The Lion, the Witch and the Distorted Neo-Fascist Wardrobe

December 12th, 2005  |  Published in old and busted  |  8 Comments

Guardian columnist posits ‘Narnia represents everything that is most hateful about religion’:

> Why? Because here in Narnia is the perfect Republican, muscular Christianity for America – that warped, distorted neo-fascist strain that thinks might is proof of right. I once heard the famous preacher Norman Vincent Peale in New York expound a sermon that reassured his wealthy congregation that they were made rich by God because they deserved it. The godly will reap earthly reward because God is on the side of the strong. This appears to be CS Lewis’s view, too. In the battle at the end of the film, visually a great epic treat, the child crusaders are crowned kings and queens for no particular reason. Intellectually, the poor do not inherit Lewis’s earth.

It’s funny, because the word “muscular” kept popping into my head yesterday after Al and I walked out of the movie.

My curiosity is less directed at the ideological/theological payload, though, and more at how well it’s going to play with the audience the astroturfing Jesus marketers were banking on to make the movie a holiday event.

One thing I picked up just from watching reactions in the lobby after the movie: Some very devout people believe that this is one of those “rare” moments when their subculture is given airtime in the culture at large. See, for instance, recent thoughts on the rodeo:

> The other pre-rodeo chat topic with Kathleen was the 1994 movie “8 Seconds,” which I remember only because a coworker insisted that our group radio be tuned to country stations half the time. “8 Seconds” was the beneficiary of a massive pre-release promotional campaign aimed dead square at “country people.” As then-coworker Denise insisted, country music was about “family and good times and values” (you know … like “Papa Loved Mama“).

> Point I was making to Kathleen being a resurrected conversational beat from two summers ago, when we talked about how the “Left Behind” books were sort of a big deal because looking for mention of them usually meant finding a rich vein of resentment from their readers, who consider themselves outrageously marginalized. To judge from the way DJs were hyping their “8 Seconds” ticket giveaways, attendance was no less than civic duty for the members of Country Nation if they wanted to impress their marketing power on the mainstream so they could get Hollywood to make even more rodeo movies.

This same thing happened with “The Passion of the Christ,” and it happens across, I think, just about every subculture.

If we poke our heads up from the foxholes of the culture wars long enough, we start to realize there is no Axis and there are no Allies … we’re a sea of isolated bunkers and trenches going nowhere and connected to nothing, united in a mutual belief that tomorrow will likely be the final, savage enemy assault that will wipe our kind off the face of the earth. That makes the appearance of “good” information or ideological payloads in the mainstream culture a wonderful victory.

For reasons having to do with upbringing, prejudice and political temperament I feel a lot more patient with a frowzy woman bubbling over in a movie theater lobby because “her” message has been snuck into the brains of all the secular people out there in “The World” through the magic of a talking lion than I do with people more of my social and political persuasions nursing their persecution and marginalization schticks.

We’re supposed to know better. We’re supposed to have some sense of the bigger picture. We’re supposed to be big enough to let our hands be slapped aside a few times in the process of trying to work out how to make the planet marginally more habitable by all its habitants.

And we should be bigger than the marketing people, whose art now includes convincing you of a product’s merit for nursing whatever grudges against the mainstream you harbor.

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