I will not be seeing The Golden Compass.
As enticing as it may be to conduct a spectator revolt against the Catholic League’s latest histrionics, I have no interest in seeing it. There has been no shortage of uninformed opinion on the Catholic blogs regarding the USCCB’s recent evaluation of the film. First, the USCCB does not “endorse” the film, as one poor blogger confusedly suggests. Second, is it not a bit audacious to suggest the USCCB was somehow wrongheaded to rate the film “A-II” (adolescents and adults), especially if one has not even seen the film adaptation of a book one has not read? Well, Thomas N. Peters of American Papist (not American Episcopist. obviously) has done just that with his prolix “commentary on an advance review,” whatever that may be. How one provides commentary on a review of movie without having seen that movie is beyond me. If that’s not forming one’s perspective at a second-hand, derivative level, then I don’t know what is. But back to the matter at hand…
Why is it that the USCCB is coming under any sort of fire for its review? To be specific, the “review” under question comes from two men, neither of whom are bishops. Notwithstanding that fact that the USCCB is often criticised by self-styled “conservative” Catholics or illusioned “papists,” something these neo-Montanists hold in common with their “progressive” counterparts, I want to pose only a simple question:
Among those who have criticized the USCCB for its evaluation of the movie The Golden Compass, why has there not been similar and stronger criticism for the positive review of the book The Golden Compass published in First Things back in May 2001? The First Things blog, On the Square, offered once more this review for our reading early this morning.
If you are not familiar with this review, check out the following points of Daniel Moloney, Associate Editor of First Things, on the entire Dark Materials series:
Religious people should find nothing objectionable in the moral message (though Pullman seems to think they will), but the failure of imagination here is unforgivable.
Pullman challenges the most fantastic and yet most persuasive parts of the Christian myth—Creation, the Fall, Sin, Death, Heaven, Hell—and one credits him for gumption. If his alternative were more compelling, I would recommend parents keep their children away.As is, I can fairly characterize His Dark Materials in this fashion: imagine if at the beginning of the world Satan’s rebellion had been successful, that he had reigned for two thousand years, and that a messiah was necessary to conquer lust and the spirit of domination with innocence, humility, and generous love at great personal cost. Such a story is not subversive of Christianity, it is almost Christian, even if only implicitly and imperfectly. But implicit and imperfect Christianity is often our lot in life, and Pullman has unintentionally created a marvelous depiction of many of the human ideals Christians hold dear.
That’s write (er, “right”), the Associate Editor of First Things does not think children ought to be kept away from Dark Materials, and he even suggests that Pullman’s depictions actually buttress the truths of Christian faith. Wow.
The movie The Golden Compass is said to have distilled most of the anti-religious elements found in the literature on which it is based. The British National Secular Society has even commented that the cinematic adaptation is “taking the heart” out of the books. Now, if Moloney of First Things thinks the books are not really morally or religiously objectionable, and there has not been much criticism of his viewpoint, then why would a USCCB review, written by two of their film guys, that notes positive aspects of the more religiously and morally neutral film adaptation draw so much concern?
So, again, where is the criticism of First Things, which ran the review of one of its editors, if there is any criticism to be heard in the first place? Has ideological alliance given First Things a pass?
UPDATE: I managed to come across one blog that has a passing, critical reference to Moloney’s review. Fumare is consistent here in its criticism, despite the unfortunately mindless title of the post and the obvious lack of familiarity with the books themselves (e.g., “Magisterium” is not the name of the enemy in the books, but in the movie). Once more the itch to criticize and fear the unknown prevails.