Article 1 by Bill Donahue on the Catholic League website, Article 2 by Jeffrey Weiss in Dallas Morning News, Article 3 put out by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. I also have this email DallasNews Religion Sneak Peek_ Friday Dec 07, 2007.pdf that is a overview of the DMN article.

I found Weiss arguments quite compelling here is an excerpt from the email article:

Beyond that: Mr. Donohue’s protests — along with others — have only built interest in the film and the books. Was it worth it? Compare this with the furor about the Da Vinci Code, an awful but awfully popular book that really was an attack on the real Catholic Church. Maybe the popularity of the book made the protests worth the effort. On the other hand, recall the huge debate about The Passion of the Christ . A film that neither sparked massive anti-Semitism nor a wave of spiritual revival. Yahoo says that the controversy has apparently boosted searches for “atheism” and “atheism definition” on its search engine. So the argument may have had the opposite effect that Mr. Donohue hoped.Here’s what the official movie review distributed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has to say about Compass: “To the extent, moreover, that Lyra and her allies are taking a stand on behalf of free will in opposition to the coercive force of the Magisterium, they are of course acting entirely in harmony with Catholic teaching. The heroism and self-sacrifice that they demonstrate provide appropriate moral lessons for viewers.”So is Mr. Donohue a dope about The Golden Compass? What do you think? 

  Interestingly, not all of the Catholic groups that review movies agree with Donahue. This excerpt is perhaps a more interesting thought on dealing with movies that are controversial in nature.

Is Pullman trying to undermine anyone’s belief in God? Leaving the books aside, and focusing on what has ended up on-screen, the script can reasonably be interpreted in the broadest sense as an appeal against the abuse of political power.  Will seeing this film inspire teens to read the books, which many have found problematic? Rather than banning the movie or books, parents might instead take the opportunity to talk through any thorny philosophical issues with their teens.  The religious themes of the later books may be more prominent in the follow-up films which Weitz has vowed will be less watered down. For now, this film — altered, as it is, from its source material — rates as intelligent and well-crafted entertainment.     

The film contains intense but bloodless fantasy violence, anti-clerical subtext, standard genre occult elements, a character born out of wedlock and a whiskey-guzzling bear. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. 

I think the notion that we can rally the Christian troops to not go see a movie is such as this is a false notion in this day and age. While it may affect some to stay home, ultimately bad publicity is still publicity, if not the best kind. Saying no in a society built around me, for many, pushes to do the very opposite. I find myself in that camp, the one that wants to go see what all the hubbub is about.

To be honest, I haven’t decided if I want to see it or if I would allow my older children to see it. It seems to me that protecting our children and thinking that somehow this mode of reasoning, even if it is from a rebellious and atheistic bent, isn’t already pervasive in our children already. It seems that movies that serve as controversial open up opportunities to discuss their own lifestyles, their own choices and to learn more about who they are as we listen to their working out of controversial issues they are already facing. Whatever choice you make, the ideals and controversies that this movie may or may not be promoting must be seen as real threats to our families anyway. As such, opening the door to conversations that uncover this with our children and families can only serve to promote better values in our homes. God bless you as you decide what’s best for your family.

–Les

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