‘The Golden Compass’ Points Straight to the Bank

There’s been a lot of lively debate about whether The Golden Compass, a forthcoming children’s movie, is the work of Satan.

I must admit, until the controversy recently flared here in the U.S., I didn’t pay much attention to this film. I saw the trailer for it awhile back and mentally filed it away along with the pile of recent fantasy adventure films: Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia, Eragon and the rest.

I just figured The Golden Compass was an attempt to jump on that bandwagon. But, the Catholic League and numerous other Christian groups are urging a boycott of the film. Catholic League president Bill Donohue believes The Golden Compass, and the other books in the trilogy on which the film is based, are “written to promote atheism and denigrate Christianity, especially Roman Catholicism.”

“The target audience is children and adolescents,” Donohue adds. “Each book becomes progressively more aggressive in its denigration of Christianity and promotion of atheism: The Subtle Knife, is more provocative than The Golden Compass, and The Amber Spyglass, is the most in-your-face assault on Christian sensibilities of the three volumes.”

Screenwriter-director Chris Weltz, speaking to World Entertainment News Network, appears to welcome the controversy. According to Weltz, “It will make more people see the film.”

Is this much ado about nothing? It’s a fair question. For the answer, it’s worth taking a look at the author of The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman.

Pullman is a British ex-teacher and grandson of an Anglican priest. He is an outspoken atheist. Conservative British columnist Peter Hitchens once branded him, “The most dangerous author in Britain” because of his “sinister agenda” to teach atheism to children.

According to a 2005 profile in The New Yorker, “Every character in Lyra’s world has a daemon—an animal-shaped alter ego that is all but inseparable from its human counterpart … Children, owing to the plasticity of their personalities, have daemons that can change shape — in the opening scene, Pantalaimon transforms from a moth into an ermine — but as a person comes of age his daemon settles on a single form that reflects his essence.”

In a 2001 story from the Guardian, Pullman was quoted as saying “Blake once wrote of Milton that he was a ‘true poet, and of the Devil’s party, without knowing it.’ I am of the Devil’s party, and I know it.”

With all this talk of devils and demons, it’s hard not to conclude that Pullman is deliberately trying to infuriate Christians. I think he’s pushing hot buttons in a savvy way to ensure that his novels sell. If you generate enough controversy, curious consumers are bound to follow.

On an entirely unrelated note, the Catholic League is selling copies of its response to The Golden Compass for five dollars a pop (three dollars apiece if you order 10 or more copies.) I’d be inclined to say that Pullman isn’t the only one above milking controversy for profit. But then you might accuse me of being cynical.

And Heaven knows I’m not.

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