Controversy over ‘Golden Compass’

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREPettersson scores another winner, Canucks beat KingsProponents say the $180 million film – rated PG-13, urging parental guidance – and the 1995 novel that spawned it are subject to interpretation. “God” is a corrupt authority figure – a false god – whose mission is to control people and deny their free will. Lyra, a 12-year-old girl, tries to rescue a kidnapped friend and winds up saving the world by conquering the all-powerful yet evil leader. Interpretations can range from viewing Lyra as the conqueror of false gods or the atheist child seeking to wipe out the deity that Christians worship, because religion poses restrictions on man. Patrick Nichelson, professor of religious studies at California State University, Northridge, said children aren’t so impressionable that their developing philosophies will be skewed by a movie. “Children see everything violent without becoming violent,” he said. “They can see a film written by a socialist and they still grow up to become Republicans.” Friday is the third day of Hanukkah, 18 days before Christmas and, at the height of the religious holiday season, premier night for “The Golden Compass,” a fantasy film whose heroine is on a mission to kill God. Starring Nicole Kidman, the New Line Cinema release has sparked weeks of protests from Christians – Catholics in particular – who say the movie attacks religion and promotes atheism. “I don’t like the world `boycott,’ but I don’t agree with where it’s coming from and the conflicts with our Christian principles,” said the Rev. Greg Garman of Newhall Church of the Nazarene. “It’s not a movie we want our people to attend. We encourage them to see something else more family-oriented.” But with monsters, witches, fantasy, adventure and a preteen heroine, it’s a tough call whether Friday’s premier will spell box-office gold or a disappointing finish spurred by the pulpit. And he noted that neither the Vatican nor any major religious leadership group has publicly protested the film. “Generally, it’s like the Harry Potter stuff,” Nichelson said. “The Catholic Church was smart enough to stay away from that discussion. There was some talk that it promoted magic, but that was countered by another cardinal who said it was a pretty good movie. “Most of the group that organize around films and novels are simply talking to themselves, simply advertising the thing you’re so worked up about. That function is more for the group. People feel more solidarity.” A New Line spokeswoman said the studio has received several calls about the brewing controversy and has released this statement: “The Golden Compass is an exciting, entertaining fantasy adventure that we believe audiences will enjoy. The film is neither anti-Christian nor anti-religion. “The critically acclaimed, award-winning novel on which the film is based has been praised by countless clergy and religious scholars, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, for its deep spirituality and exploration of important theological issues.” Yet William A. Donohue, president of the conservative Catholic League, has condemned the movie, which is based on Philip Pullman’s bestselling novel, “The Golden Compass,” the first in the British author’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy. “Atheism for kids. That is what Philip Pullman sells,” Donohue said in a statement. Donohue also maintains that the film is “bait for the books” and he worries that parents who take their children to see the movie and find it engaging will buy Pullman’s trilogy as Christmas gifts. “We are fighting a deceitful stealth campaign on the part of the film’s producers,” he said. “Our goal is to educate Christians so that they know exactly what the film’s pernicious agenda really is.” Harry Forbes of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting, found the anti-religious messages of the book to be watered down in the screen version. “Whatever author Pullman’s putative motives in writing the story, writer-director Chris Weitz’s film, taken purely on its own cinematic terms, can be viewed as an exciting adventure story with, at its core, a traditional struggle between good and evil, and a generalized rejection of authoritarianism,” he wrote in his review. “To the extent, moreover, that Lyra and her allies are taking a stand on behalf of free will in opposition to the coercive force of the Magisterium, they are of course acting entirely in harmony with Catholic teaching. The heroism and self-sacrifice that they demonstrate provide appropriate moral lessons for viewers.” Nevertheless Garman – who also is concerned about the movie’s pre-Christmas release – has urged the 300-plus members of his congregation to find another movie this holiday season. He included this note to his congregation in an e-mailed newsletter: “`The Golden Compass’ is a movie coming out into theaters in early December. From the sources I have followed, it is not worth our time. With its anti-Christian and promotion of atheism, I encourage you to NOT support this movie.” [email protected] 661-257-5251160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img
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