Narnia and Brokeback
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Fri Dec 09, 2005 at 02:21:56 AM EST
The Village Voice has an article about the new Chronicles of Narnia movie and how it connects to the growing cultural influence of the Christian Right. Some quotes that may be of interest:
Financed by Walden Media's Philip Anschutz, an evangelical Christian billionaire who has funded organizations that oppose abortion and gay rights, Narnia is being sold to both a standard fantasy audience as well as a Passion-type fan base. For the Christian audience, Disney has hired Motive Entertainment, the marketing agency that Gibson's Icon Productions used to galvanize churches and religious leaders. One Christian group, BarnaFilms, whose aim is to be a "catalyst in moral and spiritual transformation in the United States," has sold an estimated 500,000 tickets for preview screenings the day before the film opens. [  ]

Within the Christian entertainment community, Narnia is not just another $150 million Disney family movie. With its Jesus-like "vision of Aslan getting shaved and killed," as Nicolosi notes, it's a victory that mirrors what the Christian right has accomplished on a larger scale, according to Didi Herman, co-author of Globalizing Family Values: The Christian Right in International Politics. "The Christian right has adopted an approach that involves attempting to reshape dominant culture from the inside," she says. "Often this is at the local level," for example, getting onto school boards to impact education policy. "In terms of cultural change the strategy is similar: Get conservative Christians into the media, into the film industry, and the values and politics of those institutions will change." [    ]

But there is no explicit mention of Christianity in Anschutz's speech or Walden's materials, reflecting another strategy among members of the Christian right that involves cloaking their goals in secular language. As Didi Herman explains, "The [Christian right's] more sophisticated elements quite consciously avoid religious rhetoric; they know it doesn't work. The language of sin, apocalypse, redemption results in them being 'loonified' by the media." For example, Mel Gibson, in discussing his latest project Apocalypto (also to be distributed by Disney), rejected rumors that his new film was an end-times narrative inspired by sacred Mayan texts, saying at a press conference that it is "not a big doomsday picture or anything like that." [   ]

Still, judging from the dozens of stories published in the mainstream press about the Narnia-Christian connection--The New York Times has run at least six since February--the "secular" establishment seems to be worried. As Nicolosi says, "The idea of religious people acquiring media and artistic expertise is chilling to the secular left. I suppose they imagine that we will be as unfair and propagandistic with cultural power as they have been. But I pray we won't be. We have to answer to God for how we treat people."

Bill Berkowitz has more information in his article, "The movie, the media, and the conservative politics of Philip Anschutz".

World Magazine, edited by Marvin Olasky, has a blog where there is a disturbingly homophobic review of the new movie, Brokeback Mountain. Some quotes:

For all of our modern cultural "enlightenment," and despite the pervasiveness of gay characters and stories all over American media, and regardless of the success of shows like "Will & Grace" and "Queer Eye," by and large Americans -- blue state, red state, Christian and non -- innately find homosexuality repulsive. [   ]

It's part of our makeup. It's biological, it's conscience-born, it's part of the imago dei. It's part of a "moral aesthetic" most everyone bears latent. To be blunt, we know anal sex is gross, and we especially know anal sex between men is repulsive. Even for most of those who have no basis for which to call it a sin find the act itself "gross." [    ]

Americans like to believe they are tolerant. Even the convervatives in our country play liberal (or at least libertarian) on this issue, so as long as homosexuals play nice, we are fine with them. And by "play nice," I mean "play funny." Like Homer Simpson, we like our homosexuals flaming. So they can joke about sex and they can swish their way from the silver screen to the TV screen, they can even pontificate about their rights and move us to tears with their experienced repression and persecution. We'll sympathize with them on "Oprah" and laugh at them on "Will & Grace" and appreciate their good fashion sense on "Queer Eye" and nod our heads with the "Seinfeld" gang that there's not anything wrong with that. But almost none of us want to see them doing the thing that really distinguishes them.

I might be impressed and perhaps somewhat swayed with such coordinated (anti-gay, anti-abortion) efforts as these, if the Christian Right's first efforts addressed what Jesus stated.  

It's the stuff written in red in my Bible.  Sometimes it's repeated, too.

by Schwede on Fri Dec 09, 2005 at 11:42:52 AM EST

It's a big thing, all these believers flush with cash. And that is the bottom line- these are pockets to pick, people to sell stuff to. Whether it's nail jewelry from "Passion of the Christ" or stuffed lions from Narnia, the bottom line is the bottom line for these producers.

It's an interesting circle, too, with Narnia. Disney is peddling it to the churches, hoping for their money, and the churches are peddling it to the people, hoping for more money.

It never ends.

I did not watch 'Passion', and I seriously doubt that I'll go and see 'Narnia'. Why give them my hard earned money?

by Lorie Johnson on Fri Dec 09, 2005 at 12:53:38 PM EST

I loved the Narnia books as a child, and only picked up the religious significance later on when I heard someone explain it.

But I'm reluctant to see this movie - despite the fairly good reviews - because I just don't want to finance a blatant movement to transform culture so it conforms with Christianity.

The review of Brokeback Mountain is just horrible. How can people write that kind of thing and not recognize how narrow-minded and bigoted it is? Lots of people used to be "disgusted" by Negroes, too, and couldn't imagine them being depicted as anything other than objects of ridicule in movies or on TV. I can remember the first television show featuring an African-American family being very controversial, and probably upsetting to loads of racists.

Society got over that kind of attitude with black people, and rightly recognized it as wrong. They can get over the prejudice against gay men, too. Saying that such bigotry is inherent and unredeemable is just the same as saying blacks are inferior according to the Bible and should never be treated as equals with whites.

by Karen on Fri Dec 09, 2005 at 08:23:26 PM EST

Especially given that Mel Gibson is considering a movie on the Holocaust ( !!!!!!! ) I really, really, don't want to encourage this phenomena. I was curious to see what about "The Passion" was so titillating Christian-right America, but I refused to see it because I didn't want to give a penny to Mel.

by Bruce Wilson on Sat Dec 10, 2005 at 09:08:16 AM EST

Society got over that kind of attitude with black people, and rightly recognized it as wrong.

Have you ever noticed that a lot of the people (and their progeny) who thought slavery was fine and interracial marriage was not (and found biblical support for their views) are the same people who are homophobic (and find biblical support for their views)? Suspect their prejudices all fall under the rubric of "anybody not like me is inferior."

by Psyche on Mon Dec 12, 2005 at 01:34:23 PM EST

While the article in World Magazine is, in a sense, a review,  it is mostly a juvenile (complete with the nyahh-nyahh-stick-out-my-tongue-at-you element in the post/reply section) compilation of  "yucky things I don't like".  Substitute "cauliflower" for "gay sexual practices" and it is every bit as enlightening.

by TomChicago on Sat Dec 10, 2005 at 08:34:05 AM EST

It's part of our makeup. It's biological, it's conscience-born, it's part of the imago dei. It's part of a "moral aesthetic" most everyone bears latent. To be blunt, we know anal sex is gross, and we especially know anal sex between men is repulsive. Even for most of those who have no basis for which to call it a sin find the act itself "gross."

What the heck is a "moral aesthetic"?

This is ridiculous. What if instead of gay sex we substitute the thought of sex between straight couple in their 50s who are both over 300lbs? Now there's nothing wrong with such people having sex (far from it), but how many people, when asked to think about it, to conjure up the image in their mind, would find that "gross"? A large majority, I think.

So, according to Orlasky, that should be a sin too.

by tacitus on Sat Dec 10, 2005 at 12:50:44 PM EST

To be blunt, we know anal sex is gross, and we especially know anal sex between men is repulsive. Even for most of those who have no basis for which to call it a sin find the act itself "gross."

Hetero anal sex isn't so "repulsive?" Does it depends on the sex of the provider vs the recipient?

by Psyche on Mon Dec 12, 2005 at 02:00:00 PM EST

I attended the C.S. Lewis Summer Institute in Cambridge back in 1994. The programwas "Cosmos and Creation:  Chance or Dance?" (This is not to be confused with the C.S. Lewis Institute in the U.S. The summer institute I went to was sponsored by the C.S. Lewis Foundation.)

I was actually rather shocked by how theologically conservative and very evangelical it was. That said, it was no cheering session for fundamentalism, either, and the participants seemed to see themselves as outside of mainstream, popular evangelicalism--mostly because they liked art, and a lot of evangelicals don't have much use for art unless it is didactic. Also, the institute was inter-denominational--there was no Roman Catholic/Protestant split either; there were plenty of both among the attendees.

So, I'm not at all sure what Lewis would have made of how the Narnia movie is being spun/marketed/positioned relative to evangelicals, and particularly as its been latched onto by the American Christian Right.

Lewis could be very impatient with intellectual inferiors...which would include most of us, frankly. He knew several languages; he had, effectively, a photographic memory when it came to text, and he more or less thought his way to conversion. Much of what the Christian Right believes in is based or pretty sloppy thinking. And yet here the Christian Right is, somewhat hijacking C.S. Lewis and Narnia. (Consider also that Lewis endorsed theistic evolution. There's no evidence at all that he ever read Genesis literally. And the man smoke and drank aplenty, too. Heaven forbid! Now, rest assured, plenty of evangelicals wouldn't mind those things about Lewis, particularly progressive ones; but, most people on the true-blue (or is that true-red?) Christian Right would have problems hanging out at the Eagle & Child on the high street in Oxford with Lewis talking about Nordic myth over a few pints of lager and a pack of cigs or a pipe. For Lewis, that was considered FUN. Imagine Ralph Reed considering that a good time? I don't think so.)

Yes, I suspect Lewis would rather hang out with your typical Wheaton College professor than a typical biologist from a state University, or Billy Graham instead of Richard Dawkins; but, on the other hand, I really can't fathom him have anything other than distain for someone like Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell, and I am certain he'd find any form of nationalistic Christianity as it exists among many, many of his Christian fans in America abhorrent. (He was a vet from the trenches of WWI and had no love for war. He wrote about it--much as his friend Tolkien did--because he knew it was a part of human experience. That's hardly a glorification of it.)

Don't get me wrong: Lewis was an evangelical...of a sort. He was conservative...mostly. He was certainly a self-professed Christian, a champion of the faith...yet, the are theologians who are very uncomfortable with particular sections of his writings: his fiction, his sci-fi works, and his essays.

by IseFire on Mon Dec 12, 2005 at 07:12:29 PM EST

I read a lot about C.S. "Jack" Lewis when I was in high scool and college. And I should qualify my comment (above) about Lewis and theistic evolution.

He had some odd ideas and was no scientist by any means. (His realms of expertise were literature and language, not any of the sciences.) He played around with concepts like the biblical Adam having perhaps been a Neanderthal. (Remember that at the time many anthropologists though that Neanderthals were a type of early man, as opposed to a distinct species with whom we obvious share a common ancestor.)

He embraced theistic evolution, but I think it can be safely said that he nonetheless didn't LIKE the idea! Certainly, he didn't like most evolutionists. He was temperamentally conservative, and a lot of evolutionists he encountered at Cambridge and Oxford were arrogant advocates, and often positively giddy enemies of any worldview other than strict philosophical materialism. They were, in a word, jerks, and they didn't help Lewis see in a better light the theistic evolution ideas that he embraced so reluctantly anyway.

by IseFire on Tue Dec 13, 2005 at 09:52:10 AM EST

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