They’re at it again: The director and co-stars of The Golden Compass have told the Globe and Mail that their film is not “anti-religious”, even though, in the book at least, all the religious characters are evil and, in the sequels, God himself is depicted as a lying, decrepit angel who needs to be killed.
Daniel Craig is quoted as saying, “These books are not anti-religious. I think that mainly they’re anti-misuse of power – whether it’s religious or political.” And Chris Weitz is quoted as saying, “I don’t happen to believe that His Dark Materials is an anti-religious or anti-Catholic series of books. I think that Philip Pullman is against the abuse of religion, the abuse of God for political power.”
Nothing personal against these guys, whose work I have often admired. But I am so tired of hearing this line of argument. It simply doesn’t work. And here’s why.
Suppose I write a memoir about my father and how he brought me up, including the bits of discipline that no child likes but which, in hindsight, you realize were necessary and appropriate. Then suppose that someone else writes a novel about my father which exaggerates those bits, adds some more, and generally makes my father look like an abusive swine — all while using his name, or the various nicknames I gave him in my memoirs. Then suppose that I object to this novel, and then suppose that the author of the novel replies, “The book isn’t against your father. It’s against bad parenting. In fact, the fictionalized father in my book reminds me of a really abusive parent I know down the block, or a nasty uncle I once knew who wasn’t actually a parent per se, but still, he was a grown-up and he did some bad things…”
Now, would anybody really expect me to just roll over and accept that answer? Would anyone really expect me to just ignore the fact that my narrative has been hijacked by someone else, and in a way that profoundly distorts the person I was describing?