Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Walks like a fundie, quacks like a fundie, claims to be a defender of reason against superstition. Hmmm.

Simon Jenkins in The Guardian is, I'm sure, a thoroughly nice chap, and very often I find his columns amusing and/or thought-provoking. But this one last Friday just made me rather cross. Not just because practically evcrything he has to say in it about the Harry Potter stories is bilge, but because it isn't even original bilge. Back in July I posted this in which I expressed astonishment that Christian fundamentalists could be upset by the "Satanic" content of books in which magic is consistently treated as technology rather than theology. Jenkins makes all the same mistakes as the fundamentalists (including referring to non-existent Ouija boards) and had the general tenor of his post not been against superstition and religion and in favour of rationalism I might have though he'd found Jesus himself.

Of course, Jenkins adds some errors of his own. Who knew, for example, that there were "echoes of paganism" in The Lord Of The Rings? In a work totally devoid of religious or magical ritual it is difficult to discern them: in Middle Earth as it is in Hogwarts, magic is a form of technology.

Oddly enough, he completely fails to mention a far more obvious example of a quasi-religious infrastructure in modern fiction: George Lucas's Star Wars films. The Jedi believe in a life force which permeates the universe in a manner very similar to Taoists' chi, and much of the Jedi lifestyle is clearly modelled on the Japanese Samurai, who in turn took their cues from Zen Buddhism. It comes as little surprise, then, that there are people in the USA (and probably elsewhere) who list their religion as "Jedi" in census data. (If Mr Jenkins could even name a religion that a Harry Potter or LOTR fan might lay claim to on the basis of the books or films, I'd love to know what it is.) I'm not saying that Star Wars is rife with Satanism (though with Darth Vader being a kind of "fallen angel" figure it is tempting to view his portrayal as deliberately Satanic). I am saying that if one is hunting for "religion with serious box-office appeal" there's more of it on Hoth than in Hogwarts, and more on Dagobar than in Dol Guldur.

And I too of course am completely forgetting the wholly religious (no quasi- about it) infrastructure of the Narnia books and films. Those not only have magicians who operate by calling on supernatural powers, they have no time for rationality when it sets itself against religious belief. And of course they belittle a caricatured version of Islam, which can't be harming their sales these days.

Finally, a plea to Simon Jenkins: lighten up a little. Harry Potter, Gandalf, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Leigh Teabing in The Da Vinci Code: all are fictional characters, and in fiction characters do not necessarily have to obey totally rational rules. What will he condemn next from his journalistic pulpit? Truly, Madly, Deeply for suggesting that the dead communicate with the living? Charlotte's Web for its spiders' webs containing messages in English (surely just as irrational as finding the face of Jesus in an aubergine)? The Love Bug with its VW Beetle apparently possessed by a supernatural force? Macbeth? Mary Poppins? And surely he will be campaigning against any more seasonal broadcasts of It's A Wonderful Life or A Christmas Carol.


At 07 November, 2007 21:21, Anonymous Eddie Louise said...

Hi.. haven't commented here in awhile (busy moving and all) but couldn't resist this:

... in The Lord Of The Rings? In a work totally devoid of religious or magical ritual it is difficult to discern them: ...

Actually an interesting bit of trivia... According to my Father-In-Law (an Owen Barfield Scholar) C.S.Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein and Owen Barfield made a friendly wager as to who could write the best Christian allegory - Narnia was Lewis's entry, Lord of the Rings was Tolkein's - after reading those Barfield respectfully declined to submit.

As my son is fond of saying... we never truly escape our 'Frame'!


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