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Author Comment
Helen J Pilinovsky
Registered User
(12/8/04 11:08 am)
Interesting Editorial Decisions: God Cut From Pullman Movie
In this article, which discusses the cinematic adaptation of Phillip Pullman's _His Dark Materials, the editor notifies the public of his decision to "soften" the anti-religious themes by cutting God out of the equation.,00.html

Is it just me, or does that remove the force of the story entirely, making it into another "mere" adventure story? No doubt it will still be entertaining ... it just won't contain the moral commentary which made the novels so thought-provoking.

Richard Parks
Registered User
(12/8/04 11:39 am)
Re: Interesting Editorial Decisions: God Cut From Pullman Mo
Of course not. It's a movie.

Yeah, I know. A little too glib. Yet sometimes I do wonder why Hollywood even bothers to option some properties, when the finished version has so little in common with the source material that no would could recognize it anyway. Oh, well. Better that they do, of course. I'm all for authors getting paid as much and as often as possible. :)

Unregistered User
(12/8/04 12:26 pm)
Cutting God
Yea. And Tom Hanks cut God out of Christmas.

"Is it just me, or does that remove the force of the story entirely, making it into another "mere" (adventure) story? No doubt it will still be entertaining ... it just won't contain the moral commentary which made the (novels) so thought-provoking."


Helen J Pilinovsky
Registered User
(12/8/04 12:46 pm)
Re: Cutting God
Hm. That's an interesting point, Bielie ... I think that my reactions on the two differ largely because there's a long history to the secularization of the holiday. In many ways, the myths surrounding Santa Claus post, say, the 19th century seem to be almost unrelated to the spiritual and religious conceptualizations of Christmas: there are still occasional references to "Saint Nick," but generally? For most people it seems to be about the presents (which is rather depressing, when you think about it, but the same degree of commercialization seems to surround every holiday, religious or not). In Pullman's case, though, it's a direct change what is, for better or worse, the crux of the story, the idea of humanism vs. religious collectivism and liturgy. Though I suppose that Richard's right ... the dilution of a storyline is to be expected in an adaptation. Sigh ... I was looking *forward* to it, too ....

Veronica Schanoes
Registered User
(12/8/04 2:12 pm)
Re: Cutting God
I don't really think it's the same thing at all as the no-God-in-Christmas move, although I think the real problem with Polar Express is that it looks disgustingly, nauseatingly, treacly, awful and made me want to throw up when I was accidentally exposed to a trailer for it.

Christmas comes, as far as I understand it, from a winter solstice festival and clearly has some non-Christian roots, because there are no evergreens in the middle east. So if one was so inclined, one could claim that excising the Christian god from the holiday was really a return to traditional values. On the other hand, the name of that god is encoded in the name of the holiday: CHRISTmas, which is why Jewish kids, for instance, don't celebrate it (unless they come from baaad Jewish families. Like, for instance, mine.). Also, you can't throw a stone in the US or the UK without hitting a Christmas special or a Christmas song or a creche or some sort of religious piece going on about the real meaning of Christmas or born in a manger or three wise men etc. I grew up in NYC and at school we were expected to sing "Silent Night," "Go Tell it on the Mountain," and "Little Drummer Boy," among others, so God-references really are rampant with respect to Christmas. I mean, I didn't sing them (it's not like they checked--it was at an all-school assembly) but we were given lyric sheets and everything. They also stuck "Dreidel, Dreidel" on there so I guess they thought that was all right, but Christians have no philosophical problems with playing with spinning tops, as I understand it, whereas Jews really don't believe that Jesus was the messiah, so...

Digressing completely, my absolute favorite Christmas movie has no God-reference in it and it's old. Miracle on 34th Street. Great movie. I cry. Also, since it was made in, what, the 1940s, it would have been assumed, I suppose, that Maureen O'Hara would have given up her job when she got married. But because it would have been assumed, they don't say it, so if you're watching it now you happily pretend that she carries on being a kick-ass Macy's executive after marriage!

Also, I like that it's all about the presents. That way, I get to play too! Pretty shiny decorations. Trees that smell good. Food. Presents! What could be better than presents! All stacked up...wrapped in pretty paper...I'm in a very happy place just thinking about it.

Anyway, back closer to topic: did you expect Hollywood to leave the God-killing in? They cast Jim Carrey as Count Olaf! These Hollywood types are evil! EEEEEEEEVIL! You know why Hollywood options certain things only to disembowel them? Money. They can get name recognition off the Pullman God or no God (you'll still see them, right?) so they can make money off it, so they don't care about anything else. See the above comment about their evil.

Registered User
(12/8/04 5:16 pm)

Re: Cutting God
The media is terrified of the religious right. It's that simple. I agree, evil! I'm still wondering how Ron Howard is going to pull off The DaVinci Code...good or bad, it's all about religious lies. Can't very well take God out of that one...although I imagine they'll find a way to take Goddess out...or dilute the heck out of the concept.

I don't know the book or author, Pullman, that you speak of. What's the book about?

Heidi Anne Heiner
(12/8/04 5:36 pm)
Re: Cutting God
The thread refers to the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman, including The Golden Compass (also known as Northern Lights in the UK), The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass.

There's also a companion book, Lyra's Oxford and a fourth book due out someday, for now known as The Dust.

They are stunning books, in more ways than one. Pullman presents himself as the antithesis of C. S. Lewis. Personally, I adored the first book, liked the second, and hated the third, excepting a few good moments.


Edited by: Heidi Anne Heiner at: 12/8/04 5:47 pm
Unregistered User
(12/9/04 4:38 pm)
re: Pullman
"The media is terrified of the religious right. It's that simple. I agree, evil! I'm still wondering how Ron Howard is going to pull off The Da Vinci Code...good or bad, it's all about religious lies. Can't very well take God out of that one...although I imagine they'll find a way to take Goddess out...or dilute the heck out of the concept."

Well, everyone loves a good conspiracy theory, and the Catholic Church has long been associated with mysticism at least in modern American film. The Exorcist is one of the more popular films and portrays Catholic beliefs in a very strange/scary light.

Stigmata, covers much the same territory as the Da Vinci Code. I don't remember there being a huge outcry over the film. Dogma, on the other hand, did receive all sorts of condemnation from the Church. But that film was a critique of the Church itself. The Da Vinci Code is fluff entertainment, more intent of story than any philosophical problems or critiques.

I doubt they'd have much of an audience for His Dark Materials if they kept it as Pullman wrote it. What Hollywood's looking for is a good fantasy epic in the Lord of the Ring's mode. Would cutting the religious critiques change the story, of course. But it's either that, or not make it into a film at all because it would really hurt the studio. I would think that it would depend upon how much one wanted to see their story made into a movie.

I'm just peeved that Tom Stoppard isn't doing the screenplay anymore.

But, there was (is?) the uproar over the Harry Potter books promoting witchcraft, could you imagine what would happen when the mainstream realize that these books seek to attack religion?

Registered User
(12/9/04 6:16 pm)
Re: re: Pullman
Well, I'm upset!

"He said that he shared Pullman’s view that the Authority could represent any repressive establishment — political, totalitarian, fundamentalist or communist. “This gives me a certain amount of leeway in navigating the very treacherous issues that beset adapting His Dark Materials for the screen.” "
- Times quote.

I can't agree with that. Because while it's true that any establishment can be repressive in the same way as the church & religion, I just don't see that totalitarian regimes can be undermined by the discovery of the true nature of dark matter or dust. Am I wrong, but isn't that what it's all about? Surely all the metaphysical references just don't apply to human poitical regimes? And if you remove religion, then why would the relationship between Lyra & the boy (Name escapes me - Will?) have any significance. I just can't see it.

Also this statement makes me concerned about how the "Authority" will be represented. Don't we all know hhow the enemies in a film can come to represent the "enemies" in the real world? I recall the Lion King, where there's a scene associating Scar with a crescent moon & star (both a symbol for Islam& similar to Chinese flag).

It also depresses me that Pullman can't keep some integrity about this.

Well I was already crankyand this has just made me feel worse. Not that I'm a huge fan of the books - I also loved the 1st but was lukewarm about the 2nd & 3rd; it's the principles. I will go & look for something more cheerful to think about!

Laura McCaffrey
Registered User
(12/9/04 8:01 pm)
Re: re: Pullman
Only tangentially related, but this is a lovely article by Chabon on Pullman and the series:


Unregistered User
(12/9/04 11:19 pm)
Unrelated remarks

A few totally unrelated remarks.

On Christmas: I have nothing against Polar express, except that it is supposed to portray the "True Spirit of Christmas" and that I should believe. In what? The tooth fairy?

On screenplays: The longer the book, the bigger the disappointment. Northern Lights (Golden Compass) is more than 400 pages. To fit that into 120 pages of screenplay with lots of white space requires a LOT of cutting. I was devastated when I watched the Bourne Identity a week after reading the book. HP 4 will have to have massive changes to fit on a screen. So hold your breath.

Pullman as the antithesis of CS Lewis: I respected Pullman untill he attacked Lewis. He attacked Lewis for doing exactly what he did himself in HDM. The pot calling the kettle black, and that sort of thing.
(I wonder if God will be cut from the Narnia movie too?)
My main gripe with Pullman is that atheistic/humanistic religions can be just as, or even more repressive than other religions. He may need to read 1984 again. Evil is not confined to those who believe in a god/s/ess. It is a pervasive disease of humanity.

The religious right: The Passion of the Christ's success knocked the socks off the Hollywood establishment. They could not believe that the movie made any money. And now America voted Republican on "moral issues", whatever that may mean. So MadFae, you may just have hit the nail on its head. I have always been amused that the innocent Harry got so much flak from the right while the overtly antiChristian Lyra escaped it completely. I thought the movie would spark another era of book burning. Perhaps not.

The Da Vinci Code, all about religious lies: "Code" is so full of factual inaccuracies, the book itself falls in that category.

Count Olaf: I haven't seen the movie yet, but when Jim Carrey said "I am your beloved uncle, Count Olaf" in the trailer, it sent shivers of delight down my spine. I will DEFINITELY go see the movie!

Veronica Schanoes
Registered User
(12/10/04 1:54 am)
Re: Unrelated remarks
Well, yeah, I'm going to see the movie too, because it looks perfect, but then at the end of the trailer when Carrey does his "blublbblublbu" head-shaking I wanted to smack him. Hateful fellow.

I've got no argument with the observation that non-religous people do bad things as well (except the quibble that atheism is not a "religion;" religion by definition excludes atheism), but it doesn't bother me that Pullman's not talking about it, because he's focusing on religion and oppression--it's just not his subject matter. That pleases me, because you have to look far and wide to find positive representations of atheism and anti-religiosity in pop culture (I keep on thinking of some wretched movie a while back with Michael Keaton as a serial killer who recounts his crimes and then says in what I think is supposed to be a chilling way "I can't imagine a God who would care." Right. That's why serial killers go on rampages. They're atheists. The fact that I, my mother, my father, my stepfather, my grandfather have never killed anyone? Clearly it's only a matter of time. Grr. Anyway, I can imagine a God who would care. I just don't believe in one.) To be honest, it doesn't bother me that he's slamming Lewis either, because I never liked the Narnia books growing up. They bored me and seemed overly serious and I never knew why I didn't like them until I got a bit older and someone told me they were Christian allegory.

Here's my personal theory about why the religious right hasn't yet noticed Pullman though they do attack Potter (in an exceptionally silly fashion, too): Pullman is so much harder to read. You can whiz through Potter in a day and then get down to the serious business of claiming that they're evil, but Pullman is much harder to get through. Also, I bet they wouldn't get as much publicity.

Are you saying I shouldn't believe in the tooth fairy? C'mon! Atheists have to have some fun! (This last bit is a joke.)

Edited because I just realized that the message of Miracle on 34th Street is that you need to believe as well, but judging from the movie, you need to believe in, well, Santa Claus specifically, and in the hope for happiness more generally.

Edited by: Veronica Schanoes at: 12/10/04 2:20 am
Registered User
(12/10/04 9:37 am)
Taking God out of HDM
What interested me was that Philip Pullman was just fine about taking religion out of the picture. He could be dismissed as a sell-out, but I also think there's another point of view. I grew up in Quebec in a secular Jewish household. We celebrated Hanukkah and Christmas. Neither had much religious meaning. A lot like Europe, the Catholic church in Quebec (the overwhelming main religion) was viewed as somewhat irrelevant for secular life--partially in backlash to it's grip on politics for so long. It came as a shock to me to see the reverence given to all things religious in the U.S.

There was an interesting op. ed. piece in the NY Times a few weeks ago by a muslim woman from Toronto who went to Europe to discuss liberalizing Islam. (That probably is not the way she put it, but I no longer have the piece.) Where Islam is an issue in Europe begins with the chador (sp?)--the head scarf worn by women. How can an intelligent woman believe in God was the question put to her. In America, that people display their religion is not an issue on the radar screen. Where Islam is an issue is people's association with Islam and terrorism.

So I wonder, when Pullman says that the religious authority represented in HDM can be portrayed by some other fascistic entity, perhaps from his point of view, it can. The almost oppressive presence of religion in secular life in the U.S. may not exist in Pullman's. It certainly didn't in Central Europe, where my family came from in the mid-20th century--fascism existed, and it attacked my family, but it was a racial hatred, not so much a religious one. And so, without of course knowing truly what he thinks, he may view religious fascism on the same par as secular fascism, in a way that people in the U.S. who feel the weight of religion on society do not.


Registered User
(12/10/04 6:13 pm)
Re: Taking God out of HDM
if they want to market the movie to children, they can leave in a lot of the commentary that is veiled in the trappings of the story, but to name god as one of the characters is too blatant to be missed and would cause too many questions on the part of little children.

but then, i am appalled at what they do leave in movies marketed to the under-10 set, and i cringe when i see three-year-olds at films like LOTR or HP.

why do we have to fix what these things would look like? quidditch can never look any different, and the Disney image of snow white seems indelible.

oh, and i agree with heidi -- i liked the golden compass best.

Erica Carlson
Registered User
(12/11/04 12:57 am)
Re: Taking God out of HDM
Hmm--It's a point worth mulling over that movies often are marketed at a broader (younger) audience than the books that are their sources. Much like several books (Charlotte's Web is a gread example) can be read aloud to children who are too young to really enjoy reading them themselves. On the other hand, lots of kids start asking questions about God that aren't easily answered at an early age, and I can't help but feel that most of the meaning/questioning found in the books will be lost and replaced by something somehow...lesser.
But I guess I won't really know until I see the film.

Registered User
(12/11/04 2:11 am)
random commentary
I almost never see films based on books. The more beloved the book, the more I refuse to watch the horrors of Hollywood visited upon the story. I was forced to go see LOTR- the first one. Only my polite upbringing kept me from screaming in the theatre. I agree with the previous comment about the fixed images of movies; I think Hollywood's vision (sadly) becomes implanted in young minds.
On Pullman- of course they took God out of the screenplay. I believe it's still a hangin' offense to question the Almighty. Provided one is referring to the Christian God. Any other God/ess is fair game for disparaging remarks in the US.
To Veronica- I LOVE "Miracle on 34th Street" It is still high on my list of favorites, but has been supplanted by the hilarious "Christmas Story". I watch every cheesy-wonderful holiday film, including:"It's a Wonderful Life", "White Christmas", "Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas",and the above mentioned films, during my candy/cookie making weekend. It wouldn't be the holidays to me without them. Plus it's a good excuse to torture my loved ones with my (according to them) terrible taste in cinema.:D
On believing- I am 33 years old and I still actually believe in Santa. I didn't have faith in him for a long time when I was younger, but then I decided that belief is a flexible thing. If I can not believe in a God, I can believe in Santa. And the tooth fairy. And that there are faerie folk living in my backyard, even if I can't see them. For a wonderful holidayish discussion on belief, check out Terry Pratchett's "Hogfather". It sheds an amazing light on Christmas and believing. One of the best bits is Death explaining to his granddaughter why belief is a necessary thing.

Veronica Schanoes
Registered User
(12/11/04 3:57 am)
Re: random commentary
Hogfather is a great book. I read it every year around Christmas. My favorite part is Death meddling with the Little Match Girl story because he finds it so appalling. As do I.

Unregistered User
(12/11/04 1:00 pm)
More remarks.
Veronica: Do you suggest the right is too stupid to read? Oh my, that's just the sort of thing a fascist would say about Blacks... or Jews... Or kids with braces... (This is a joke.)
The simple truth is that Pullman hasn't reached critical mass like Potter... yet.

Alice: Is Pullman a sellout? Screen rights go for anything from 5 to 10 million dollars. I would propably sell out too.

Tiger: In Time Bandits God appeared as a goofy old man. It was a kid's movie.

On belief. I believe in every individual's right to believe what he wants. I am also a conspiracy theorist. In Orwell's world the way to control people was to change the meaning of words. In The Incredibles the boy observes: "Saying everyone's special is the same as saying nobody's special." This is the way newspeak works.
Oprah hails The Polar Express as the True Spirit of Christmas. We must believe. In what? In Santa. We all know there is no industrial SantaCity at the north pole. People have actually been there, and made objective scientifically verifiable observations about that fact. Believing in Santa is not belief at all. It is Suspension of Disbelief. That is something we all do when we read a good book or see a movie. It allows us to be swept away by the magic of the moment.
So the word "Believe" is infused with new meaning.
Believing in a Creator becomes the same as believing in Santa. Or the tooth fairy.

Great Libero-fascist conspiracy theory, ain't it?

Veronica Schanoes
Registered User
(12/11/04 4:54 pm)
Re: More remarks.
Well, it would be, but speaking as a leftist myself, I'm not sure what I get out of that conspiracy! A world that flocks to Polar Express is not the world I've been working toward....Plus, it would be a pretty inept conspiracy considering that, as I've said before, you can't swing a dead cat in the US or the UK without hitting Christian beliefs.

Fascists never claimed that Jews were too stupid to read books. They were too busy rattling on about how cunning and sly we are, and secretly in control of things. 'Cause we're powerful like that.

In fact, no, that's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that the members of the radical Christian right who claim that Harry Potter is evil and shilling for occultism are dumbasses. And you can quote me on that one. I've read quite a few of the anti-HP screeds and in my opinion, they're dumb. They make dumb and simplistic assumptions about how reading works; they make dumb and simplistic assumptions about why people read; they make dumb and simplistic assumptions about fantasy. I've also read both HP and the first Pullman and HP is a far easier read. You really can just zip through it. So if your primary concern is to get lots of press and attention from parents by trashing a book, instead of devoting time and attention to reading and understanding, you're going to pick the book that's a) gonna get you the most attention and b) is quick and easy.

By the way, the right wing is a far different group than blacks, Jews, etc., because these are people who are choosing to subscribe to certain political positions, rather than being a group of people subordinated based on an assortment of physical features or willful misinterpretations of their practics (i.e. the blood libel). When people adopt positions I think are absurd or reprehensible, I attack them, especially when they try to implement those positions in a way that affects everybody else. When people have darker skin than I do or practice religion or do anything else that's their own business? I don't care. I've got my own problems.

I've always thought that conspiracy theories were essentially optimistic. They're all predicated on the idea that there is some grand plan that's being carried through successfully, whereas my experience with people suggests that we're lucky if a trip down the block to pick up milk goes as planned and that nobody's really in control.

And Alice didn't say Pullman was a sell-out. She said he "could be dismissed as one," and then she offered a more interesting idea.

Edited by: Veronica Schanoes at: 12/13/04 2:37 am
Registered User
(12/11/04 7:36 pm)
Going OT here...
... but the talk of conspiracy theorists made me think of an old story.

Two old men are sitting on a park bench. One is reading the Jewish Standard. The other is reading a neo-nazi screed.

First Man: How can you read that drek?

Second Man: Well let's see. You're reading about how swastikas are being painted on synagogues and how anti-semitism is on the rise. I'm reading about how Jews control the media, the banks, and Hollywood.

First Man: So?

Second Man: I prefer good news.


Sorry. You can delete this post if I've strayed too far.

Veronica Schanoes
Registered User
(12/12/04 3:43 am)
Re: Going OT here...
Heh. That's funny.

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