Bad lesson for children (or anyone)

19
May
2008

Having sort of run out of movies to see here, I agreed to go see Prince Caspian, the second adaptation from the Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis. A quick check of the reviews showed it to be very well received, so I thought how bad could it be?

Pretty awful, actually. It was bad on so many levels. From the best to the worst: Special effects and art direction were decent, not great. Acting ranged from pretty good (Susan) to downright cringeworthy (Caspian). But the real standout for me in terms of awfulness was the moral of the story and plot (which of course are direct from C.S. Lewis).

Let’s take a look at all the ugliness:

- Super simplification of good vs evil. I happen to think this is a terrible lesson for children, that the world can be divided into black and white, good and evil, etc. I think it a great scourge in our society that we tend to vilify those we disagree with and forego civility.

- Cheap faith and a vengeful God. The moral of the story is that if you have faith in Jesus (the Lion), he will save you by destroying your enemies (in a quite violent way). It really doesn’t matter what the faith in question, if there is a central father figure who smites those who don’t believe in him, I find it problematic and a bad lesson for children (or anyone). I don’t think it serves human kind very well to think of God as a vengeful, anthropomorphic superhero, but I suppose this is part of the Western Tradition (make that the human tradition, I can think of a few Eastern examples as well).

- The Crusades (or Jihad). Along with the overly simplistic good vs evil is the religious crusade behind it. There is an orgy of violence in this film that is disturbing. Interestingly, in the couple of scenes of one on one combat among the major characters, they (the good guys, of course) are shown to be merciful, passing on killing when they have the chance. These same characters think nothing of slashing and killing everything in their path throughout the rest of the film, however where they happen to be killing nameless, faceless soldiers or other less elite creatures.

I’ve never exactly been a fan of Terminator style movies, but at least those leave out the religious overtones and moralizing. The disturbing thing when watching the Narnia movies is that you can totally see that this is how some on the religious right view the world. No room for nuance or differing world views. The rest of you are going to burn in hell, period. What a sweet message for the children.

 

5 thoughts on “Bad lesson for children (or anyone)

  1. In the short story “One Life, furnished in early Moorcock,” (written in 1994 by Neil Gaiman) the narrator, a 12-year-old boy entering puberty, feels betrayed by C.S. Lewis when he realizes the Christian subtext of the Narnia books. It’s a great commentary on that subject as well as in general on subtext, repression and sexuality.

    The story was beautifully illustrated into a dreamlike masterpiece in 1996 by P. Craig Russell.

    Examples:

    http://frpeneaud.free.fr/artists/Russell/ImagesRussell/CoverLife01.jpg

    http://frpeneaud.free.fr/artists/Russell/ImagesRussell/Life01.jpg

  2. Wow…

    I think you are reading way too much into this–I mean there is such a thing as over analysis. I loved these stories way before I knew about the Christian subtext and I think my kids did too.

    Virtually all good “children’s stories” have lessons about right and wrong. And virtually every story has a good vs. evil theme, with good winning over evil.

    Be careful dear brother with generalizations. Not all Christians who like the Chronicles of Narnia, or C.S. Lewis for that matter, are members of the religious right. In fact the vast majority of children who grew up reading these books are probably religiously moderate, politically moderate to liberal, and educated.

    And by the way, I loved the Golden Compass too, even after I found out it as written by an atheist who hated C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia.

  3. I didn’t mean to imply in any way that all Christians view the world this way, and I am sorry if it came across that way.

    That said, I do think it is a very bad lesson for children (or anyone) that the world is easily divided into good vs evil. It cheapens the very real and complex struggles that we all face (internally and externally), and makes it that much easier to accept hatred of those that are different from us. There is a difference between teaching a difference between right and wrong behavior and teaching that other people (or beings) represent pure evil.

  4. Is every story with a good/evil theme bad for children?

    And if these stories make it easier to accept hatred, then why are so many human beings actually nice, compassionate, tolerant people? Do you think these books were censored from their reading lists?

    When children are young, they see the world in black and white, and stories for them often reflect this reality. As children grow older they learn about the gray areas and how to critically think through the complex struggles. They do this with the help of their enlightened parents.

    The point is, these stories aren’t the problem, parents who raise ignorant haters are!

    And Stephen–there is evil in the world, just as there is good.

Comments are closed.