War Against Christmas 2007 Competition [III]: Philip Pullman and Hollywood`s Twisted Moral Compass
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Intrigued by the desperate state of my besieged email
inbox once word of the
The Golden Compass
movie`s imminent release, I confess—I
read the book by
British atheist Philip Pullman
on which it`s based!
And, intrigued even
further by hundreds of “he-said” articles and
postings by the journalistic and blog-happy masses, I
saw the movie too!
So I can answer a few questions:
- Is The Golden Compass
yet another shot fired at us in the
War Against Christmas?
- Does it hit its target?
Answer: Not exactly.
But only because in this case, as very often happens,
Hollywood is its
own worst enemy.
As evidenced by the many entries to VDARE.COM`s
annual War Against Christmas Competition, the cultural
Christmas with “The Holidays”. This year, as Tom Piatak recently
reported, Hollywood has joined in: after all, what better
time to release an atheistic movie than Christmastime?
Starting in early October, the
Bill Donohue, began
calling for a boycott of the movie. [See The Golden
Compass: Agenda Unmasked(PDF)]
Immediately, perhaps because my
articles on my
experiences as a Catholic
student at a (nominally)
Catholic college, I
started receiving emails from all over the country
urging me to pass on the word.
By the time the movie hit the big screen, it was more
known for its controversy than from the $50-80 million
New Line Cinema [Send them
mail] spent in
marketing. And now, judging by the preliminary numbers,
The Golden Compass going to fall far short of its
Harry Potter status among fantasy-loving
Not only that, but the movie itself just isn`t very
good. In the translation from page to screen, Hollywood
takes what is, if nothing else, an original story and
turns it into a bland fantasy with a trite triumphalist
ending—a total departure from the book`s disturbingly
dark close. (The heroine Lyra`s just-discovered father
kills her best friend. But I`ll get to that in a
moment). Things in the book which required pages and
pages of explanation are excluded by the movie, leaving
the audience puzzled. Cinematic elements common to
low-budget cult classics, such as close-ups of running
feet to convey chaos, make unusual reel-fellows with the
CGI animation. Many
of the characters seem flat and cartoonish, and there`s
even a Star Wars -style “Lyra, I am your
mother” moment thrown in for good measure.
In its attempt to make the movie appeal to Christmas
crowds, Hollywood has produced a $180 million snoozefest
that will entertain neither the purist Pullman fans, nor
the casual ticket-holder made curious by the giant
armored polar bear (the polar bears are great, actually)
on the movie poster.
Not even the anti-Christian sentiments are
particularly noticeable in the movie—unlike in the
books. The Magisterium, an
to the Catholic Church, is nothing more than an
oppressive villain organization the
likes of which
children (and adults) see in
Hollywood productions every day. As
false as the Wizard in
The Wizard of Oz, as
omnipresent as Harry Potter`s
Ministry Of Magic
and not as frightening as
The Child Catcher in Chitty
Chitty Bang Bang—I had nightmares about
him for years—the Magesterium is basically a
populated by perverted pontiffs. In the movie, there is
no mention of
Christ—even God is
referred to simply as “The Authority”—and there
are no portrayals of Christian rites or prayer. In
short, the Christophobic aspects of the movie are so
vague and caricatured that even an audience primed to it
may not make all the connections.
But that doesn`t make The Golden Compass any
less significant a move in the chronology of the War
Against Christmas. This is Hollywood`s first direct
confrontation to Christmas, certainly not the last, and
the efforts that follow will undoubtedly be more
It only makes sense. First, we`re forced to say
to “include” those
Hanukkah and Kwanzaa
corner. Then, they take away our
Christmas Break and substitute
a Winter Holiday. In some more recent
developments, no public Christmas tree is left standing,
Dickens Christmas Festival in
Saginaw, Michigan had to change its name to
the Dickens Holiday Festival so the city could advertise
in local schools. (The word "Christmas" is
banned in those schools.) I predict that in the future
no “Holiday” movie will be free of overtly
The thing I find really disturbing about the
Golden Compass movie, (and it`s even more
conspicuous in the book) is not whether it`s implicitly
or explicitly challenging the formalities of
Christianity, but that in a very subtle and kid-friendly
way, it attacks the
The whole story is extremely
After the movie was over, I discussed it with a 16-year
old boy in my party (who, incidentally, has not read the
book but is a first-class fantasy fan). He noted exactly
this, albeit in teenage male grunt-speak. He was put off
by the fact that Lyra seemed not to react when
confronted with what realistically could only be
emotionally jarring revelations her biological parents.
At the age of 11, Lyra is told that, not only were
her parents not killed in an airship accident as she had
been led to believe, but that they were both still very
much alive—but uninterested in loving her as a daughter.
Lyra is told this by her biological mother (whom Lyra
has only briefly met and for whom she harbors no
affection) along with the facts that Lyra is the product
of an extra-marital affair and the man Lyra knows as her
uncle is actually her biological father.
In the movie, Lyra is completely unaffected by either
this news or its deliverer. As soon as her mother
finishes talking, Lyra escapes, by a quick-thinking
slight of hand, and the plot moves on, Lyra never once
pausing to reflect on her family. And she never does.
Previous adolescent fantasy stories to which The
Golden Compass is being compared have
justice for the wicked
and familial bonds as central themes. In The
Chronicles of Narnia, a betraying brother must ask
for forgiveness in order for good to win out over evil.
But the question of forgiveness never crosses Lyra`s
mind. In the Harry Potter stories
stories, Harry is driven by the desire to know
and understand his dead parents, grappling with their
flaws and struggling to find meaning in their lives,
eager to make them proud. But Lyra in The Golden
Compass—both movie and book—literally never
considers the question.
In the book, it is made clear that Lyra`s parents
both abandoned her in their separate pursuits of gaining
extreme power: her father, by organizing an army to
rebel against “The Authority” (Pullman`s
shorthand for God), and her mother, by teaming up with
the oppressive Magesterium to control humanity on
earth. Lyra was initially left in a convent, but, as a
character in the book explains, “Lord Asriel wouldn`t
stand for that. He had
a hatred of priors and monks
and nuns“. So, in a move Pullman weighted
with symbolism, Asriel swoops her out of the hands of
the Church and drops her at Oxford, Pullman`s alma
mater, where she is to be raised by the scholars.
The Magesterium, in which Lyra`s biological mother
plays a significant role, is in the habit of kidnapping
children and using them as guinea pigs in its
“experimental theology”. The experiments it runs
involve cutting away what is essentially the soul of the
kidnapped child, causing pain so great that it leads to
insanity and often death, in order to preempt the
destructive effects of “Dust”, which in the book
is described as the physical—though for the most part
invisible—manifestation of Original Sin. (This is not at
all clear in the movie).
Asriel and Lyra`s mother (Mrs. Coulter—her name in
the book, so Hollywood can be acquitted of an
Ann!) are on
separate sides of the fight, father against the
Magisterium, mother for. But both are, in effect, child
murderers. As I mentioned earlier, in the book`s final
chapter, Asriel brutally rips away the soul of Lyra`s
best friend, killing him in order to harness its power
for an experiment of his own. He literally uses a
child`s soul in death as fuel to build a bridge to
Lyra mourns momentarily the loss of her best friend.
But she never stops to condemn her father for it.
Never in the books does a character discuss or think
about whether another character is
good or evil—and
Lyra`s parents are just two of the story`s many really
But attacking the ideal Christian lifestyle is
nothing new for Hollywood.
I challenge readers to identify any significant
children`s movie in the past twenty years that feature a
whole, happy family. Any parent persecuted by
“children`s” cable channels these days must
agree—where there are parents (and often there are
none), they are rarely married and almost always either
idiotic or cruel.
Combine that with the notorious
makes up most of what Hollywood emits, and one begins to
It`s a Wonderful Life
was ever produced.
In short, The Golden Compass is implicitly but
ineffectively Christophobic, an imaginative if sick book
made into an unoriginal movie, with good special effect
and bad cinematography. A shoot, and a miss.
My question: during the season when Christian
families gather together to celebrate
the Holy Family,
wouldn`t it make more sense to release a movie that
actually has a family in it?
Athena Kerry (email
recently graduated from a Catholic university somewhere in