Movie police seem arbitrary

By Clyde Davis: CNJ Columnist

This Monday, since the chidren were off school, we went to a local fast food eatery where Jason could play on an indoor playground and receive a toy with his meal. The toy of choice this time was from Spiderwick Chronicles, which apparently features chidren who are able to adventure in an invisible world that must be opened up by magical talismans. Then a world, side by side with ours, is revealed as the domain of sprites, goblins, hobgoblins and other little folk.
Having not yet seen the movie, nor read the books, that is about all I can surmise at this time. The use of the qualifier “yet” should give you a clue that I fully intend to see the movie.

I did not see the Harry Potter movies, though I did read at least some of the books. This decision was based on the relative age of the resident grandson at that time, as opposed to now, when Spiderwick Chronicles looks like something he will enjoy.

Within this chain of events was our family rent-a-movie night, last Sunday, which included the viewing of Polar Bear King, a European fantasy based on the retelling of an old Norwegian folktale. The opening sequences found my 7-year-old grandson more absorbed in his action figures than the film, but as the plot unfolded he became entranced with this depiction of good vs. evil.

Which led me to pose the question to my wife that I now pose in this column: What is it that stirs a reaction to some films and not others? Specifically, why did the folks who seek the Faith Of The Easy Answers react so violently against Harry Potter a few years ago, and not against Spiderwick Chronicles or Polar Bear King?

You may remember that, at the time, it seemed as if people from the radical religious right were ready to lynch J.K.Rowling, along with anyone who vaguely resembled her boy wizard hero.

I recently heard, in fact, from the mother of a bride whose wedding I performed, that the furor is still alive in some areas. Apparently the daughter and her husband have attended a church where the pastor’s wife is still holding HP bookburnings and consigning Ms. Rowling and anyone who reads her works to fiery doom. (No, this is nowhere within 100 miles of us.)

Fantasy is an essential part, and a healthy part, of development. One has only to watch a few small boys at play with their action figures to discern that reality. Jason did react with some shivering when the good prince first emerged as a polar bear, courtesy of an evil witch, but I think he is emotionally stable enough to separate the reality.

So who decides which media fantasies are to be targeted — or, to phrase the question in counseling terms, who decides who decides? Is there a board of media fantasy police somewhere in an underground chamber who snip away: “Harry Potter — bad. Lord of the Rings — okay. Talking polar bears — bad. Singing chipmunks — Okay.”

It concerns me when anyone attempts to take it on himself or herself to draw such subjectively determined lines and then pass their decisions along as truth, rather than opinion.

Clyde Davis is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Portales and a college instructor. He can be contacted at: