the take

Is ‘The Golden Compass’ Too Anti-Christian, or Not Anti-Christian Enough?

Courtesy of New Line

This winter’s presumed megahit fantasy film The Golden Compass is an adaptation of the first book of Philip Pullman’s wildly popular His Dark Materials series, which has always sort of surprised us in its wide appeal. Like, we’ve wondered why people are always raising baloney complaints about witchcraft in Harry Potter when right under their noses is an intense children’s book series loosely based on Paradise Lost about a couple of kids — spoiler alert! — trying to, you know, kill God.

Now that the first book has been filmed, people are finally starting to notice. But is the new movie anti-Christian, or is it not anti-Christian enough? The Catholic League says it’s anti-Christian; they’ve announced a two-month campaign of protest against the film and Pullman’s work, calling it “atheism for kids.” “We are fighting a deceitful stealth campaign on the part of the film’s producers,” League president Bill Donohue said in a release, pointing out that the film will surely turn children toward the books.

But wait! This weekend the Observer reports that Britain’s National Secular Society — of which Pullman, apparently, is an honorary associate — is protesting the film’s watering-down of the books’ anti-Church vision. “It was clear right from the start that the makers of this film intended to take out the anti-religious elements of Pullman’s book,” said the Society’s president Terry Sanderson. “In doing that they are taking the heart out of it, losing the point of it, castrating it.” In particular, the Society is upset that the Magisterium — the hypocritical, evil-doing stand-in for the Church in Pullman’s books — has been redefined in the film as “a catch-all didactic authority,” to use the Observer’s words.

So, “atheism for kids”? Watered down and castrated? Whichever turns out to be true, it’s gonna be a great winter for fans of impotent Hollywood protest campaigns! We hope both sides enjoy watching as this film makes ten gazillion dollars.

“The Golden Compass” Sparks Protest [The Catholic League]
Religion row hits Pullman epic [Observer UK]

Read more of our coverage of the controversy over The Golden Compass:
Well? How Anti-Christian Is ‘The Golden Compass,’ Anyway?
Philip Pullman Realizes ‘Killing God’ Not the Ideal Sales Pitch
Would ‘The Golden Compass’ Be Easier to Market if Philip Pullman Were Dead? Philip Pullman Thinks So!
The Catholic League Will Stop at Nothing to Promote ‘The Golden Compass’

Is ‘The Golden Compass’ Too Anti-Christian, or Not Anti-Christian Enough?