Of Turkish Delight and Narnia
Through the Wardrobe
This weekend, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe sees major nation-wide release; and I for one am excited to go see it. The Chronicles of Narnia were the Harry Potter books of my time. I remember the cartoon with great affection.
It amazes me that people's irrational fear of being exposed to religious allegory or their hostility toward Christianity will ruin any chance of enjoyment of such a well-crafted, enchanting story, that is at its very essence, a very positive story about good versus evil.
We live at a time in our history where we are hyper-sensitive of offending anyone, that we are held paralyzed by it.
The Paul Harris Guardian article mentions that Phillip Pullman, a fantasy author and harsh critic of the books, says of them:
"they are stories of racism and thinly veiled religious propaganda that will corrupt children rather than inspiring them."
"Lewis's books portray a version of Christianity that relies on martial combat, outdated fears of sexuality and women, and also portrays a religion that looks a lot like Islam in unashamedly racist terms."
Ok..he's obviously had one too many Turkish delights...As to the first quote, I read these books at an age when I was still in grade school; yet I was astute enough to pick up on the Jesus parallel and Christian elements, without knowing a thing about C.S. Lewis, himself. Guess what? It didn't harm me; nor did it convert nor corrupt me.
As to the last part of the second quote, my answer is: so what?!
I could care less if there are parallels between Islam and say, Calormen (can't remember if that's the right country), and that Calormen is treated as "the other". I remember consciously thinking about this when I read A Horse and His Boy. For some reason, I was sensitive and aware to the fact that it was East versus West (I think I was probably around 10 years old). But it did not bother me in the same sense that playing cowboys and indians didn't make me more racist toward Indians; or playing WWII didn't make me more hateful toward the Japanese. Reading about a fantasy country that bore striking similarities to Persia and Arabia did not make me feel animosity toward Middle Easterners. I think that sometimes we don't give children enough credit for having a discerning mind.
When "The Last Samurai" and "Dancing with Wolves" came out in theaters, who did you, as a viewer, feel sympathy toward? When you left the theater, did you come back to reality, or were you stuck on hating white, imperialistic Americans? The real racism in movies like that is the need to have a white protagonist be the star of the film, where Tom Cruise is a better samurai than the natives and he, as a foreigner, still gets the girl.
Go and enjoy visiting Narnia (Christian allegory and all)....a land under a spell such that it is always winter, and never Christmas; that is, until the coming of Aslan.
And have a Merry Christmas!
I was supposed to see the movie on Saturday, but was as impatient as Edmund was for Turkish delight. So Friday, I snuck off to The Bridge in LA and caught a 10am matinee showing. I avoided long lines and parking hassles, but found myself trapped in a theater filled with a few busloads of school kids on a field trip to see Narnia. Well, it turned out not to be such a bad experience. The children were relatively well-behaved and respectfully silent once the movie began. It was also interesting to note what parts of the movie got them excited. There were a few applauses; most notably when Aslan was resurrected. I also remember cheers when Edmund was saved and at the end when the 4 children were crowned; and once more, when the movie ended. The kids helped me remember what it's like to see and appreciate cinema through a child's eye lens. From an adult perspective, I don't think the movie is perfect. But I really have nothing to complain about. The overall production of it, script adaptation, and casting was well-done. Part of it did feel a bit wooden or rushed; but I was still able to be captivated by the screen-telling and the emotions that it was attempting to convey. Much of its heart, as it is in the book, lies in the relationship between the 4 children. In the book, I was always enthralled by the nature of Edmund and how the traits that were making him villainous in the beginning, matured into those of a hero in the end. I remember watching a news magazine show, like 20/20. And in it, parents were taking their "problem" kid- that one bad apple in the bunch- to see the expert. The kid was a bully, a loudmouth, misbehaved, was unruly, disobedient, etc. Well, the experts warned against just flatout stifling the kid's personality as undesireable. They explained that this is the same kind of kid, who if nurtured properly, will mature to be the one who stands up to the school bully; who isn't afraid to speak his mind; or who will recognize and resist child predators in sheeps clothing. Well, it just reminded me a bit of Edmund who achieves a transformation and redemption after undergoing his harsh treatment at the hands of the White Witch, Jadis (and after laying off the enchanting influence of her Turkish Delight!).
Am I the only one, by the way, who notes similarities between Kai bewitched by the Snow Queen in Hans Christian Andersen's tale, along with glass splinters and Edmund's being charmed by the White Witch and her Turkish Delight?
And what child cannot identify with Lucy? I think there are times when every child wants to be believed and taken seriously. Even though the professor only has a small role in this movie and in this novel, he is most endearing in that he, an adult, is willing to believe Lucy, even when her siblings are in doubt. Part of it, of course, is that you get the sense that he himself has had his own adventures in Narnia; but the other part is that of an adult that is willing to take children seriously and not casually dismiss them as having an over-active imagination.
What I really appreciated about the film was that here is an epic-style movie (hopefully one of seven!) that is fit for family viewing. The battle toward the end is well done and bloodless. I thought this was in good taste; exciting without being gratuitous in the violence.
And I loved the appearance of Father Christmas, of course!
Oh..something else I remember from my theater experience: when Edmund opened the platter of Turkish delight, I heard some kid several seats away from me gasp, "So that's what it looks like!"
Finally, for you adults who find yourselves, like me, too lazy to go back and reread the books (or if you've never read them before), I recommend purchasing the unabridged audio collection. It features such voices as Michael York, Patrick Stewart, Lynn Redgrave, and Kenneth Branagh among others. I listened to Michael York read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in its entirety and it dusted off remembrances of sentences long forgotten in the attic of my memories. C.S. Lewis has some remarkable ways of telling a good story. You should hear (or read!).