Thursday, August 6, 2009

Religion and Science Fiction Part 1

I'm about finished with the second installment of the Barsoom series, The Gods of Mars. While I've been reading discussion has popped up on message boards concerning this novel's portrayals of religion and the concerns some have as to whether or not religious groups will have complaints about this material.

For those who are unfamiliar with the novel, Gods finds John Carter discovering that what many Barsoomians take to be the final voyage to their version of Heaven to be a lie, perptrated by a race called the Therns and the Black Pirates of Barsoom who follow the goddess Issus, a withered evil old woman. What has caused some question is whether or not Burroughs, whose own beliefs are ambiguous at best, was attacking organized religion through his work. And will Disney and director Andrew Stanton keep this plot when and if they make the second film in their planned series.?

This is a good question. As reported by one poster on a board, a person on the Pixar Planet website apparently won't even see a movie or read a book called The Gods of Mars. Of course that's nothing new. Many films or books that have been attacked by religious groups, from Monty Python's Life of Brian to The Last Temptation of Christ, without being seen. Even conservative writer William F. Buckley assumed that Monty Python himself was going to be cruxified at the end of Brian. In recent years Hollywood and filmmakers have played a balancing act. On the one end was Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, where Gibson wooed Catholics with free showings of the movie and a grass roots marketing campaign that paid off, even if it enraged Jewish groups who felt the movie would raise anti-Semitic feelings. On the other end was Ron Howard's film version of Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code. The film with its plot twist revelation was roundly criticised by The Catholic League and even the Vatican itself. That didn't stop moviegoers from going though.

With The Gods of Mars, if there is controversy it will be interesting to see how Disney plays this since the studio has had it both ways. A decade ago while still under the reign of Michael Eisner the studio forced former Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein to dump Kevin Smith's religious satire Dogma because of outcries from many groups. A few years later however the studio followed Gibson's game plan with The Chronicles of Narnia. We'll have to wait and see what happens and whether or not we even get that far. As for that poor Pixar Planet person, well if Disney and Stanton have no problems changing the name of the first novel in the series, I'm sure they'll come up with a less offensive title-John Carter of Mars 2. Next time my thoughts on Gods and the second part of this.

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