Perhaps, I’ve finally to gotten old enough to be wise or maybe I’m just an old, wise fool. When I observe movements to boycott movies, it reminds me of movements down through history that have banned books. As an American, unbridled access to literary works and information is one of my most cherished freedoms. I respect the right of people to choose not to read a book or not to see a certain movie, but I believe that when governmental institutions allow for literary and theatrical works to be censored in this way, a significant piece of freedom is tarnished.
Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, specifically the movie version of The Golden Compass, is being attacked because Pullman, according to the censorship movement, is an atheist and killed God in the book/movie.
Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series is not unknown to me. About ten years ago when The Golden Compass was released in America, my ten year old son, who was then and still is a voracious reader, picked up the book and found himself immersed in it. After he finished the book, both my wife and I read it and were blown away by the story, too.
In the book, Pullman created a reality that is eerily close to ours, yet with subtle differences. He also created parallel universes where what we view as normal would be viewed as being absurdly ridiculous. From the very beginning of his tale until the last word of that first book, I was immersed in these universes. Quite honestly, The Golden Compass is the best adolescent fantasy I’ve ever read. The ensuing volumes, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, have a relentless drive and dimension.
In addressing the contention that God is killed and that religion is attacked in the series, I would say that I disagree. Keep in mind that this is a fantasy series. The characters exist in various universes. It is true that the antagonists are members of the entrenched institutional church that rules the land with an iron-fist using the politics of fear to keep the inhabitants oppressed. However, Pullman never draws a direct correlation to any organized institutional religious group in our real world. Others outside the story frame have made those connections. The contention that God is killed is a superficial translation of the written word in my view. I the titanic battle more as the death of a mythical god, like if Zeus were overthrown (I’m sure that might displease those who still worship the Ancient Greek gods).
What I think is being lost in the turbulence of the issue is that His Dark Materials is simply a whacking good tale. Since I read through the series once, I’ve gone through and reread the books two more times which puts His Dark Materials on par with JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, Tad Williams’ Otherland, CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia on my personal fantasy wall of fame.
For Another Perspective on His Dark Materials
More on Banned Books
"Books and ideas are the most effective weapons against intolerance and ignorance."
-- Lyndon Baines Johnson, February 11, 1964