Not Narnia

Posted by – January 21, 2006

A reality TV show that featured a white, conservative, Christian town welcoming a gay family into their midst never saw the light of day.

I don’t think anyone should be surprised.

The Wrights – the gay family in question – have never gotten answers for why the show wasn’t broadcast, though they theorize that Disney, who are both the producers of the show and of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, might have pulled the show because they were simultaneously courting viewers for the Narnia movie.

Can I just say how much this makes me ill? I expect hypocrisy from television producers (and apologies upfront to any who aren’t full of shite) and I think anyone who doesn’t got hit with a naive stick. But mostly I’m tired of what people have made Narnia into – this behemoth of Christian Rightness.

Of course the people who produced it marketed it to Christians – it’s a family movie, there’s no cursing, nudity, and the morality works well within Christian morality. Lewis was of course a convert, against his own better judgement; his famous statement was that he became a Christian “kicking and screaming.” But the fact is he was a Christian, and while it’s highly debatable whether or not he intended to write an allegory – I’m of the camp that insists he didn’t, since he’s said himself that the stories started because he was simply havng a lot of dreams about lions – I’m very certain that seeing the Chronicles as simply Christian propaganda is missing so much of the point. And I mean that not just for the Christians and Disney producers whose hypocrisy pisses me off; I direct that as well to the kneejerk liberals who are demonizing the movie as if it represents all that is wrong with Christian Rightness.

It’s a little like faulting Nietzsche with the way fascists used his theory of the Ubermensch.

As I’ve said before, the gorgeousness of Narnia is not based in Lewis’ Christianity, but in his decency. In an era when we can’t even seem to like the French – the very same French who gave us the Statue of Liberty! – the story of Edmund seems a vital one for Christians and Americans to pay attention to. Sometimes allies are not allies; sometimes we have poked and teased and pissed off our allies so that they stop behaving like allies. And sometimes – even traitors can be redeemed.

The scene I was most pleased they left in – and most feared they would leave out – is the scene where Prof. Digory Kirke hoists Susan and Peter on their own illogical petard. If Lucy is generally truthful, and known not to be mad, then, he asserts: she must be telling the truth.

Imagine if the Christian viewers of Narnia heard that in respect to, say, homosexuality.

I like to believe that the real spirit of what Lewis put in those pages will be heard; maybe not by adults with ears closed by doctrine, but by the children who might see the movie and so pick up the books. There is so much more in the books, so much decency – and decency that is not easy to have, or express. Lewis’ decency – like Aslan’s – is all about admitting to yourself that you’ve been a prig and admitting when you did the shallow, selfish, show-offy thing instead of the right thing.

While it seems like the Narnia books might fulfill some dream of good propaganda by the Christian Right, a good book is never so predictable. As with any other good book, using it as propaganda will backfire; the real truth of a good story will have its day. After all, it’s not a tame book.

Still in all, my bet is that someone had something to say about a reality show which portrayed how a homosexual family found acceptance in a town that didn’t want to accept them. Blaming cynical advertising interests for such a cowardly decision feels good, but I’m not sure it’s the whole answer. And I for one want the whole answer, because it sickens me that the kind of crap on television can’t occasionally be offset by a show that actively created tolerance in its participants – and potentially, its viewers as well.

3 Comments on Not Narnia

  1. SavoyTruffle says:

    well written, Helen. Nicely done.

  2. Phoebe says:

    “While it seems like the Narnia books might fulfill some dream of good propaganda by the Christian Right, a good book is never so predictable. As with any other good book, using it as propaganda will backfire; the real truth of a good story will have its day. After all, it’s not a tame book.”

    True, that. You start teaching people about love, forgiveness, and redemption, and there’s no telling where it stops. Wonderful column.

  3. belledame222 says:

    >The scene I was most pleased they left in – and most feared they would leave out – is the scene where Prof. Digory Kirke hoists Susan and Peter on their own illogical petard. If Lucy is generally truthful, and known not to be mad, then, he asserts: she must be telling the truth.

    >Imagine if the Christian viewers of Narnia heard that in respect to, say, homosexuality.

    Excellent point.

    There is also this: people who tend to dismiss any expression of spirituality at all with that sort of either/or proposition do so because, like their fundamentalist counterparts, they believe that it’s either objectively “real” for everyone or it’s not “real” at all. The notion of subjective reality (as opposed to “it’s all in your head and therefore not real or at least worth discussing)”) doesn’t factor.

    For me, spirituality and sexuality are inexplicably intertwined, precisely because they’re both so incredibly…*inner.* You really can’t define it for anyone else, and no one else should be able to to tell you what yours is.

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