The Democratization of Narnia

Apparently the new Narnia films significantly misrepresent Lewis's books. See this essay from Touchstone Magazine. The specific claim of the essay is that hierarchy and moral greatness are crucial to Lewis's story, and that these features are absent from the films. Lewis's moral heroes have been replaced with characters that are easier for us to understand and to relate. Stephen Boyer gives us an example of this in his essay:
Then follow some remarkable lines. Says Peter, “Don’t you ever get tired of being treated like a kid?” “We are kids,” Edmund wryly observes. “Well, I wasn’t always,” Peter retorts. He is obviously remembering that he used to be a king in Narnia—and he wants the kingship back.

Director Andrew Adamson helps us understand just what is going on in this scene in a commentary that is one of the bonus features on the Prince Caspian DVD. Adamson explains,
I always felt . . . how hard it must have been, particularly for Peter, to have gone from being high king to going back to high school, and what that would do to him, do to his ego. . . . I always thought that would be a really hard thing for a kid to go through.
Adamson acknowledges that this emotional turmoil was “not something that C. S. Lewis really got into,” but as director he wanted “to create more depth for the characters, more reality to the situation.” He wanted “to deal with what all the kids would go through having left behind that incredible experience and wanting to relive it.”

This emotional realism was Adamson’s explicit aim, and as a result, the screenwriters who put this scene together were actively encouraged to think about what it would be like to go from “king” to “schoolboy”—not a pleasant prospect, of course, and one to which any of us might react with bitterness and resentment, just as Peter does.

Right, any of us might react that way—but that is because we have not breathed the air of Narnia. We are thinking like ordinary persons (and worse, like self-sufficient, twenty-first-century, Western intellectuals) instead of like knights or kings. In Lewis’s telling of all of the Narnia tales, the children’s experiences as kings and queens in Narnia consistently transform them into nobler, more virtuous people in their own world. They are not spoiled children wanting to be kings again; they are noble kings who carry that very nobility back into their non-royal roles as schoolchildren.
Our Hollywood directors know something about the culture that is not completely obvious. That is, our culture has no concept of saints. We cannot see them, because we do not know what they look like. When we are presented with a saint, in literature or in the movies, we re-imagine them to be more like us, rather than aspire to be more like them. We don't believe in saints anymore. Moral goodness is offensive. A morally good person makes you feel bad about yourself! Only morally weak people, people like us, are truly lovable. The saint is not lovable because he is not real.

I think this is a great challenge for modern Christians.

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