Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hollywood to 10% of America: go screw

The "free hand" of the market, my schuchis. I'm a progressive atheist, and ain't nobody serving me or my 30 million fellow freethinkers. Jon Stewart and Keith Olberman is all we got (and even that is only halfway) meanwhile the dingbats have cable channels, industries, and a conduit to a government jobs program through a "university" that offers a course on "The Christian Role in the Arts today". More on that later, but first, about books.

There are books, then there are books. There are books that are a good read, something to make a subway ride go by quickly. There are books perfect for rainy Saturdays (I remember an entirely satisfying rain-pelt weekend plowing through The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson) and short vacations.

Then there are books. Books where you have to put the object down to savor the story. Books where part of you wants to sniff the page, because the prose is so electric that the paper itself should be transformed. When I think of the idea of a book, my mind goes to Philip Pullman's textured, dolent and fearless trilogy His Dark Materials.

The story as a whole is sweeping, and is a moving indictment of organized religion. The characters strive to tear down the Kingdom of Heaven, and replace it with a "Republic of Heaven". In the process, you have armored polar-bears, soulful witches, fearless miniscule spies, all leading up to some bittersweet.

But enough of that, let's go into the story. I won't go so far as and call the books "anti-religion" but they certainly don't swallow religion as a system whole. A recent treatment in Atlantic Monthly matches what we've seen from elsewhere: a desperate Hollywood, deathly afraid of Bullies with Bibles., shaved off the parts of the book that question religion (naturally, this didn't please the whining brats, who still stamp their feet at such horrid freethought running amok)

On a personal level, this is horrid. I love these books, and while I did not expect a 100% faithful (heh) adaptation, I was hoping that enough of the story would be preserved that I would be able to enjoy the cinematography in peace. Instead, they ripped out the series' center and meaning. This is The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe without Aslan coming back to life, Citizen Kane without the sled, The Wizard of Oz without a Yellow Brick Road.

But can someone explain to me why it was so horrid that a movie with a huge built-in audience (the series is number 42 on the Barnes & Noble best-seller list) should remain true to the story? So horrid that a movie that discusses theology rather than ignores it or venerates it be made? That a movie that beautifully draws a world following the beliefs of about 30 million or so non-theists in this country be allowed to exist? Is evil atheist pop Hollywood that scared of a bunch that are only happy when they're sulking and being offended? I've waited 5 years for the movie, and we get...this.

Which stinks.

I wish there was a happier ending, but there isn't. Which makes sense, because being an atheist in modern America...


(PS: If you love the Narnia books, and are of stout heart, read Pullman's essay about them.)

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