Friday, May 15, 2009

A Night of Contrasting Philosphical Viewpoints, Part II

The Golden Compass:
Polar Bears fight for free thought

After the adventure that was "Bibleman," my evening went down to its intended purpose, watching "The Golden Compass." Several of my friends insist that the Golden Compass series of books are excellent science-fiction books, with an interesting respect for atheism that serves as a counterpoint to the more Christian orientated Narnia books. As I have not read the books, I will comment solely on the movie, which was, and I will put this as delicately as possible, fucking crazy.

I'll try to summarize the plot as best as I can remember. In a parallel universe, people's souls are externally represented by small animals. The Catholic Church, which goes by some other name, is attempting to stifle research into "dust," which is entering from another dimension into people's souls. A girl receives a golden ouiji board that can determine the future from her uncle, James Bond. She is taken under the wing of a high-society woman, who turns out to be her mother, who had previously banged her uncle (this would make James Bond her dad), who is working for the Church to kidnap children. Children are being kidnapped to experiment on them in Norway to split them fromt their animal souls. Let me break the narrative here for a moment to speculate that in our universe, this would probably be a step up in the public image of the church. Anyway, the girl goes north where she meets a talking polar bear. This polar bear drinks whiskey by the bucketfull as he wallows in pity for his lost armor. But hey, magic compass, and we've got ourselves a fully armored bear. Or at least one with a vest and a hat. I was really hoping that the polar bear would also have a rifle or something, to make him both a terror at long range and a whirling dervish of claws up close. Yes, a whirling dervish. Well, now that our heroine has a bear under her command, she meets up with a Texas cowboy/blimp pilot, played by that most authentic of Lone Star Zeppelineers, Sam Elliott. They manage to make it to the prison where the church is de-souling children, where the heroine has the children escape... into the arctic. Where they are quickly set upon by guards. Who are then attacked by Gypsies. And a polar bear. And a magic army of witches. And a blimp. I'm pretty sure a Deus Ex Machina also came at them. Anyway, a glorious battle was joined, the heroine went to go find her uncle/father to discover what this important "dust" was and then movie over.

As may have been obvious from the above, but I have no idea what is going on in this story. People's souls are animals that hang out with them. Ok, got it. And yeah, it's nifty how everyone who's spirit is a german sheppard joined the church's child murdering unit, does help identify them. And in this parallel universe, polar bears can talk. Oh, and they wear armor and are blacksmiths of renoun. As far as I can tell, these are the only talking animals besides peoples spirits. In the books, do they go into what the hells going on with the fauna of this universe? I'm going to bet that most people there are vegetarian. Though I guess I didn't see any cow or chicken spirits. Delicous chicken spirits. Were people who hadn't read the Lord of the Rings twelve times as confused by the Fellowship as I was by this?

Finally, (barely) trying to tie this in to the theme of contrasting philosophical viewpoints, I guess I can see where this movie attempted to link the controlling, paternalistic efforts of the multi-verses authority with our universes religous institutions. Numerous times, people affiliated with the church assure us that they, "know what's best." This would be a more nuanced philosphical discussion if the people making the argument didn't look like they were plotting to build a death star. In the end, I don't really what the fuss was about, the religious authorities portrayed in this movie seemed like something Christopher Hitchens might imagine to be the way the church works in some sort of booze-induced fever. Zing! Or, put another way, I didn't see any way that the movie represented an athiestic viewpoint. Don't put too much faith in my view, when they were nailing that freaking lion to a cross in "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," I thought it was about the French Revolution. If I could have people take anything from "The Golden Compass," it would be this: for the love of God, science, or Gozer, do not try to fight an armored polar bear.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Night of Contrasting Philosphical Viewpoints, Part I

Ever since the discovery of digital cable, man has been able to watch much more over the air television than ever before. And because sometime man loses the remote to woman, he's forced to choose between religious programming and "Gossip Girls." This is hardly a choice at all.

...Anyway, this evening I watched, in stunned silence, "Bibleman." Bibleman is a children's tv show about a man who is Bibleman by day and a mild mannered religous hero called Bibleman by night. Well, or at least until 10:00, when he probably goes to bed. The show has a credit sequence that shows Bibleman racing on a motorcycle, punching someone who appears to be a man in a home-made Darth Maul outfit, performing jump high fives, and weilding a fucking lightsaber. My hopes for a zealous defender of the light through extreme violence were quickly discouraged; Bibleman does most of his action through talking to troubled eleven year olds, who apparently are in danger of falling back in with the wrong crowd. One wonders exactly how much soul tainting-sinning someone who hasn't finished the 6th grade could get up to. Or maybe these kids just have more interesting childhoods than I did. Um, anyway, Bibleman's arch-enemy is a man who tempts children to renounce the Lord. He is dressed like Locutus of Borg, but minus the dignity and comic timing. He also has a sidekick who can frequently be seen peering through the bushes at the school, which is probably a violation of the conditions of his parole. The episode I saw included a rich subplot where-in the only minority member of Bibleman's team nearly fell back into old habits with his dangerous gang. I'm not sure exactly what those habits were; you'd expect him to come back reeking of gin or covered in garish lipstick. Maybe he played cards? Anyway, the character proclaimed his righteous indignation at nearly relapsing by loudly proclaiming, "I am righteously indignant!" In the end, that same minority character was able to expose a website as having been designed by Borg Satan to corrupt children. In keeping with the utter banality of evil present on religous shows for children, the website consisted of a Flash game.

As incredible as the experience of watching "Bibleman" was, I did come away with a few nagging doubts (hopefully this will prompt a visit from Biblewoman). I can't remember a middle school society that ruthlessly casted out people who attended youth groups. I'm fairly sure that the Bible doesn't mention leaving your old friends as a prerequisite for salvation. And worst of all, at no point in the show was anything more violent than a gentle lecture used. I was righteously indignant about the lack of a lightsaber duel promised in the opening credits.