Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Spring Writing in Steamboat

It is officially Spring and I'm up against a writing deadline. So I'm catching snatches of the gorgeous color and warmth in writing breaks, motivating me to write better, faster, nourishing me with beauty before I jump back into the work.

The project is a chapter on apologetics and gender for Sean McDowell (Josh's son's) compilation book "Apologetics for a New Generation." It will be published by Harvest House. I've been toying around with ideas and titles, things like "Finding the Feminine in the Sacred" (too edgy?), "Gender and Apologetics" (too academic!) "Carrying the Light to Women" (somewhat unclear and boring?). Titles are usually Dale's department.

One idea that I've been writing about, one that merits a short entry here is that of marketing in the church. Have you ever heard the statistic (source I have not found--would love some help here) that if churches cater to men, then the women and children will follow? A sort of reverse Titanic scenario.

It's a stat out there, believe me, the idea (and supposedly the reality) that if you can get the heads of American households to church, then you will find their wives and children coming in higher numbers and with more devotion. Something like so many percentage more of kids from homes where both parents attend church are more likely to continue going to church.

The skeptic in me rises up and wonders . . .
  1. Has anyone surveyed homes where the father is the only parent and the mother has skipped out of town? In these homes, even if the father attends church, are these children JUST as likely to continue in their attendance and devotion with the mother absent? Richard Brown, the AIDS plagued character played by Jim Harris in The Hours comes to mind. Recall his suicide because of his mother's abandonment.
  2. Modeling of a father is key, but I'm afraid we've over-ascribed significance to the father figure, neglecting the faithful, heroic work of mothers who refuse to skip out on their children either emotionally or physically.
  3. Who said church attendance was evidence? My heavens, when will we stop with this love-affair with numbers? Don't we all know church-attenders who know nothing of Jesus, nothing of devotion, nothing of vibrant, intimate, communion with God? Okay, please forgive this rant, but honestly, folks, an increase of numbers of warm bodies in a building doesn't impress me. You can get a group of people to do almost anything (that's why we're called sheep).
  4. And what about the large amounts of women who are not attached to a man? What kind of message does "cater to the heads of household" send to those who've chosen the undistracted life of singleness? or the widows? or the divorced? or the young women? I'll tell you what it tells them, they do not matter quite as much because they can't pull more into the fold.
  5. Does a strategy that builds attendance mean that this strategy is an appropriate motivation for churches to take? I'm entirely disgruntled by how the church culture has lapped up pagan ideas of business growth. It's tantamount to assuming that if we cater to one ethnicity, more people will come to Christ. But awareness of any marketing strategy should never steer money, humans, or interests away from all the other neglected ethnicities. As a woman who speaks for many women's ministries that are grossly underfunded, let me simply say that our church budgets are voting our value of people. This is a blatant shame. Our God is no respecter of persons, he would not cater more to male, female, poor, rich, white, black, slave or free. We need to follow his lead.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Prince Caspian: Why the Movie is Not Worth Seeing

My husband (Dale) and I spoke for a Christian school in San Antonio, Texas this week. The grand finale was a Prince Caspian movie adventure at 8 am this morning.

The movie was terrible. Besides being a poor adaptation from the book, it didn't impress me on its own merits either. I'm afraid I have little but criticism for it. I've listed a few while the thoughts are still fresh, but please be forewarned plot spoilers to follow.
  1. NutraSweet Narnia- It's a fake adaptation of something I've seen before. The plot is embarrassingly drawing on New Line Cinema's adaptation of Lord of the Rings (yes I know Lewis and Tolkien were friends, but their worlds are vastly different and I'm annoyed when producers find a code for one movie and than slap it on another film to make them big bucks--I wasn't taken in, even though I enjoyed New Line Cinema's adaptation of Tokien). Too many self-consciously similar moments, rock-launching catapults, forging weapons in underground lairs, trees destroying armies, the musical score. Honestly it felt like a poor adaptation of a shoddy Tolkien story.
  2. Plot confusion- There are 2 main climaxes (one entirely written in by the movie's script writers) that make the film drag. The children are called into Narnia entirely too early, they leave out Caspian's childhood, training and the influence of his female nurse and her stories. An entirely unnecessary and confusing battle sequence of Caspian storming King Miraz's castle reminds me of the inconsistent scene in The Two Towers when some bright-eyed writer puts Frodo in Osgiliath showing his ring to the Nazgul. It ruins all elements of surprise. The same happens here in Prince Caspian. You feel yourself rising into the castle battle scene, but when the attack fails (the leaders, Peter and Caspian, turn on one another and a disappointing King Peter vs. King Caspian's conflict rises that is even more spiteful than Caspian vs. the real bad-guy Miraz) another battle is necessary. Turning the movie into a battle-driven plot is another Lord of the Rings move. I didn't like it there, but here it creates two competing climaxes. No wonder Susan and Lucy must fight (while they don't in the book) Here, they'd have precious little scene-presence if they didn't.
  3. Aslan- is reduced further. I didn't think the director, Andrew Adamson, could minimize him any worse than he did in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (read my husband's review to understand that more). But Adamson has. The director/writer team decided to subtly alter Aslan's dialog with Lucy in the wood, turning the substance of the experience into a dream sequence (this is too close to the way so many unbelievers see believers--those peo ple with ecstatic experiences that are entirely unsubstantiated in the real world). The changes in dialog are so subtle it's easy to miss, but Dale and I both groaned when we heard the line in response to Lucy's, "Aslan, your bigger!" changed from the books marvelous: "That is because you are older . . . I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger." The movie has altered it to, "Every year you grow, I will grow, too." Do you see the difference? A bit later in the scene Lewis has Aslan saying, "Nobody is every told what would have happened, but anyone can find out what will happen." This is changed, so slightly to, "We will never know what would have happened." Do you see the difference here? We go from seeing Aslan as the keeper of all knowledge to being one of us (much like Open Theists believe) in his knowledge of all possible situations in the future. Instead of Aslan informing Lucy's knowledge, he becomes a sort of finite creature, a truly grand animal, but only an animal, one that keeps growing up and one that cannot know what the future holds until it happens. This happens again and again. As Dale and I just read the book, our disappointment with Aslan was much deeper. We don't get to see Aslan rousing the woods or the armies to aid the failing Caspian, rather it's Peter who with a bitter, self-righteous, bossy attitude attempts to defeat the enemy with or without Caspian's friendship or our respect.
  4. The White Witch makes a weird appearance, Edmund forcefully destroys her again. Goodness knows how many times do will need to watch her killed? I guess Aslan's work needed extra help? Both Caspian and Peter seem entranced by her.
  5. The director completely removed the Bacchus scene because it (in his mind) inappropriately shows children drinking wine. I can't help but sigh with his silliness. As if it's inherently evil for children to drink wine. It isn't in most of Europe, nor in Scripture. In doing so he removed Aslan's powerful jaunt to release the dryads, awaken the river, release the enslaved school children, free Caspian's nurse, and on and on. Instead of free celebration, song and wine we have an elaborated evil scene where the werewolf and hag perform the work of a medium, shrieking an incantation and calling upon the spirit of the White Witch. I can't respect these sorts of edits and additions.
  6. Ask anyone who's watched Prince Caspian who the hero is and they'll say either Peter, Caspian or Lucy. Lucy is closest, but in the book this is only because of Aslan's power, his breath on her, his instructions to her. In the words of one disappointed eight grader today, the movie was a let-down, "I never got to see Aslan. He wasn't really in it." That's because he was no longer the hero.
  7. Prince Caspian while a dashing actor (age 26) trying to play a 19 year old is besotted with Susan throughout the film. It distracts from the movement and requires a sort of bittersweet romance between the two, finished off with a mournful, Hollywood-esque goodbye kiss at the end. Even the teens commented on how out of place if felt. We reminded them that if Caspian had really been a mere youth and Susan a young girl, we wouldn't have felt quite so interested in their love lives and not expected dove's eyes at each other. In the book Caspian is amazing partially because as a boy he does battle for Narnia. I'm not quite as interested in how an adult wages battle (that happens all the time).
  8. Reepicheep is too small and a comedy sort of Fievel goes West character. Leave it to Disney! I'd imagine Reep would be insulted if he could watch this rendition of his dignity.
Two things I liked
- cool costumes and make-up (but so cool they're kind of distracting)
- Prince Caspian was humble and likeable, despite Peter's disrespect and endless hubris. Shame he's so dreadfully old for the part.

I'd recommend not seeing it on the big screen. I feel we might be able to vote loudly enough with our pocketbooks so the makers, producers, writers, Disney, Walden and especially Douglas Greshem (C.S. Lewis' stepson whom I'm afraid doesn't really get his stepfather's imaginative world) see that Christians won't be pandered to with poor movies (no matter how great their original sources were no matter how much of a Christian worldview they used to espouse).

Instead, take the time and money and go buy the book Prince Caspian, snuggle into a velveteen chair some cozy place and dive into the original story. It probably won't take you much longer than the films 2 1/2 hours. It'll be time and money better spent.