Saturday, December 10, 2005
So we went to see Narnia today. All in all a wondrous film. I expect it to get a bunch of Oscar nominations. The winter forest scenes are stunningly beautiful (of course, you all know how I feel about snow, so that might be a bit biased...). The acting is strong, the story is exciting, fast-paced, with a great combination of magic, talking animals, the evil witch and her equally evil minions, and the epic battle between good and bad. Not to mention a few nicely placed lessons about the importance of family, forgiveness, and trust. The special effects are really well done, especially some of the animals. And if none of that floats your boat, who can resist rosy-cheeked children speaking with British accents?


So now for the beefs... There are a couple of spots where the acting isn't as good -- one where the little girl is crying and it sounds more like hiccupping... but then again, she is a little girl, it's forgiveable given her age. I found the professor who takes the children into his home to protect them from the bombing of London during WWII totally unbelievable, and hopefully when they do the second book in the series they will find somebody new to play the part. It really needed someone much more mystical and warm.

Then there is the characterization of Edmund as a traitor. This has always bothered me. In the beginning, when he first goes to Narnia, he meets the witch and tells her about his brother and sisters, but he doesn't realize how he's letting the cat out of the bag. He doesn't know about the prophecy, or why she might have an interest in them. That can't exactly be considered a betrayal.

Then, the witch tricks him, makes him think she is nice, and that she sees special qualities in him and will make him her heir. In a moment of younger brother sibling rivarly, he asks if his older brother Peter will be king too, and she tells him Peter can be his servant, along with their sisters, Susan and Lucy. Edmund seems to accept this, but what nine or ten year old boy wouldn't when he's daydreaming about being king? If it actually came down to it, you seriously doubt he would order his brother and sisters about. Again, this hardly seems bad enough to call him a traitor to his family.

Then when they all come to Narnia together, Edmund is confused. The witch was nice to him, she made nice promises, but everyone else says she's evil. He has no way to evaluate their statements about her (he's supposed to take them on face value, after he's seen a sweet, albeit faked, side of her?). So he runs off, to confront her, to question her, to keep his promise to return. Again, he doesn't know enough for this to be considered a real betrayal. He doesn't know she plans to kill them, and the animals who talk about how bad she is don't say it either.

Later he reveals important information, but he does so not to betray his family, but in a desperate bid to save the life of an innocent animal. Perhaps it was a poor choice, perhaps not. Does the need of the moment outweigh the potential damage his information might do? The fox was going to die. Perhaps the information will be harmful, or perhaps it might not. Certainly not a decision that should make Edmund bear the shame of being known as a traitor.

Of course, all this could be why Aslan trusts him and welcomes him in, and then offers his life in exchange for Edmunds. But everyone else seems to accept that he has betrayed his family and the cause of good. Even Edmund himself. And that has never seemed fair to me.

The other beef is... well, the story isn't exactly what you'd call feminist. The girls are pretty well sidelined. The boys are the heroes who save the day, and the girls just sort of tag along, getting themselves into trouble and needing to be rescued. When the great battle comes, although there are female centaurs in the ranks, the girls are off keeping vigil over the slain Aslan. This is a departure from the book, in which they head back to join the battle -- perhaps so as to bring the christian symbolism more into the fore as their vigil reminds of the vigil of Christ's female companions, and their witness of the stone breaking and Aslan's ressurrection is parallel to the women seeing the stone roll aside and Jesus's Ascention. The book doesn't draw the Christian parallel so plainly (indeed many non-Christians didn't pick up on it at all.) and I wish the movie didn't feel the need to add it.

Susan does make one well-place shot with her arrow, long after the battle is over, to save Edmund, but it's such a minor part in the epic struggle that it serves almost to point out just how little she and her sister have done. Lucy's part is to use the magic potion Santa gave her to heal Edmund's wounds. Not even her own power -- and of course, there we are again, women healing the world. Some people might say, look when it was written, but compare Susan and Lucy to Alice or Dorothy. And no matter when it was written, one might expect the movie to update the gender roles to fit more modern expectations.

Depite all these issues, I did enjoy the movie a great deal and would recommend it to anyone look for a couple hours of escapism.
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Progressive Muslim, feminist, mom, writer, mystic, lover of the universe and Doug Schmidt, cellist, theologian and imam.

What I'm reading now

Cane River
An interesting exploration of the gradual whiting of a family through slavery to modern days.

To see an archive of all the books I've read (well the ones I've read and review since I started the blog) with comments, please click here

Causes Worth Supporting

This is just a short list -- a few of my favorites.

English Language Islamic Fiction. We need more of it. Lots more.
Pay a Teacher's Salary in Afghanistan. The Hunger site actually has a lot of worthwhile programs. You can find them all here .
Muslims for Progressive Values. My organization. We can always use donations, of time or money!
Human Rights Campaign for the glbt community
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
The ACLU I'm a card carrying member. Hope you'll become one too. The organization that has done the most, as far as I can tell, to pull the countries progressive side together.
Network of Spiritual Progressives. Working to reclaim religion and morality for the religious left.

Blogs Worth Reading

Wanda Campbell also known as Nochipa A very gifted poet and a gentle, compassionate soul. Nochipa and I are on the same page on sooooo many things
Writeous Sister Aminah Hernandez, she's got some excellent latino pieces and always has good writing info on her blog.
Sister Scorpion aka Leila Montour - Leila is a fount of energy, quirky humor, and bad attitude. She's also a talented poet.
Muhajabah Very interesting commentary here. I don't always agree with her, but her pieces are always thought-provoking.
Georgie Dowdell Georgie is a great writer and a good friend.
Louise Marley Another great writer. I think Louise is one of the best sf writers exploring faith themes.
Ink in My Coffee Devon Ellington (who has numerous aliases) who is also the editor of Circadian Poems. A truly inspiring woman with a seemingly endless supply of energy.
Ethnically Incorrect With a name like that, isn't a given I'm going to enjoy this writer?
Freedom from the Mundane Colin Galbraith, another excellent writer, from Scotland.
The Scruffy Dog Review This is a new e-zine with an ecclectic mix of fiction, poetry, and non-fic, some really enjoyable pieces here.
Ramblings of a Suburban Soccer Mom Lara, another gentle soul, very thoughtful.
Circadian Poems A journal of poetry, new stuff up all the time.
Ye Olde Inkwell Michelle writes romance and is one of my writing buddies.
Muhammad Michael Knight The original punk Muslim writer. Like him or love him, Mike is always coming up with the unexpected.

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