Oscar Night in Narnia
March 1, 2006
“In a sort of ghastly simplicity, we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.” C.S. Lewis (Abolition of Man)
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will soon have their big party on their grand stage to award their concepts of “bravery” and “tolerance” in an effort to further their morally bankrupt agenda. When we know the ideas behind Hollywood and those that make up the Academy, we shouldn’t be surprised to see their depraved flotilla of nominees and films. Among the menagerie that we are to offer praise and little golden idols, are the media-ubiquitous gay cowboys (Brokeback Mountain), a gender trading transsexual (Transamerica), and a rapping pimp (Hustle & Flow). Director George Clooney offers an ode to communist heroes living under McCarthy (Good Night And Good Luck), and lifts forth the ever-present “war for oil” refrain (Syriana). Steven Spielberg ironically makes the world safer for anti-Semitism with his exercise in moral relativism (Munich). Hollywood is as much an idea as it is a place, so this is to be expected. However, in the real America where people vote with their dollars, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe has rolled up over $288 million dollars to become Disney’s all-time highest grossing film. I, for one, am glad to see the commercial success of a film that doesn’t seek to blur the lines between good and evil. But then what do I know? I am merely one of the unenlightened, not born to tread Hollywood’s golden road.
However, I grew up in a land that is also as much an idea as it is a place. I grew up in Narnia. So immersed in that world was I, that I cannot remember a time without knowing those wonderful C.S. Lewis penned tales of talking beasts, warrior mice, and a Kingly Lion. The themes that had baptized my imagination as a young boy still remained a vital pulse in the movie. The concepts that Hollywood and modernity have pushed aside, such as truth, justice, and courage are there, and so too are moviegoers.
Myth is a very powerful thing. Through myth, images and concepts can be conveyed where words can sometimes fail. Since ancient times man has told stories. In those stories there have always been basic truths and reoccurring themes. For instance, never in the great tales has it been heroic to run away from battle. Lying is never seen as an act of virtue. In myth and stories, the great truths and ideas of mankind are reintroduced and reinforced in such a way that our familiarity with the concepts are overwhelmed by our imagination’s way of seeing the concepts in action. It is one thing to say: “Be courageous,” but quite another to see someone don armor and fight the evil wolves or slay the monster.
The reason Narnia is so successful is that it taps into this sense of myth, and the underlying truth at the heart of the universe. The movies that Hollywood champions seek to create their own morality and truth (if there is such a thing) while rejecting “abstract” notions like absolute truth, duty, honor, beauty, and courage. The darkness they exhibit is supposed to somehow make them more “real” and “lifelike,” while movies such as Narnia are dismissed as trivial not only for their fantasy effects, but also for their “unrealistic” messages. It is a dangerous idea that adults should replace fantasy and wonder with scientific explanation and “realistic” thinking. We relegate what we wrongly refer to as children’s stories to the nurseries of our otherwise thoroughly modern and realistic dwellings, when in fact we should, as adults, be the true champions of the fairy tale, myth, and legend. What we read to our children will inform what they choose to read on their own, and what they choose to read will inform their character and their souls. Lewis himself said: “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally (and often far more) worth reading at the age of fifty—except, of course, books of information. The only imaginative works we ought to grow out of are those which it would have been better not to have read at all.”
Despite the “always winter, never Christmas” outlook of modern thought and culture, I still see glimmers of hope when movies such as Narnia are well attended. Whether consciously or not, moviegoers respond to a movie like Narnia because of its message, and they reject the movies that Hollywood elitists continue to push upon them for the same reason. I believe, as Lewis did, that there is, intrinsic in man, an image of the good that is written on our hearts. Perhaps this is why enemies of such thought fervently seek to satisfy appetites and desires, and value truth (if at all) only if it can be scientifically measured, all the while working feverishly to cut out our hearts. As for me and my house, I read Narnia to my young son, and we know Aslan is on the move…
Rich Policz is a 1997 graduate of Ashland University and the Ashbrook Scholar Program. He is a freelance writer and teaches philosophy at Ashland Christian School.