Mark Johnson, producer of The Dawn Treader, on the Chronicles of Narnia: “We don’t want to favor one group over another … whether these books are Christian, I don’t know.” Well, this explains a lot about the movie. Steven Boyer did a fine job showing how the first two movies, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian lost so much of what Lewis put into them, among other things the centrality of Aslan (just what kids need, another movie about them!). The Voyage didn’t fair much better.
My purpose here is not to give a negative review of The Dawn Treader which could be easily done, but to make one belabored point. To make a film of a classic story, and one that has recently been shown to be brilliantly crafted and complex, and then to say that you don’t know the worldview behind it is to admit being a story dolt. “What was it about?” “I don’t know. Maybe reincarnation or resurrection or reinvention, something starting with “re”. They’re all the same anyway.” If a student of religions can’t tell the difference between Hinduism and Buddhism, he isn’t tolerant; he’s a chump. And when a story teller can’t distinguish between fundamentally different characters and story lines, well, he ought to be pumping gas or doing economics for the current administration. Johnson could have just read the Chronicles and learned his lessons. From The Last Battle:
“What is it now? said the Ape, “Be quick.”
“Please,” said the Lamb. “I can’t understand. What have we to do with the Calormenes? We belong to Aslan. They belong to Tash. They have a god called Tash. They say he has four arms and the head of a vulture. They kill Men on his altar. I don’t believe there’s any such person as Tash. But if there was, how could Aslan be friends with him?”All the animals cocked their heads sideways and all their bright eyes flashed toward the Ape. They knew it was the best question anyone had asked yet.
The Ape jumped up and spat at the Lamb.
“Baby!” he hissed. “Silly little bleater! Go home to your mother and drink milk. What do you understand of such things? But you others listen. Tash is only another name for Aslan. All that old idea of us being right and the Calormenes wrong is silly. We know better now. The Calormenes use different words but we all mean the same thing. Tash and Aslan are only two different names for you know Who. That’s why there can never be any quarrel between them. Get that into your heads, you stupid brutes. Tash is Aslan: Aslan is Tash.”
The scary thing about pluralism or the limp-wristed excuse that passes for secularism these days is that it simply cannot make distinctions. The idea that every religious hero–that is, every hero adhering to any religion no matter how different or antithetical one set of values is to another–is basically the same as every other hero does not result in peace and fair treatment for everyone. It means that terrorists are not profiled but three-year-old girls are body searched. Some people will think it’s a stretch to go from the inability to understand a story to the implementation of unlawful and uncivilized policies, but the connection is direct. The foggier our thinking gets, the more ridiculous and oppressive our policies will be.