Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Sophie, you are so stupid!

by Robison Wells

I tend not to discuss serious topics in my blogs. The reason: because I’m psychologically fragile and afraid to truly open up to people. Also, I find serious topics to usually be dull. For example: the Perpetual Education Fund.

As a general rule, humorous things are funnier than boring things. However, there comes a time in every blogger’s career when he must discuss pressing issues that touch the lives of one and all. For example: Jeff Savage’s recent treatise on kids with small pox. (All I can say is: thanks for the pictures, Jeff.)

So without further ado, I’d like to address the topic of The Da Vinci Code. Granted, this topic would have been more timely four weeks ago when everyone was talking about The Da Vinci Code (but considering Sariah never shuts up about Gone With the Frickin’ Wind, I think I’m okay). I suppose it should also be said that this blog is going to be rife with spoilers, both for the book and for the movie, and for anything else I want to spoil.

I read DVC a couple years ago, after having listened to a friend of mine recount the entire plot in excruciating detail. I read the book in about three or four days. It was a page turner, certainly, but I don’t think I ever really got swept up in the Da Vinci mania. I mean, sure, I had the lunchbox and the action figures, but that’s where it ended. When Kerry Blair invited me to the convention, and told me about the cosplay and LARPing, that’s where I got off the Holy Grail Wonderbus.

But here are my true feelings about the book. Be prepared for some heavy flip-flopping:

First, let me say that I enjoyed it. I think it’s very easy to look at the book and mock it for its various problems, to nitpick it to death, and to feel very erudite and superior to the unwashed masses of Dan Brown fans. But the truth is that it was a fun read and a clever plot. Sure it had flaws, but I don’t think any book could really hold up to the scrutiny heaped upon this one.

I heard a movie critic once talk about the movie Gigli. He said that yes, the movie is pretty dang lame. And yes, it was deserving of bad reviews. But it also, somehow, became in vogue to mock it. This critic said that Gigli was bad, but certainly not the worst movie of the year, and yet it’s almost universally criticized as one of the worst movies of all time. It became popular to hate it. To some extent, I think that’s what happened to The Da Vinci Code, too. We, trying to show our literary prowess and finely-honed intellectualism, couldn’t like something commercially successful, for crying out loud. (Besides, it was genre fiction, so how good could it be anyway?)

Now, with that said, there were several parts of the book I didn’t like. For starters, I hated the characters. Langdon was, as one reviewer put it, “effortlessly brilliant”. He solves crazy puzzles instantly (except when the plot requires him to take his time, such as the comedic incident at the cathedral: “I need a five-letter word for something round that has to do with Isaac Newton… What could it be? WHAT COULD IT BE?!?!”)

Sophie, on the other hand, is as dumb as a box of hair. She exists merely to say “What? I don’t understand! Explain, Robert Langdon, esteemed Harvard Symbologist!” Both of these characters are as flatly written as Dick and Jane. (See Dick interpret religious symbology. See Dick unable to come up with the word ‘Apple’. See Jane utterly confused by every stinking thing.)

As for the religious aspects, I have to say that I almost didn’t even notice there was a controversy at the time I read the book. Yes, it says that Christ wasn’t divine, but it also says that banks have Safe Passage Clauses on their accounts, that English is the Lingua Pura, and that ‘feminine’ is a noun instead of an adjective. It’s a silly book full of silly ideas. It quite honestly never crossed my mind that people would get upset about it.

Consequently, when the movie was coming out, and people were getting all up-in-arms about it, I laughed at them. Funny little zealots, said I. It’s fiction. And even if it’s part of some deviously devilish scheme to destroy the souls of men, it’s just too dang absurd to accomplish it. Frankly, I thought, if your testimony of Christ’s divinity is so shaky that Dan Brown and his gang of Grailkateers destroyed it, then you probably didn’t have one to begin with. (That, or you put way too much faith in the media to inform you spiritually. Would you like to join my new church? Our Lady Dora of the Exploradoras, featuring the Fiesta Trinity.)

Ready for the flip-flop?

When I finally saw the movie, I was incredibly astounded to discover that it just might be spiritually dangerous. (Remember at the beginning when I said I was going to talk about something serious for a change? Here it is.)

In the book, Langdon is a whole-hearted believer in the crazy Catholics-are-oppressing-mankind-via-Christ’s-false-divinity idea. He not only knows about it academically, but he buys into it. In the movie, Langdon is a skeptic. When Sir Ian McKellan gets all crazy about the idea, Langdon is quick to say “Calm down, Magneto. It’s just a theory.” When I saw that, I thought that the movie makers were trying to tone down the controversy. Good for them.

But then there’s a tacked-on conversation at the end of the movie (that did not appear in the book). Langdon and Sophie have just figured it all out, and everything is fine, and Langdon says (I’m paraphrasing): “Maybe Christ was divine. Maybe he wasn’t. We’ll probably never know. But maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe the symbol is more important than the reality.”

There’s the problem. In the book, you can easily discount the crazy heresy, because it’s just so dang wacky. When someone tells you that Jesus was just a mortal guy with some handy ideas, you can easily brush it aside as extremist baloney. But when someone tells you that we can be good people with or without Christ, that’s different. It places a seed of doubt that can be easily fertilized with all the other rational humanism that modern society spews.

In other words, maybe there is some real reason we should be worried about The Da Vinci Code. Or, at least, some real reason to be worried four weeks ago. Tune in next week for my new column: Y2K: Let’s Bury Guns in the Backyard!


At 6/27/2006 12:47 PM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

My favorite line from the movie, incidentally, is: "I have to get to a library, FAST!"

At 6/29/2006 12:43 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

Robby, Robby, Robby, you've done it again. (By the way, I'm calling Mumps for next week, so one one can take that!) So am I supposed to come away laughing at the Dor the Explorer joke or concerned about the mortal souls of my fellow men and women? I'm so confused. Good post, can I put it on my web site and say I wrote it with help from Julie?

At 6/30/2006 9:43 AM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

Aw, yer just jealous because you can't be timely like me.

And Gone With the Wind rocks.

At 7/11/2006 2:35 PM, Blogger G.Ellen said...

Interesting take. I really liked the movie better than the book, but probably because I remember that scene differently than you do. I remember him saying that Perhaps he was devine, perhaps not...what is important is what he did while he was here. I almost felt like he was validating our take on the Savior at that point.
Anyway...I agree with most of your words. If this movie or book shook anyone's faith in their religion, then their faith wasn't based on anything solid. Like Jesus Christ, or his gospel. Good job!


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