Digging into the Narnia story

Narnia posterWhen conducting interviews, most reporters conduct themselves knowing that their notes, questions and side remarks will never be seen by anyone other than themselves, even their editor. In the rare occurrence of a subpoena of their notes, a handful of lawyers may have the opportunity to pour over the material, but it would be extremely unusual for the world to have that opportunity.

This could be changing with the Internet and a great example is this online package on the upcoming movie, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe from PBS’s Religion & Ethics Newsweekly. Most people who caught this program on television will allow the content and the interviews — which include our own Tmatt — to slip into a forgotten part of the past. But this is no longer the case.

(Don’t forget to check out some of our past posts on the release of the film, here, here and here.)

For people like myself, who missed the live broadcast, the transcript of the program along with the video is available for any and all with an Internet connection. But that’s not all. Religion and Ethics Newsweekly was kind enough to post the transcripts of the interviews with Tmatt and author and Wheaton College professor Alan Jacobs for the piece so we could analyze ourselves the questions asked and the thoughts of the person actually doing the reporting. For those analyzing the media’s coverage of anything, this is an incredible tool and in an ideal world, the way it should always be.

Kim Lawton’s report on the film is a solid piece of work. It focuses on the film, the targeted audience and the producer’s marketing approach, and from what I could tell, Lawton uses the material from her interviews quite fairly and accurately. For time’s sake, not all quotes are completely intact, but that is to be expected. For instance, take this quote from the edited version:

Mr. MATTINGLY: The major symbolism, of course, is the death and resurrection of a Christ figure. And all of this is interpreted with language that is not out of the Bible, but you would have to be pretty blind not to see what the symbols mean and to hear what the words mean.

And here it is in the entire section:

Q: What are the key religious themes and symbols in THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE?

A: The major symbolism, of course, is the death and resurrection of a Christ figure. It’s interesting in the sense that there is no attempt to create a cross. Instead, Lewis, who, like Tolkien, loved ancient mythologies and loved those stories, goes with a much more ritualistic image of an altar, a stone table, an Aztec stone knife, and a witch who just slays him. But then you have a very vivid and literal resurrection. All of this is interpreted with language that is not out of the Bible, but you would have to be pretty blind not to see what the symbols mean and to hear what the words mean.

Tmatt told me that he was thankful that they ran the entire interview. And why not? It was a 45-minute ordeal and that type of information should not be left to just the producers to cut and paste into a nice package. We the viewer/reader should be able to examine the interview in its entirety.

Is this the way of the future? Will the interviews I conduct for my day job end up online uncut and unedited? How will this change reporting? Will I be more formal with those I interview? It sure didn’t seem to hold back Jann Wenner in his interview with Bono. But did he know at the time that the tape of the interview would be thrown out on the Web for anyone to download?

When I cite a document when writing a story for my day job, I consistently link to the original document if possible. In the next year, will I start linking to the mp3 of an interview when I quote a source?

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  • http://www.christianengineer.org Joe

    Is “Get Religion” on the payroll of Disney with a function to shill for its new movie? I hope the movie tanks, I’m so sick of the marketing.

    Hotel Rwanda was, in my opinion, much more relevant to Christianity in 2005 and God’s will for our society, than the Passion of the Christ. I do not begrudge Mel Gibson the 200 hundred million dollars he made from his movie, even if I found it borderline pornographic, but I completely disagree with the premise that Christians should spend even more of their time in front a screen.

    Barbara Nicolisi, a “friend of this blog” wants Christian youth to watch even more TV/movies, even though she is first to say how illiterate they are because they watch movies instead of read (I have read that an typical 18 year old in America in 2005 has seen 100 movies for each book he/she has read, no longer newspapers are dying for lack of circulation, particularly with the younger generation!)

    Why would she recommend Christian youth watch even more movies and TV? Follow the money, she works in hollywood.

  • tmatt


    What is the source for the Barbara quote? I know her well and I think something is missing. One of the major themes of her work is the need to read and find better stories for the medium of film.

  • Michael

    I don’t know about you, Daniel, but few of my interviews would be coherent enough to turn into a transcript. It would definitely make me think more clearly and do more planning about the kind of questions I ask and how the questions are phrased.

  • http://www.christianengineer.org Joe


    I attended a talk by Barbara in Nashville, TN, about her plans for an ACT ONE class in Nashville in 2006. She asked her (I presume almost exclusively Christian, given how the event was publicized) audience to watch more TV/Movies because she thinks Hollywood exists to make money which it does by selling audiences (TV) or tickets, or renting DVD’s (movies).

    Therefore the more that Christian watch TV/Movies, the more that Hollywood will produce product for Christians viewers.

    She went on to say that participants in her ACT ONE classes were smart, but unread – unfamiliar with classics of english literature – a familiarity which she thinks is essential for a hollywood writer. She also said that today’s (Christian youth she was talking about youth in ACT ONE programs) youth do not read the way previous generations did and connected it to the amount of time they spend in front of screens – TV, computer, movie.

    So, to this engineer, her request and her concern were incoherent – Christians should watch more TV/movies, even though Christian youth are much less literate today, because of the impact of cable TV/movies/computers on their reading habits.

    But since she makes her living off of producing TV/movie product for a Christian audience, for for her personally, more Christians watching more TV/Movies is in her economic interest, even if it results in a less literate Christian/general population.

    So, how does that connect to “Get Religion”? What difference does it make if MSM begins to “Get Religion” only to later “not-Get Religion” because of declining newspaper readership? Does it make any real difference if a newspaper gets rid of a religion beat writer because of anti-religious prejudice or because of declining readership/revenue?

    If Barbara is going to pitch the idea that Christians should watch more TV/movies (tacitly instead of reading newspapers and books), shouldn’t you pitch idea that they should read more newspapers/books (tacitly instead of watching some screen)?

  • dpulliam

    Michael, that’s generally how I feel about it, but planning out my interviews for the public to hear wouldn’t be an entirely negative thing.

  • Michael

    Good point, Daniel.

  • Scott

    Joe, sounds to me that she’s saying that adult Christians (her Act One class members) should watch more media as they are the ones that tend to avoid “secular” stuff and that Christian youth (who are probably less choosy about their media intake) should read more.

  • tmatt

    I have heard Barbara speak, as well.

    What she is talking about are CHOICES. People need to see more movies and TV shows that they have actually made CHOICES to see. As opposed to what? Simply surfing or grazing through the culture consuming whatever comes along.

    People who watch more good movies and make more informed choices also tend to be readers.