23 November 2005

If Benedict XVI Doesn't Want You to See 'Harry Potter' Should You See It Anyway?

Last night I went to go see the new Harry Potter movie, 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.' Generally being ">praised by critics, it has obviously been released just in time for the holiday movie-going frenzy. I saw it last night in a virtually empty theater (it was Tuesday night at 9:30) and I must say, bregrudgingly, I enjoyed it. Or not begrudgingly. I did pay money to see it, after all. At over 2-and-a-half hours long, it moves franticly through the plot to condense 450 pages or so of text into one movie. The plot, of course, centers around Harry and friends' bildungsroman as the learn to become powerful wizards and witches. From the opening scene where a snake slithers out of a pile of human skulls, to the ending scene where one boy dies, this movie isBut should we as Christians be concerned about Harry Potter?

My friend MM was discussing this matter with me in regards to his Holiness. Benedict Our Pope has been thoroughly acknowledged this summer for his praise of a book which condemned JK Rowling's series for damaging the developing moral sense in children by obscuring the line between good and evil. As someone who has read all six of the published books and seen all four of the movies, I am hard-pressed to disagree.

It reminds me though of a conversation I had as a much younger version of myself about the Disney movie The Lion King. I had just seen it with some schoolmates and returning from the theater with the mother of some of these same, we were engaged in a conversation over the alleged presence of "New Age" ideas in the movie. My friends, which were at that time, and I assume still are, ardent protestants, lambasted the movie along these grounds. I, who had enjoyed the movie thoroughly, remained silent, until unable to keep quiet any longer said, "It's just a movie!" Meaning, that the movie was meant to be enjoyed and these philistines had failed to appreciate this. The mother of some of the philistines was in the drivers seat and called over her shoulder to me that a movie is never just a movie but that it is laden with (and here I am paraphrasing) ideological content. If by saying that she meant me to dislike her intensely, she succeeded.

It, is, of course, an old debate. What is the role of art in the Church, and what is a Christian response to art? It is a debate that has raged at least since St. Bernard of Clairvaux attacked the excess of the Benedictine order. The role of the arts are more undefined than ever in the Church. We like to let the secular culture take care of our entertainment and aesthetic diversions. This of course, extends to the upcoming movie adaptation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

This blog entry has gotten sidetracked. I'll have to pick up all the threads in the future. But we are definitely on to something here.


Danny boy said...

We should also examine the scriptures and think for ourselves. A good article to start is here.

Garland said...

Danny boy, I am glad that you feel my post is a good place to start. Whoever you are.

MM said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Garland said...

MM, you are excessively good at asking leading questions. I just wish I knew in what direction you were leading.

In truth, though, I would rather see quite a bit more "religious" art and a great deal less blasphemy and degradation of the human body in the name of entertainment. But I am uncertain how to feel about the Evangelicals. They are not interested in art at all. I would like to say that they are interested in coverting the lost, but the insipid attempts of things like the Left Behind series leave me in doubt as to their ends as well as their means.

father wb said...

"...it moves franticly through the plot to condense 450 pages or so of text into one movie."

I propose you stop reading the books. My solution was never to start reading them. Now the movies don't seem especially frantic to me. They just seem like movies.

I have spent the last couple of years forgetting that the Lord of the Rings was ever something in print form. Now I am intransigently keen on the movies and am lobbying hard for a cinematic Silmarillion, so that I can forget that book too.

metafiz said...

speaking as a protestant, i agree with you. sometimes a movie is just a movie. and sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

actually, i might argue that even if a movie wasn't just a movie, but was "laden with ideological content", that would be all the more reason to see it, especially if it was content which i find wrong. let the conversation continue. by no means should we put an end to the expression of thoughts and beliefs.