December 09, 2005

Maybe it's just me

But I totally do not get the whole "omigod Narnia is, like, a christian allegory disclaimer" thing going on in the press and publicity for the movie. It's as though these people are shocked that biblical themes ever manage to find their way into literature or something. Which, as a lot of journalists hold degrees in english lit., frankly mystifies me.

The hell, people. Where were you in high school when we discussed the meaning of the Christ figure in literature? Does Bartleby the Scrivener ring a bell?

I mean, is it really so freaking amazing to realize that if you're watching a movie that contains the whole "good versus evil" motif you might be able to draw a parallel to, like, God and Lucifer? That sacrifice, betrayal and forgiveness--which happen a lot in literature, film and real life, by the way--are also biblical themes? And that this might explain some of the Bible's continuing appeal?

I am beyond tired of Hollywood missing the point--AGAIN--and figuring that making Narnia is going to tap into all that mysterious Christian money, you know, because there's an ALLEGORY in there, and we all know they just went nuts over that Mel Gibson Jesus movie, and then managing to piss off the holders of the aforesaid Christian money with condescending "It's got Jesus, so come on out of your holy survivalist bunkers and join the real world!" messages, while simultaneously trying to reassure "real people" that they should still go see it anyway, because it has this ass-kicking lion in it and big battle scenes, and no one will be handing out Jack Chick pamphlets in the lobby or anything.

It must never occur to them that "real people" and "those scary Christians" are one and the same a lot of the time, and that they all pretty much just want to go see movies that don't suck, with stories that resonate.

I hate Hollywood.

But I do plan on seeing the movie, if I can just find the key to the Big Arm Jesus Bunker's front door.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at December 9, 2005 11:05 AM

It's not just you. As a matter of fact, I went through this same rant this morning, when someone on TV put forth an opinion that people might avoid the movie because of the Christian themes. My daughter, who read the books a few years ago, didn't understand why that was such a problem for the people talking on the TV. That started me on a rather spirited explanation that hit the same points you've mentioned here.

Posted by: dhanson at December 9, 2005 12:14 PM

I think I'll wait for the DVD version.

That way I can have it delivered right to the bunker.


Posted by: Jim at December 9, 2005 01:44 PM

Have you seen the Superman Returns teaser trailer? The narration (from Marlon Brando's work on the original movie) is the most blatant Jesus wannabe rip off. I'll see that one too.

Posted by: Jimmy at December 9, 2005 02:21 PM

Already made plans to leave my bunker. Tomorrow, afternoon matinee at North Hills. [Hint!]

Posted by: Brad K. at December 9, 2005 02:32 PM

Jimmy -

Yes, the whole "I will send my only son to save them" voiceover made my skin crawl.

Posted by: BAW at December 9, 2005 03:45 PM

It's not Hollywood, it's Hollywood marketing. All the press I've seen here in L.A. is entirely secular and pushing the film as a grand epic adventure on the scale of LOTR. I have not seen the word "Christian" used once in connection with the film and we're being flooded with commercials.

Posted by: Emily at December 9, 2005 04:42 PM

Remember "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock"? When they found his empty casket on the Genesis casket with his grave clothes neatly folded? And then at the end, when he's resurrected and they're all awe-stricken and reaching out to touch him? GAG.

Posted by: Laura at December 9, 2005 04:42 PM

that's "on the Genesis planet"

Posted by: Laura at December 9, 2005 04:43 PM

Emily -

Then that annoys me even more--it must be a regional thing and they're assuming that southerners aren't allowed to go to the Cinny-ma unless the movie is all holy and crap.

And all the talking heads on the cable news are going to their "religion experts" and talking about this movie like it could be "controversial."


Posted by: BAW at December 9, 2005 09:09 PM

I never liked allegory. It's like a sentence one starts with ``one'' and one has to finish without one's slipping into some tonic-chord pronoun like he or you.

Basically what it is, is a trombone solo, as Thurber described it.

Worse, it's a continuing temptation to the author, who believes that even more will be still better.

Metaphor gets in and out fast.

The author stays ahead of you instead of lagging you by pages, or, worse, chapters.

Lazaras plays the role of allegory in the Bible.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at December 10, 2005 02:05 PM

Whatever happened to just enjoying a story/film for its fantastical appeal? It's, well, storyness. I don't generally clasp most fiction to my breast and claim it will be my modus operandi forever, or, well, my Bible. It's frickin' fiction. Enjoy the story. Sometimes I wonder about folks-on both sides or all sides-of the aisle.

Posted by: Kim at December 10, 2005 08:14 PM

``Whatever happened to just enjoying a story/film for its fantastical appeal?''

A very nice application of lowbrowmanship! It's described by Stephen Potter in Lifemanship, under Conversationmanship, subcategory Glaciation, with this example :

LAYMAN : I don't advise the new musical. It's certainly a leg show, but the harmonies are trite, the dialogue is unfunny and the decor is just a splurge.

LOWBROWMAN : Oh, I don't know, I rather like a good bit of old-fashioned vulgarity. And I'm awfully sorry but I like leg shows.

If the Lowbrowman happens to be a Professor of Aesthetics, as he usually is, his remark is all the more irritating.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at December 11, 2005 12:14 PM

Yes, but it is a bit obtuse to ignore the Christian context of the Narnia stories, since they were written within, well, a Christian context. I don't think you have to be a Christian to enjoy the stories, but to read/watch completely without keeping this context in mind is impossible, unless you legitimately know nothing of C.S. Lewis and his oeuvre.
I think BAW's point is that it is now almost forbidden (unless you don't mind taking Mel Gibson-like fire) within media production to just make an explicitly Christian film, admit it, and say, "Here it is - hope you come and enjoy! If not, oh well." Instead, the companies have to justify the heck out of the film's existence. Then, the commentary/"reporting" media cannot talk about the film without dividing potential audience up into little camps, so that it becomes a political badge of honor both to see it, and not to see it. They then trudge out experts of various stripes to feed the "controversy".

I wonder what would happen if someone did a remake of "A Miracle on 34th Street", only updating the setting. That film, after all, is also pretty explicitly Christian. My guess is that such a release would not be able to avoid the media's "controversy" quicksand, unless the spiritual message was watered down into a grotesque mush.

Posted by: Husband of BAW at December 11, 2005 12:25 PM

Well yes, but it's a matter of what you want to talk about ; some famous professional musician I heard said he was unable to enjoy music as he did as a child, what with knowing all the theory now, something he said tinged with sadness.

Perhaps he enjoys it differently, I don't know. You have to stand somewhere, though. Or maybe you learn to stand somewhere. I know a lot of theory and still have favorite pieces, and new ones come up. One new Australian Country/Folk piece I liked was even better when I realized it was a barcarolle, composed all unaware of its being one.

Attacking the news hype machine of course is always justified, and the best fun anywhere, just finding the perfect line to dismiss this or that scheme to attract eyeballs for advertisers.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at December 11, 2005 01:38 PM

Also? And--!

It's not allegory. It's speculative fiction. Aslan is not the personification of Christ, he IS Christ. He even shows up as a lamb feeding the two younger Pevensie kids and Eustace, **fishes** at the end of THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER for heaven's sake.

"I don't say. 'Let us represent Christ as Aslan.' I say, 'Supposing there was a world like Narnia, and supposing, like ours, it needed redemption, let us imagine what sort of Incarnation and Passion and Resurrection Christ would have there.'"

And if "speculative fiction about what Christ would look like if he appeared in a fairy-tale world with talking animals" is too much of a mouthful, there's always "parable"

I swear, I want to send every journalist (and not just the knee-jerk left-y types, off to read "Narnia for Dummies" (

And! Yes--? This is a bit of a pet peeve.

Posted by: Carbonel at December 11, 2005 06:26 PM

I'm a Christian and I still maintain that the only reason I am reading (yes, I didn't read it as a child) Narnia, in its correct order, thank you to the marketers again, is because it is an intriguing story, with bits of Mary Poppins in its dryness and all sorts of good/bad/adventure whatever. I certainly appreciate the Christian symbolism or whatever you want to call it, but it still is just a good story.

If I were to take it as seriously as those who are afraid of works with Christian themes or those Christians who think it's a manifesto of some sorts, then I'd be sewing up my Aslan costumes or burning them.

I haven't seen any particular uproar against The Wizard of Oz or Wicked and they're quite similar in how they slant or don't slant.

Posted by: Kim at December 11, 2005 08:42 PM

"Lazaras plays the role of allegory in the Bible."

Albert played it in 'Pogo'.

Sorry! Unclean! Forgive, forgive....

Posted by: PersonFromPorlock at December 12, 2005 05:30 PM

My verdict is:

Pretty but bland. The anxiety of LOTR influence looms large over the whole (literally bloodless) exercise. It would've been better served by a director who had his own well-developed vision and sense of style, a la Peter Jackson, but not Peter Jackson. It's not that it's bad, but that it's pedestrian in its execution. In this way it reminds me a little of the Harry Potter films that I've seen.

Posted by: Brad K. at December 12, 2005 05:43 PM

I read and re-read the Narnia books growing up and appreciated them for their fantasy adventureness and their intertwined religious symbolism. I share BAW's disappointment that the marketing wizzes at Disney feel the need to have 2 separate marketing campaigns for the secular fantasists and the Christian churchgoers.

More than this, however, I really worry about the trend toward using Christian churches in a systematic way as marketing vehicles for products and political campaigns. Now that we have Disney in on the act does anyone besides me worry that before long we'll have a big Christian theme park where visitors can part the Red Sea, walk on water, and ride the "Ascension"?Anyone who has seen the living Nativity scene that concludes the Rockettes Christmas extravaganza in New York knows I'm not crazy. Hot legs, Santa Claus, and Jesus in a manger with real camels, baby.

Posted by: poppleton at December 13, 2005 01:14 PM