Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Suitable for All Ages (About Narnia)

Interesting subject line for a blog about erotica, hey? Well, at Christmas--a time for families and children, innocence and goodness--it seemed appropriate to have an especially wholesome topic.

Last weekend I saw “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” It’s an old favorite of mine from my college days, a Christian tale, and therefore most apropos for Christmas time. I thought it was a lovely and inspiring film: the Christian motifs are very moving of course, but it affected me in all sorts of ways. (And be warned, there are some spoilers below!)

But if I am discussing the erotic, and as always I am, what could I have to say about a PG movie like this? Well, as in all the most effective children’s movies, there are underlying themes that are subtly tied to greater human experience, including those things that will one day bloom into sexuality.

Take for example the lure of the White Witch. On the surface she tempts young Edmund with candy and flattery, but as she envelopes him in her fur-clad embrace, she represents other pleasures as well. An older reader/viewer will feel that sexual twinge about the Witch. Her temptation has erotic appeal.

But does the side of good have nothing to offer as a positive option? There may not be a blatant “good sex” option in Narnia, but certainly there are plenty of subtle ones. I would never dare to suggest the savior figure of Aslan as a sex object, but at the same time, he possesses many qualities essential to those heroes who inspire our desire. He is pure, he is loving, he is powerful and endlessly brave. My favorite line of dialogue in both book and movie concerning Aslan is this: “He’s not a tame lion.” To be truly captivating, a hero must be not tame.

Likewise admirable is the beauty and valor manifested in the four Pevensie children under Aslan’s influence; all grow up to be very attractive, compelling young adults. People of any age are drawn to what the four become in the story: children want to grow up to be them, and adults feel attraction for them, even including the sexual kind. And this is fine and right, for what evil can there be in being attracted to good?

My personal favorite character in the film is Mr. Tumnus, charmingly portrayed by James McAvoy. He manages to make the faun simultaneously lovable to small children and an object of infatuation for adult women. This is the perfect illustration of my point: sexuality doesn’t burst abruptly forth in us the day we reach puberty. It forms and develops from childhood on. A little girl is charmed by a gentle, funny, curious forest creature because he seems a little scary, but pleasant. His strangeness is intriguing and when it proves safe (well, after that little attempted kidnapping anyway), he is just that more endearing.

When the little girl becomes a woman, these feelings are the same; however, Tumnus’s charms now have a bit of an erotic undertone. Safe strangeness and pleasant scariness are very conducive to sex appeal. But in such a case, that sexual desire is all tangled up in the very innocent love of a child, which somehow makes it a particularly sweet, pure sort of erotic feeling. Nevertheless, I think it not inappropriate to assign erotic appeal to Tumnus; after all, C.S. Lewis knew well that in mythology, fauns are creatures who play hypnotic music on pipes and exhibit great sexual prowess.

Tumnus does, in effect, seduce little Lucy when he lulls her to sleep with his pipe playing. He parallels the White Witch, but fortunately is aligned enough with good that he repents in time. Nevertheless, we never quite forget that he has this power, and he certainly never ceases to have irresistible charm. He has easily wooed and won us by the time he finds himself captured by the Witch.

And we share in Lucy’s determination to save Tumnus simply because he has charmed us. That sexual appeal only strengthens our yearning to see him set free. And thus, once again, the erotic urge serves in the cause of good, as it does more often than we give it credit for.

Well, I’m not suggesting C.S. Lewis said to himself, “As I write these children’s books I must not fail to throw in some erotic elements.” But what he did do was write into his characters and plots a full appreciation for the human experience and a full understanding of human nature. This, to me, is why his works tell their stories so fully and richly. They are suitable for all ages: the adult within the child as well as the child within the adult.

This film is a wonderful Christmas gift to kids from 1 to 92. I hope you get a chance to enjoy it.

1 comment:

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