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Making Faith Cool Again, One Franchise at a Time…

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince has dominated the news this week. Maybe that’s why I haven’t got anything majorly interesting to write on. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate the franchise. It’s perfectly unobjectionable entertainment. It’s just nothing too exciting or interesting to me. Anyway, one piece of Potter news that has grabbed my attention is an endorsement from a most unlikely source. Yes, the Catholic Church is trying to be cool again and they like Harry Potter.

Buddy Christ

Buddy Christ

This is interesting not only because Pope Benedict not only used to take great personal pleasure in lambasting the series as tempting children to ‘the dark side’ (his exact words were “distorting Christianity”) , but also because the Church hasn’t really altered its fundamental viewpoint on any other of the entertainment properties that it has historically disliked. There’s the on-going mess over Milk in Simoa, where the traditionally Catholic country has banned the film as subversive and the Catholic Church has supported the ban. Many have noted the decision as somewhat ironic, since the country embraces a departure from traditional gender rules in the fa’afafine.

The Vatican would do itself better to come out in support of films like Milk rather than obviously publicity baiting with the announcement that they are perfectly cool with the wizards at Hogwarts. I’m half expecting the announcement that all priests will be required to use metaphors from the biggest film at the box office that week in order to drive their point home in their homilies. Still, it’s not a bad thing. Just a very shallow thing.

The church really does need to drag its ass into the twenty-first century and a knee-jerk “it’s cool” response to Harry Potter doesn’t quite cut it. Can we take it that they accept that stories about wizards and witches aren’t converting children to wicca in droves? What about Dumbledore’s sub-subtextual sexuality (the author famously declared he was gay after writing all the books)? I’d be delighted if the thumbs up meant that the Church had actually considered all these little aspects of the production and decided that they are living in a changing world.

Still, my inner cynic calls this as a lame exercise in PR. I wonder who it convinces? Even though the film is huge, the gesture is relatively small in the grand scheme of things. It’s also a very light-hearted way of shrugging off the important questions about the compatibility of Christian beliefs in a modern world. It really does remind me – in the worst possible way – of the ‘Buddy Christ’ campaign from Dogma, in which the Catholic Church seems to ramp up its street cred by marketing a hip Jesus. The film itself (despite being a comedy and a very thoughtful and well-researched one) was frowned upon by the Vatican, in the same knee-jerk fashion that the Church used to appeal to Harry Potter fans.

Cage the Beast...

Cage the Beast...

I’m still waiting to hear the Vatican’s response to Nicolas Cage’s proposed ‘reconceive’ of Ghost Rider (really? we don’t need another one, please!) which would see his erstwhile motorcyclist take to Europe and team up with the Vatican. I can see it now, the poster with Pope Benedict sitting on the back of the motorbike as Nicolas Cage stares into middle distance and depressedly monologues about how he’s not just a rider – he’s a Ghost Rider. Or something. As long as he does the Marbles movie next. On the upside, at least it’ll be like damage control – stopping Nicolas Cage from wrecking any projects with the chance of being good.

So, I don’t buy it. It’s an interesting statement from the Catholic Church and very public gesture, but a really pointless one. As much as the media may have made a circus over the JK Rowling converts children to wicca story, the Church has a million and one more important things to be doing to get its house in order. They can start by stopping Nicolas Cage.

One Response

  1. i really enjoyed reading your blog keep posting.thanks for great share

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