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Overheard at the Office

Worker A: Do anything interesting this weekend?

Worker B: Not much. I saw The Golden Compass. It looked really good. It’s kind of along the same lines as The Chronicles of Narnia.

Worker A: Sounds interesting.

Worker B: Yeah. I have a Mormon friend who wouldn’t go see it with me. Said it was anti-religious. I mean I’m not much for organized religion, but I didn’t see anything to worry about.

[*sigh* I haven't seen the movie, but it sounds like it has about the same message as Happy Feet.]

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  1. Stephen Merino said,

    December 11, 2007 @ 5:37 pm

    Is this a conversation that you actually heard?

    I saw The Golden Compass over the weekend. I haven’t read the books, but I’ve heard about the emails circulating discouraging people from going and I’ve heard that many think the books contain anti-religious themes and ideas. I think they downplayed this stuff for the movie. I just read the Wikipedia entry on the movie, and it chronicles opposition to the film (as well as praise of the film) pretty nicely. In my opinion, the “Magisterium” in the film is more like a totalitarian, Big Brother-type, oppressive government (I guess in the book it’s meant more to be a symbol of the Catholic Church). There are religious and theological elements to the Magisterium in the film, but they are pretty subtle.

    If anything, people circulating this email and organizations openly opposing the film should feel a bit silly. The Magisterium is so over-the-top, blatantly creepy that by opposing the film, people are kind of condoning the Magisterium’s tactics and its purpose.

    If there’s any anti-religious message, it’s that there are no questions that should be off limits to ask, and that institutions can get too oppressive. But that’s about it.

    The movie itself was decent, but not great. They tried to cram too much into too short a movie, and it suffers for it. It’s really fast moving and it jumps from scene to scene and storyline to storyline in a kind of jumpy, unpredictable way. Also, there’s so much theology/philosophy/science stuff specific to the story. But, visually it’s nice, and it has a lot of interesting ideas.

    Your comparison the Happy Feet is interesting. That movie had a similar “organized-religion-can-be-bad” theme, too. Again, though, the “elder” penguins were a bit over-the-top mean, which makes it less credible. Also, I thought the movie was a bit too preachy.

  2. Jonathan Blake said,

    December 11, 2007 @ 6:34 pm

    That was an actual conversation that I overheard as near as I can remember it.

    From what I’ve heard the author say about the film, you’re exactly right. The Magisterium is more about oppressive institutions holding both religious and public power. Personally, I’d currently rather use the movie to point at the Bush administration as an example of the corruption of religion and government. If some religious groups have gotten too cozy with political power, then perhaps they might have something to worry about from this film.

    Happy Feet is on the preachy side, but I still like it. The People vs. Larry Flynt also portrayed most of the religious main characters as over-the-top loony. But then again, they were portraying Jerry “AIDS is God’s Punishment” Falwell. Satire has its place.

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