Specials: Aslan & Paganism, Serenity and Government

Today’s specials:

Peter T. Chattaway has been threatening to write an article about just how much pagan mythology is scattered throughout The Chronicles of Narnia, and I hope he does it. There has been a lot written about why Narnia is “good” and Harry Potter’s world is “bad,” but the situation isn’t nearly that simple. There are so many similarities between the two series, and I think Chattaway’s going to highlight that for us one of these days. At least, I hope he does. Someone should.

Today, he scratches the surface:

I am intrigued to see how Aslan and Bacchus and the Maenads and all the other “Old Narnians”, in their quest to revive a sort of baptized paganism and to defeat modernity in Narnia, destroy a couple of schools. And I am intrigued to see how Lewis describes the children at those schools as being very fat.

I am intrigued by this because J.K. Rowling’s mercilessly comical depiction of Harry Potter’s fat cousin Dudley, including the bit where Hagrid gives him a pig’s tail, was one of many, many things that Richard Abanes criticized her for, in his book Harry Potter and the Bible: The Menace behind the Magick — an impressively thorough collection of reasons to dislike Rowling’s books. And this was one of the few Abanes criticisms that I actually thought might have some merit! To quote my review of Abanes’s book:

Although he makes some valid points, Abanes is so determined to find evil in Rowling’s books that he neglects their better qualities; and when he assesses Lewis and Tolkien, he has nothing but praise — even though their writings contain many of the things he finds so offensive in the Potter books.

Peter Suderman takes a look at even more of the meaning in Josh Whedon’s Serenity, which at this point can only be described as a catastrophic failure of marketing and promotion since the film itself is a fantastic ride. Suderman’s interested in what the film has to say about government:

Serenity is first and foremost a rowdy, exciting sci-fi romp with few pretensions beyond providing two hours of crafty genre thrills. At one point, Mal, with typically straightforwardness, says to his crew, “All right, let’s have no fussin’.” And throughout, Serenity exemplifies the no-fuss film, largely by decrying the biggest fuss of them all — a callous, overbearing government.

Suderman also contributes a thoughtful look at Elizabethtown, one of the best-written film reviews I’ve ever seen published at Relevant.

And what’s more, he’s getting into the interesting debate over the merits of Quentin Tarantino‘s hyperviolent storytelling.

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  • BethR

    Too optimistic, Joel. The couple don’t just “decide not to get married.” They decide that their problems will be solved if they just go on living together. Other than the “fear of commitment” issues, they’re perfectly happy together. If we see them again, I’ll be very surprised.

    Gaffney’s critique is pretty much spot-on; The world-view of BoD is that love (defined as “whatever makes you happy”), “tolerance,” and “relevance” are the highest ideals.

    Ep. 3 showed one vignette of something like righteousness in Daniel’s decision to finally exercise fatherly discipline on his wayward youngest son, and the son’s apparent acceptance of this. Otherwise, it’s all “whatever!”

  • Joel Buursma

    Good, thoughtful comments. Some interesting pull-outs:

    “couple in pre-marital counseling … the woman needs to get high before having sex. Reverend Daniel, and the show, is cool with all of that – there is no judgment here”

    No alarm bells, huh? I may be jumping to conclusions here, but I wonder if it’s possible to be so approving that one ends up having little to offer. For example, if the church simply approves of most things in society, why should it bother to exist? It’s relevance that leads to irrelevance. Perhaps the show’s creator is wrestling with these questions.

    both man and woman are nervous about the upcoming commitment … The pastor talked them out of getting married!

    Well, certainly some people should be talked out of marriage. But isn’t this a bit of an underwhelming resolution? Wouldn’t it be better to talk about what makes & maintains a good marriage? Maybe that’s too boring for TV. Or should I be optimistic & think that we’ll get a “progress report” on this couple in a later episode?

  • Chuckles

    Perhaps the most blatant reference to the Narnia books in Harry Potter would be the character Cedric Diggory who is killed by Lord Voldemort in the fourth book. The creator of the wardrobe was named Cedric Diggory.