This, from the otherwise admirable AS IF!, last December, a few weeks before the release of Chris Weitz's take on The Golden Compass: Well, the attacks on Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials are about to begin in earnest. There have been several controversies about the books since they first appeared on store shelves, but now that they are set to be released as movies, certain organizations are getting up in arms. Someone might actually see the movie! And after that they might read the book!
And therein lies my problem with the Pullman fandom at large, because - Authority knows - AS IF! weren't the only otherwise sensible people dribbling with anticipation over the 'religious backlash' that was 'about to begin' in the months leading up to the film's release. It's the bit where they - and it's a general they this time, a 'those people' in the absence of having the time to sift through a myriad of blogs sniffing out months old examples - follow these sentiments up with a lot of sanctimonious huffing about people not having read the books, or seen the films, or engaged their critical functions before making a stand against the content.
Ironic, really. Because - for the most part - the Christian criticism I've read of His Dark Materials has presented a reasoned argument, admitting that it's a good book that asks some interesting theological questions, but that they're uncomfortable with having their belief system attacked so roundly. Which, fair point. Indeed, even the often unintentionally riotous CAP Ministry had to have seen the film to make their scripture-heavy condemnations. Yet, on the opposite side of the argument, there tends towards these uppity, sneering scathisms, and I've seen very few people make any sort of reasoned attempt to find the middle ground, or point out some of the - for me, glaring - flaws in the book's worldview. Namely, yes, materialism and all that bollocks, but how do you fit prophecy and predestination into a godless world? Who is making the decisions that lead Lyra to the fate that's set out within the very first chapter of Northern Lights?
Add to that the fact that the collective They seem to have forgotten about His Dark Materials' status as Carnegie of Carnegies, and that the books have been in constant rotation since their release in 1995; someone is reading them. Quite a lot of people, in fact. And it would be ludicrous to suggest that they should all agree with the book's content.
But I think the most immediate problem with all this 'Anarchy! Atheism!' nonsense is that it tends to detract from the fact that His Dark Materials is an expertly-written book, a very powerful story with some of the most ingenius characters Children's Literature has ever seen. But I'll save my love letter to Mrs Coulter for another post...