So what if Golden Compass is anti-religion?

by Paul William Tenny

There have been people raising a stink over The Golden Compass since before it went into production from what I gather, and certainly since the book it's based on was published, though probably not as much as the film has generated. So what's the beef?

While all anybody talks about is how Catholic groups (gee, what's new there?) aren't just complaining about it - they are boycotting it - I don't see anybody saying "so what of it is?" And we should, too. Who else is always the loudest in the room demanding tolerance for beliefs, but only when they happen to be on the defensive? Imagine what would happen if a rational response to this was people boycotting the Catholic faith and religion.

They'd have a nearly fatal conniption fit of epic proportions.

Here's what I'm talking about:

The Golden Compass has already stirred controversy: A U.S. Catholic group has called for a boycott of what it sees as an attack on religion, while Pullman purists are worried that the movie has watered down the book's strong religious themes.

For her part, Forte smiled slightly when asked if she and the studio contemplated retaining the book's more controversial elements, given that protests were likely no matter how the film turned out.

"I think it wasn't a conscious decision of having it or not having it," Forte said. "Philip, when I started this process, ... I said, 'Do you have any words of wisdom for us, in terms of developing this as a script?' He said, 'Yes. Stick with Lyra.'"

his-dark-materials.jpgThat's the problem, it isn't that this group thinks they've been wronged and it's not that I don't think they should be able to speak out about whatever is bothering them today. It's that Deborah Forte was absolutely correct when she said this film was going to be attacked regardless of what they did with it, just because it was based on the book. Maybe it is anti-religious, and you know what, I'd like to think that I along with most people are sensitive to issues of faith, regardless of what we personally feel, and try to respect the beliefs of others.

But this is a whole different ballgame when people come out and attack somebody else's work like this. How can you respect this Catholic groups faith when they won't respect Philip Pullman's beliefs and his right to express himself any way he sees fit?

This knee-jerk boycott-everything-in-sight reactionary mentality religion saddles us with can be really trying at times. I get that this group didn't think highly of the book they've probably never read, and trashing a film they'll probably never see, just because it doesn't fit perfectly within their personal realm of how the world works (hello people, this is fiction you know.)

Does that warrant a boycott? I don't think it does. If you don't like it, don't go see it. Feel free to speak out about how you don't like it and how you think other people should think about it, but don't boycott art. That's just really, really sad.

Update: I forgot there were a couple of other stories I wanted to link to in this post and noticed them right after I saved this, so here's the digs: Bill Donohue, the guy running the Catholic advocacy group attacking Golden Compass (a renowned anti-gay bigot himself) is selling a 31-page "pamphlet" that trashes Pullman and his work and claims it promotes atheism.

Actress and star of the film Nicole Kidman - herself a practicing Catholic - has spoken out in support, saying she believes the movie is not anti-Catholic at all. "I think, for me, I don't believe that when you see the film that it will be the same."

Truly, this is really more of an assault on Pullman and his beliefs and how Catholics read into his books than it is about the content of the book or the movie, which are entirely fictional in a fantasy setting with no direct reference to any real organized religion at all.
in Film


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