Sunday, May 18, 2008

My Problem with Narnia

The Chronicles of Narnia. hmmmm

I quite liked the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, but I'm not sure I like the series as a whole. I went to see the movie Prince Caspian and I think I've figured out my problem with Narnia.

While the religious symbolism in Narnia is about as subtle as a blunt axe, it didn't bother me so much in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. It's not that Christianity bothers me per se- it's CS Lewis's view of it.

What begins to happen in Prince Caspian, and essentially the rest of the saga is that Aslan=God begins to promote an ideaology that I do not feel is consistent with either the bible or of my experience with Christiantiy, but rather the elements of fundamentalist Christianity which I am most uncomfortable with. Chiefly that the best kind of faith is blind faith. Lucy can see Aslan because she believes in him unconditionally, where as the other children question his presence- not his existence, but his presence. They don't understand how he could allow bad things to happen in Narnia, and wonder where he is. This is basically held up as the wrong way of viewing things. Lucy, who does not question Aslan is exalted and basically made out to be the great hero.
If Aslan=God then what follows is, "Believe in God and don't question His divine wisdom or presence". Thinking "How could god allow suffering in the world?" is bad, because God has a plan, and if you just have faith in him everything will turn out fine. This is essentially what I got from Prince Caspian (That and the fact that it is apparently necissary to cram a love story into every movie with an actress over the age of 14).

The idea that blind faith is the best kind of faith isn't consistent with the bible. It's not even consistent with Jesus. The mythology of Narnia becomes increasingly wrapped up in religious symbolism as the stories go on, and the more it becomes overtly 'Aslan is God', 'Narnia is the kingdom of Heaven' and so forth, the harder it is to ignore the moral preaching of the stories. Again I have no problems with Christian morality- I really dig love thy neighbor as thy self- but no matter what spiritual force you understand to be at work, or what value system you adhere to it should never be a simple question of believing or not believing. I can think of few things worse than blind faith in anything. This is why I seem to keep falling into the "agnostic" category in many people's views (despite the fact that that I do think that there's a higher power and believe very strongly in many elements of Christianity, Buddism, Islam, Judaism and others). I simply cannot justify blind faith logically or theologically.

Part II: My Bias

I like the character Susan the best of all of the Narnia kids. This will shock no one that knows me. Susan, Lisa Simpson, Kyle Broflaski, Hermione Granger... who ever that nagging voice of reason is, I am always drawn to. It's not that I value intelligence above all else, I'm a big fan of bravery, honesty and kindness ahead of reason- but the sensible/intelligent/nagging characters are also the ones who challenge authority, question why things are the way they are and stand up against injustice. Sometimes they take it over board or can be self-righteous, but that voice of reason is also the voice of change and sometimes greatly needed truth. Susan has that potential, but in the world of Narnia her voice of reason and truth is painted as a negative. That she questions Aslan, that she questions whether or not the children should proceed into Narnia or fight in the great battle are seen as weaknesses. In another story she might be a hero, but in Narnia she is, at best, a foil for Lucy.

For anyone who hasn't read the complete Chronicles I won't give away Susan's fate, but you've most likely gathered from this that I'm not impressed.
Lucy is great, fine. She is kind and innocent and very brave, but in another story Susan would be her great ally, not her foil. Because let's face it, without the nagging voice of reason Harry would still be wandering around the forest with Ron looking for Horocruxes, Bart would have been done in by Side Show Bob, and Stan and Kenny would have been thrown in a giant pit of lava at the Airport Hilton ("Everything OK? Got enough Buffet items? Do you have enough lava?").

Oh right the film...

Ummmmm why did Susan and Caspian have a random love story? What the hell was that song at the end? And please cut it out with all the shots of the Pevensie children staring at each other meaningfully as if thinking something very deep in the middle of every battle scene for no apparent reason.

"Uh, Liz it is just a kids film... maybe you could take it a little easy?"

No. Because I think that complacency with children's entertainment is what led to Pokeman and Air Bud. Just because something is for kids doesn't mean it can suck. Jim Henson didn't think kids stuff should suck and neither do I. So there.

1 comment:

qwiggles said...

I greatly enjoyed and found myself in sympathy with this post. Susan was always my favourite character, too, and I'd wager, interestingly enough, that she's Andrew Adamson's
as well.

In a way, I think his sympathy for Susan over the blind faith of Lucy -- was it just me, or did the latter only seem included out of necessity? -- is what makes the film so inconsistent (and interesting). Its ideology does not quite cohere with Lewis's, and there's a fascinating theological tug of war going on there in whether Susan is damned or just interesting for her skepticism.

Anyway, I think that's why I'm inclined to forgive the 'Susan has the hots for Caspian' addition. I rolled with it because...why shouldn't she? She's at about the age where the possibility of intimacy with warm bodies is newer and more exciting than believing in fawns because the big lion upstairs says so.