Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Golden Compass » Review

When I was a kid, I was homeschooled, and ran with a very religious crowd. Lutherans, Methodists, Mennonites, Baptists, Southern Baptists... All of my friends had different belief systems, which had subtle differences despite being all 'Christian.' My family, however, was Catholic, and we were a minority in the universally Christian homeschooling community. On the kids' part, we ignored our families' differences when we got together to learn or play. Sparks flew amongst the parents though, and the kids picked up on it. From my mother, me and my siblings learned words like 'Heretic', 'Protestant,' 'Anti-Catholic,' 'Sola Scriptura' and 'Scott Hahn.' A climate of bias against, and downright hatred towards, other Christian religions was the norm of my youth.

In high school, I attended a Protestant cottage school. Okay, I guess it was Southern Baptist technically, but wow the principal loathed Catholics. (This woman was also cruelty incarnate.) She knew my family and I were Catholic and would glare at me when ranting about the extravagances of the Vatican and the morally corrupt popes like I, personally, spoke for the Magisterium. She loved Pullman's His Dark Materials. Loved it with a special kind of passion. Why? Mostly because, besides writing really bomb books, Pullman lobs those bombs at Catholicism.

Pullman's main antagonistic force in his series is the "Authority." This oligarchical organization rules through the power religious belief and wealth, and has enough power and sway to influence world politics. Sound familiar??? In book one of the trilogy, The Golden Compass, we see the Authority give power to an off-shoot organization, which, in turn, kidnaps and mutilates the souls of children.

This is subtle stuff for kids, but a glaringly obvious motive to an adult reader. Now, I don't have a problem with Pullman putting a controversial message into a children's books. Virtually every children's book has a motive, some more intense than others. Furthermore, speaking as a (non-practicing) Catholic, I understand that nothing,nothing is above criticism. To get all worked up over someone else's questioning of your beliefs is the mark of extremism.

I love Pullman's writing. It's classic, lyrical, and vastly imaginative. I also like his powerful and gutsy message. Unfortunately, I will always associate this amazing book with one of the pettiest, most mean-spirited adults I've ever encountered...

But it all works out though. Because all I have to do is imagine my former teacher's head on top of Mrs. Coulter's wretched monkey daemon, and everything is perfect.

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