The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Lion, the Witch, and the Fundamentalist: A Story That Never Was

After seeing a disappointing segment on Keith Olbermann's Countdown yesterday, I thought I'd add my two cents. The story itself presented LWW (I really don't want to keep re-typing the whole title) as a "Christian movie." That's what set me off.

I read the series as a kid, and I enjoyed some and was bored by others. Like many, many others, it wasn't until much later that I learned of C.S. Lewis' interest in writing Christian parables for young people. But so what? That doesn't take away from the enjoyment (or lack thereof) I experienced at the time.

When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I was pretty excited. It looked great, and I took it as a good sign that the director obviously wanted to recreate the thrills of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings series-- same special effects company, same gorgeous locations. It looked like Hollywood had finally realized something that I'd resented about children's movies and literature since I was a tot-- it's really annoying when they're sanitized and condescending.

But here's the rub. Tolkien was a friend of Lewis', and also deeply religious. In many ways, the Lord of the Rings was a Christian parable. But not a soul called them "Christian movies." Harry Potter is condemned by the fundamentalists as golorifying witchcraft-- but what if Rowling made a statement that they were actually intended as Christian morality plays?

The answer is that she'd make millions more dollars as the gullible pawns of Falwell, Dobson, Robertson, et al., tripped over themselves trying to snap up every book and movie.

The simple fact of the matter is that the fundamentalists are being taught a basic lesson in marketing by the masters of their own Babylon: Hollywood, USA. The lesson is this: give your mark what he wants, and he'll pay the price. Hollywood isn't promoting Christianity with LWW any more than it promoted withcraft with the Harry Potter movies. Hollywood is just pleased to have found another group of dupes willing to empty their pockets into studio coffers. Not to mention a group willing to keep shelling out no matter how poor the product becomes. Think of it as "faith-crack." They'll keep believin' just as long as you can keep the product movin'.

This is all so self-evident that you might be wondering at this point why I even bothered to write about it. That's because it shows another example of the mainstream press-- or rather their corporate producers-- grabbing on to a harmless item of popular culture and whipping it into a towering, rabid bugbear in the 'Culture Wars.'

There's no 'War on Christmas.' No cabal of Wiccans out to brainwash Harry Potter readers into a life of Satanism. There's no sinister group of gays and lesbians who hang out near schools and somehow try to convince kids that they're attracted to members of the same sex when they aren't. And there's no group of studio executives who've undergone a transformation and dedicated their lives to Christian filmmaking.

What's actually out there is marketing. A group of Fox executives who realize that having Bill O'Reilly make phony claims about attempts to ban Christmas will keep you watching, and thereby fatten their own pocketbooks with increased ad revenue. Mega-church owners who keep their Cadillacs gassed-up by keeping you scared of non-existent monsters under the bed. A corrupt admistration that tries to bolster faltering support by keeping the populace in fear of threats that never materialized, and by dressing up sheep in wolves' clothing as they count their billions.

I'm still going to see the movie, for the same reasons that I was going to see it all along-- it looks like a well-done epic adaptation of a famous children's story (made by a group of entertainers and executives who realized they could make some money from it).

Too bad the press is doing everything it can to convince us that it's actually the latest battlefront over the soul of America. I kinda feel bad for C.S. Lewis, too.