[Marxism] "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe"

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Jan 31 09:42:57 MST 2006


"The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" was 
directed by Andrew Adamson, who also directed "Shrek"--another children's 
film that is meant to appeal to adults. The film was co-produced by Disney 
and something called Walden Media, which was founded by Philip F. Anschutz, 
a fundamentalist Christian supporter of the Republican Party and the CEO of 
Qwest. The avowed purpose of Walden is to spread morally uplifting films to 
children, especially those with a Christian theme, even if they are 
contained subliminally as they are in the Chronicles

This is a story of four children--two boys and two girls--living in London 
during WWII. Their mother ships them off to the countryside in order to 
escape Hitler's bombs. They are put up in a labyrinthine mansion owned by 
an aloof professor that is tended to by his irascible maid.

One day as the bored children are playing hide-and-seek, the younger girl 
discovers a wardrobe closet to hide in. As she burrows through the fur 
coats stored there, she eventually tumbles into a snow-covered forest just 
beyond the closet's exterior. There she meets a faun who has been 
instructed to kidnap her by the wicked White Witch who rules over this 
realm called Narnia. If she was accompanied by a pet dog, one can imagine 
her declaring, "Toto, I have a feeling we're not in England anymore."

Although C.S. Lewis was converted to Christianity by fellow Oxford don J.R. 
Tolkein and was obviously inspired by the Fellowship of the Ring, the more 
obvious literary antecedent is "Wizard of Oz". Instead of being transported 
into a parallel universe by a tornado, these children have a much less 
arduous path: through the back wall of a closet. Once there, they have to 
complete an identical mission: kill an evil witch. In "Wizard of Oz," 
Dorothy joins forces with a three anti-heroes, while in the Chronicle the 
children are allied with Aslan, the lion king of Narnia.

C.S. Lewis's film is drenched with Christian symbolism. Although Christ is 
often symbolized by a lamb, he is also the Lion of Judah. Under the grip of 
the White Witch, Narnia has not enjoyed a Christmas for 100 years--although 
there's plenty of snow. If the White Witch is killed, you see, the snow 
will end and spring will happily begin. In order for all this to transpire, 
it is necessary for prophecies to be fulfilled. In one of them, Aslan will 
have to sacrifice himself in order that one of the children, who has 
betrayed the others by going over to the White Witch, be redeemed and saved 
from death at her hands. (Although the White Witch is supposed to represent 
consummate evil, it was hard for me to work up a head of lather since she 
is played by Tilda Swinton, one of cinema's most appealing personalities.)

The film is pretty slow going until the final fight scene between the 
Forces of Good and the Forces of Evil. Despite being eminently Caucasian 
herself, all of the White Witch's minions seem to be rather dark-skinned, 
just as the Orcs were in "Fellowship of the Ring." Gosh, I wonder why.

If it is meant as Christian propaganda, one has to wonder if it is 
subverting its own goals through the inclusion of witches, fauns, centaurs 
and other creatures drawn from the ranks of mythology. Furthermore, the 
return of Christmas in this tale seems closer to the pagan roots of this 
holiday than to celebrating Jesus' birth. After all, putting up a pine tree 
as a symbol of the oncoming spring would owe more to Nordic ritual than the 
sort of austere Anglican theology favored by Lewis.

In any case, I doubt that any child will be converted to Christianity as a 
result of watching such a film. Speaking for myself, I found it entirely 
harmless just as I find films based on Tolkein and L. Frank Baum harmless.

I do confess that there is something that does bother me a bit. Baum, you 
will recall, was a newspaper man in South Dakota a decade before writing 
"Wizard of Oz." In editorial after editorial, he lashed out at the Lakota 
people and wrote the following on the occasion of the death of Sitting Bull:

"With his fall the nobility of the Redskin is extinguished, and what few 
are left are a pack of whining curs who lick the hand that smites them. The 
Whites, by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the 
American continent, and the best safety of the frontier settlements will be 
secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians. Why not 
annihilation? Their glory has fled, their spirit broken, their manhood 
effaced; better that they die than live the miserable wretches that they 
are. History would forget these latter despicable beings, and speak, in 
later ages of the glory of these grand Kings of forest and plain that 
Cooper loved to heroism.

"We cannot honestly regret their extermination, but we at least do justice 
to the manly characteristics possessed, according to their lights and 
education, by the early Redskins of America."

Which brings me back to Philip F. Anschutz, the Christian co-producer of 
"The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." Five 
years ago, he was the CEO of an oil company before moving on to 
communications. In this capacity, he decided that oil profits were far more 
important than the rights of the same race that L. Frank Baum defamed.

"As remote as this place seems here in south-central Montana, a rambling 
valley of sagebrush and towering rocks far from any town, one is never 
truly alone. Looking on from scores of vantage points are colorful images 
of men and animals, among other illustrations, that were painted on the 
rock walls perhaps 1,000 years ago.

"Indian tribes that trace the presence of their ancestors here say they 
believe the spirits of their elders remain, making these 4,200 acres about 
50 miles south of Billings a sacred place to them. Their name for 
Weatherman Draw is Valley of the Chiefs, and their oral histories teach 
that even enemies dropped their weapons to share the valley in peace.

"Yet now, the valley and its fading ancient art are at the center of a 
major conflict, one of the first that illustrates the kind of dispute that 
erupts when the nation struggles to balance energy needs with environmental 
and cultural concerns.

"In time, the conflict here might provide a model for resolving similar 
conflicts throughout the West.

"Just a quarter-mile from the heart of the valley, a Denver company, 
Anschutz Exploration, wants to explore for oil. Company officials say the 
valley might sit atop as many as 10 million barrels -- 420 million gallons 
-- making it a welcome addition to the country's fuel supply, said Bill 
Miller, a company vice president.

"Anschutz is owned by Philip F. Anschutz, one of the country's wealthiest 
businessmen and a major Republican donor."

"For more than seven years his oil company sought permission to drill here. 
But it was not until February, after President Bush took office, that the 
Bureau of Land Management approved one exploratory well."

(NY Times, June 22, 2001)

Fortunately, the Indians and their environmentalist allies were able to 
block Anschutz's blitz. Now, there's a drama that cries out for a cinematic 
treatment. We do face moral challenges in today's world, but the real 
heroes are those who fight real world corporate domination, not fairy tale 
witches and gremlins.

--

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