Parents can’t always keep up with popular culture—and when a movie is promoted as a fun adventure, featuring children riding enchanted polar bears, all in time for the Christmas season, what’s not to like?
Unfortunately, the film’s makers have an agenda. The film is based on the works of author Phil Pullman, who has written a series of entertaining stories called "His Dark Materials." In his own words: "‘I'm trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief,’ says Pullman. ‘Mr. Lewis [C.S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia] would think I was doing the devil's work’" (from the Washington Post, Feb. 19, 2001). And, "I've been surprised by how little criticism I've got. Harry Potter's been taking all the flak…. Meanwhile, I've been flying under the radar, saying things that are far more subversive than anything poor old Harry has said. My books are about killing God" (from the Sydney Morning Herald, Dec. 13, 2003). Now that he is getting criticism, Mr. Pullman is telling a very different story.*
And for whom are Mr. Pullman’s books—and now, this movie, The Golden Compass—intended? Children.
I am aware the bishops’ film office gave this a thumbs’-up. But that may change; several years ago, the same office initially praised Brokeback Mountain, until someone with more sense pointed out the obvious moral problems in that movie.
Some will say, "but it’s just a story." Don’t underestimate the power of a story. Stories are powerful ways we form our moral imagination and how we shape the "lens" through which we see the world. Particularly for children.
Yes, it is frustrating when we have to say "no" to popular things. But as followers of Christ, we are not surprised our culture often works against our Faith, and we sometimes have to take a stand. Instead of the $20-50 you may spend at the theater, stay home with a good video and have pizza; you’ll have money left over, you can give to the hungry. That will be a golden lesson that will point your children in the right direction.
* Update (12/4/07): I failed to note, here, my debt to Jimmy Akin, who had a post a couple of days ago, that provided the quotes I used. I originally wrote this for my parish bulletin, where it would be distracting to include that attribution, but fairness requires I do a little more in this, more public, forum. My apologies to Jimmy Akin.