Friday, 21 March 2008

The Guardian and Narnia

As a reader, it took me some time to find the real quality level of the Guardian. I became aware thanks to the published articles about Narnia in the paper version (3/12/05, 5/12/05).

The journalists assume that the political and religious aspects of the movie produced by Disney (presented as nothing more than a piece of propaganda of the American neo-conservative views) are relevant to the interpretation of the C.S. Lewis’ masterpiece, written more than fifty years ago. Thus, when one of them writes about the movie: “Because here in Narnia is the perfect Republican, muscular Christianity for America -that warped, distorted neo-fascist strain that thinks might is proof of right”, she implies that we can find a kind of neo-fascism in the books. When I look for a high quality newspaper, I would expect a more nuanced approach or at least quotation marks around such problematic words took for granted.

The journalists do not pay attention on the fact that, even if there is a trace of “neo-fascism” in the world of fiction, it is not necessarily the ideology of the author. Actually, there is neither apology of the state, nor of imperialism, nor of a world ruled by terror and police, in the book. I can understand that probably agnostics are not able to perceive the meaning of faith and are prone to make some rather ridiculous caricatures when they try to interpret religious topics, but I can hardly figure out how a journalist can make such a political error, and on the top of that be totally tactless.

The third main mistake is the interpretation of the females’ presence in the book. I can admit that CS Lewis has not a feminist’s point of view. However, the interpretation of the journalist relies on factual errors: ”In Narnia, girls come second to boys… the principal representation of virtuous supernatural power is male, while the principal representation of evil power is the White Witch.” She should consider that the cause of evil is not a woman, but a male: Digory strikes the bell that wakes up the Witch (while Polly advises him not to do it). Furthermore, may I remind her and the reader that the only link between the supernatural and the common world is a female: Lucy goes into the wardrobe first, Lucy is the first to see Aslan in the Prince Caspian, while during all these times the boys deny it?

Neo-conservative, neo-fascist, sexist. And Christian. This is the last charge against CS Lewis. The journalists are afraid of Christianity because it is an “ideology”. I guess they mean that Christianism is a set of ideas which influences behaviours an thoughts, which, according to them, is antidemocratic. Is there no “ideology” behind democracy? Indeed, democracy relies on the freedom of choice. But do democrats not think about practical way of protecting the idea freedom? Do democrats not act accordingly to the precepts of democracy because they are the laws? Hopefully, democracy has an effect on our thought and comportment!

It is true that Narnia is not an apologia for democracy. However, it does not imply that it is irreconcilable with. They have some aspects in common: quest of goodness, justice and injustice, individuality, education…

As far as I am concerned, I would have said that a high quality newspaper should try to have some distance even from its own stances. Moreover, I expect from a good newspaper to rely on data and not on common opinions and clichés. I find it hard to discover such qualities in the Guardian, at least, on these articles.

December 2005

Post-scriptum: this letter was sent to the Guardian, but has received no reply.

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