Thursday, March 17, 2005

Disney/Narnia situation getting complicated...

Let me be very clear about something: When I issued my original post wherein I tried to be a voice of reason about the surprising (some would say "worrisome") move by Disney to hire a Christian-oriented marketing firm previously connected to "The Passion" in order to promote their upcoming "Chronicles of Narnia" film to a religious niche-audience. My position was that, while it's certainly within the realm of reason to feel a need for extra caution whenever the so-called "Religious Right" shows signs of infiltrating the popular cinema culture, the mere hiring of a niche-marketing firm that caters to a Christian audience is not in and of itself cause for alarm. That position, defined in those terms, still stands.

And to those Christians among my readership who may feel offended by the insinuation that portions of "your" movement entering into the pop culture is something to be "feared," I can only offer that I do not refer to all of Christianity or even the majority of Christians, but I soundly refuse to modify my position. So long as the "leadership" of the religious right continues to be dominated by pro-censorship, anti-freedom, hate-spreading theocrats like Robertson, Dobson, Phelps and Falwell, I will continue to hold that any movement operating under such leadership gaining a foothold in the media culture is something that freedom-loving Americans should oppose.

And why, yes, I happen to feel the same way about all other religious fundamentalism, too.

Ahem. Anyway, the situation i.e. Disney and Narnia has grown more complicated. There are now levels and gradients to the story that require one who is interested in it to take a new look and form new, additional opinions to go along as ammendments to the original. On that, I offer up this recent article on the topic from the Orlando Sentinel:

The topic of the article is, admittedly, a new but entirely appropriate angle that even I had not thought of in relation to the story: namely, what does this sudden cozying-up to the Evangelical crowd do to the nationwide boycott they were supposed to be having against Disney?

If you're only JUST NOW remembering that this boycott existed, don't worry. Almost no one really ever cared or fully participated in the movement, started back in the late 1990s mostly by the Southern Baptist Convention as an attempt to "punish" Disney for alleged crimes against American Christians. These "crimes" included:

  • The making of films that envinced a worldview other than that of the protesters. Well, at least it's not something petty.
  • The promotion of "Gay Days" at company theme parks to entice gay vacationers. The fiends! (apparently the "Christian Right" only appreciates Disney's niche-marketing when THEY are the niche. Hm.)
  • The extension of spousal health-benefits to employees with same-sex significant others. Well, at least that one makes sense for them to be upset about. I mean, it's not like there's anything Christ-like about being charitable to members of a persecuted minority, right?

Ahem. In any case, the great Christian Boycott of Disney is basically a massive colossal failure on almost every level, unless you want to posit that Disney's loooong string of boxoffice failures has been the whim of divine intervention as opposed to the results of astonishingly poor filmmaking. But now, with the Mouse House actively reaching out to "the Christian community" to promote the fantasy film based on C.S. Lewis' allegorical Christian-flavored swords & sorcery fairytale, some leaders seem ready to either put the boycott to rest or, at least, take the opportunity and call it off as "victorious" while they've got something to spin.

Hey, all well and good with me.

Now, here's a quote from the article that adds a troubling new layer to all of this:

"One of the groups that led the boycott, Colorado-based Focus on the Family, has been included in the early stages of the marketing campaign."

Uh oh.

"Focus on the Family" is run by one Dr. James Dobson, a hugely influential "culture warrior" who is, right down the line, ant-choice, anti-gay and pro-censorship. In terms of people on the right AND left I define as an enemy of freedom, Dobson is ALWAYS near the top of the list. Here's his website:

Go ahead, surf around. It's helpful to be reminded that creatures like Dobson are not just boogeyman invented by "paranoid" people like myself: They're real, and they're scary. Dobson cloaks his agenda behind being a sort of "counselor" for families with problems, but the "aid" he offers is based in propaganda and psuedo-science: Focus openly endorses such typical Religious "Right" propaganda as homosexual "reprogramming" and the (again) 100% UNPROVABLE myth of media-imagined violence "causing" the real thing.

Of course, it's Dobson's right to spread hate, psuedo-science and propaganda: That's his right under the First Ammendment that he and his fellow censorship-advocates have so little respect for. HOWEVER, to learn that Disney is including this organization in their outreach effort is a depressing move, one that shows that the Mouse House is not going about this with the care they need to and one that, while I continue to support the IDEA of Disney niche-marketing the religious audience for this film, I simply cannot support: Dobson and Focus are, I'm sorry, NOT good people... and giving them some kind of possible connection to this film is a bad decision that will come back to haunt them.

It comes down to this, Disney guys: In the long run, you do not want someone like Dobson seen as your "partner" in this venture. Forget for a moment that he's a demagogue and propagandist for dangerous religious extremism, and TRY to forget (if your aware in the first place) what an insult his connection to the film is to the memory of C.S. Lewis, who's theories of reason-based Christianity are the precise opposite of the regressive fundamentalist "because the book says so!" theology of Dobson and his comrades. Think of this in business terms: In that same Sentinel article, Disney reps are quoted saying that they plan equally-strong niche-marketing to "fantasy audiences" and "adventure audiences." Newsflash to Disney: A HUGE contingent of both of those audiences ("fantasy" in particular) are made up of gays, "secularists," neo-pagans and other folks who are well aware that Dobson considers them and their very existance to be sinful and evil: he regularly rails against such folks in his writings and speeches. Do you want such a divisive, hateful figure to be associated with you're family fairytale film?

I'm doing, I believe, my best to be fair and honest here: Disney's initial instinct to market "Narnia" movies to a Religious audience is a fine and dandy thing, but to involve fringe extremists like Dobson and his organizations in the proceedings is a mistake on nearly every level, and while it doesn't really tarnish the FILM itself any (yet), it's still a shame that not even the powerful Disney cannot find a way to appeal to American Christians without making deals with regressive anti-freedom "leaders" like Dobson.

I can only say that I hope this does not end up harming the release of the film too much or the film itself AT ALL, and that in the humble opinion of one fan; Aslan and his fellows (even that rascal Edmund) deserve better company than they are now being afforded; and perhaps content myself with the knowledge that Narnia has outlasted and risen above demagoguery and fundamentalism before, and that it will do so again.


Matt A said...

Hi Bob
As a UK Christian (and huge Narnia fan) I was fascinated to read your post...
It is a constant source of bemusement and shame that the US right wing fun-da-mental-ists go around trying to stamp over popular culture - it's not even biblical (hello Im pretty sure 'God granted freewill' should apply to choice of movie viewing?)
Anyway - am off to watch / review Constantine this weekend - it's been out over there for a while so can you let me know what the thinking on it is? Does it kick serious amounts of ass? Here's hoping...

Bob said...

I was actually quite fond of "Constantine," though I'm not sure if they've been mispromoting it to y'all in the UK as a heavy-action film like they did here.

My review of the movie is available HERE:

Anonymous said...

You are so lost it is not even funny. Why is it that every other special interest group and every other religious group gets to push their point of views down the throats of we Americans who believe in the same things that our founding fathers believed in; good Christian beliefs (and they did, contrary to you and the liberal left want to admit…read logs and record book, before you and your people erase them, and you will see that I am correct) I am so tired of being considered “intolerant”, when it is YOU and your LEFT WINGED buddies who are intolerant; I have to hear about your “Will and Grace” lifestyles, and how God should not be mentioned in our national pledge, etc, etc, yet when we Christians don’t want to celebrate your “Gay Days” we are intolerant? There is nothing natural about one man sticking his penis in another mans butt! Do you eat from your ears? NO… Do you laugh from your eyes? NO… I will admit that from what you have written, you do seem to excrete crap from your mouth…so I may be wrong in thinking that you can use body parts for which that are not intended. Having said all of this, you cannot say that genders of the same sex, having sex with one another is “normal”. Do I love my brother-in-law who is gay…you betcha, but do I tell my kids, “when you grow up, being gay is normal”…No I don’t!

For Mr or Mrs UK Christian, your words do not reflect someone who has a love for the Father nor a respect for. Free will does not mean do whatever you want, including using bad language.


Wesley said...

Hey Anoymous,ASSHOlE thats Excatly what free will means. I guess your definition of free will will fall right in the fucking Nazis.