Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Chronicles of Narnia

My mom is coordinator of religious education for our parish elementary school and yesterday she brought home a packet she had received from Disney and Walden Media's Narnia Faith Educators outfit touting lesson plans and a small curriculum to accompany the release of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe in December. The cover letter was addressed to "Catholic Educator" and one part said:
Once in a generation, there comes a motion picture that combines all the elements that attract young audiences - a wonderful tale, adventure and excitement, great cinematography, state-of-the-art special effects - with positive moral values and allegories that relate perfectly to our Christian faith. This is a movie that we can not only approve, but also whole-heartedly embrace and endorse - a family movie with timeless Christian themes.

Notably, nothing of what I read of the curriculum packet had anything directly related to Christianity in it. There were 10 suggested activities all together, one of which was about shields and talked briefly about shield elements and their symbolism (truth, hope, joy, courage, peace, fidelity, etc). Another was listed under the heading of "Character education" and had to do with discussing the theme of bravery in the book. Those are good things, but there was nothing about Aslan as the Lion of Judah, Jadis as Satan, Narnia under her spell as the world after the Fall and before Christ's Incarnation, Aslan's slaying as the passion and death of Christ and his resurrection as Christ's Resurrection and victory over death. Seriously, C.S. Lewis made the allegories so simple and evident that you have to go out of your way not to talk about them. But taking a second look at the packet, it seems the curriculum itself was not produced by the so-called Narnia Faith Educators - but instead by Disney and Walden Media's regular education outreach people - and that the "Catholic Educator" cover letter and a nod in it to "allegories that relate perfectly to our Christian faith" is the only actual religious outreach involved.

Nevertheless, I thought it was pretty interesting (though not at all surprising) that Disney et al are targeting Catholic and Christian schools for publicity. When I asked, my mom said she used to get guides for historical films and period pieces when she was a history teacher, but she's never really gotten anything on movies since she (about 5 years ago) moved to religious ed exclusively (The Passion's R rating, of course, being unsuitable for elementary kids).

But the best part of the curriculum deal? The packet included a full-sized official movie poster that my mom said I could have.