Archive for October 11th, 2010
Just last week, Pew Research released the results of a big religion survey, which found, among other things, that non-religious people were more educated on matters of religion than actual believers. Now, given that the questions on the survey were insanely easy, I was not inclined to pat atheists and agnostics on the back for scoring 20/32 over believers’ 16/32. Religious literacy is a problem in this country! Here to illustrate the point for us is Big Hollywood‘s Leo Grin, whose “Catholic grade school” clearly failed him. Recently Grin went to see The Last Exorcism and Let Me In. To his, and no one else’s, surprise, they were terrible! But rather than write a review that was all, “Dudes, these movies were terrible. Don’t go see them,” Grin takes a classic Big Hollywood lateral approach and tries to make a big deal about how there’s not enough God and Jesus and crucifixes in horror movies. He starts with a long bit from Stoker:
“It is the eve of St. George’s Day. Do you not know that tonight, when the clock strikes midnight, all the evil things in the world will have full sway?”
Those are words spoken by a superstitious old woman to Jonathan Harker in Bram Stoker’s novelDracula (1897). Fearing for the outsider’s safety, she gives him a crucifix. “I did not know what to do,” Harker writes, “for, as an English Churchman, I have been taught to regard such things as in some measure idolatrous, and yet it seemed so ungracious to refuse an old lady meaning so well and in such a state of mind.”
But later, overcome with terror in the bowels of the Count’s Transylvanian castle, he has reason to be most grateful:
Bless that good, good woman who hung the crucifix round my neck! For it is a comfort and a strength to me whenever I touch it. It is odd that a thing which I have been taught to regard with disfavour and as idolatrous should in a time of loneliness and trouble be of help. Is it that there is something in the essence of the thing itself, or that it is a medium, a tangible help, in conveying memories of sympathy and comfort? Some time, if it may be, I must examine this matter and try to make up my mind about it. In the meantime I must find out all I can about Count Dracula. . . .
Now, as anyone with a passing familiarity with the history of Christianity in Europe knows, the reason Harker balks at accepting the crucifix is its status as a Catholic symbol, with England’s political and cultural three-way tug-of-war between Catholicism, Anglicanism, and Puritanism over the previous centuries enough to give any late-Victorian “English Churchman” (ie, Anglican) pause. In fact, a lot of Dracula is about the nearly-modern English identity struggling against its older, European roots: London on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution vs. rural Eastern Europe, no-nonsense Anglicanism vs. superstitious Catholicism, old European aristocracy vs. the new professional British middle-class, etc etc.
Grin’s takeaway from this passage, however, is that there aren’t enough crucifixes in tween Mormon vampire fiction:
Over a century later, Stephenie Meyer managed to write four bestselling books concerning vampires (later translated into a quartet of popular movies) without the word crucifix appearing even a single time in her hundreds of thousands of words.
Meyer is a Mormon! LDS doesn’t use crosses or crucifixes. And while Jesus himself never makes an appearance in the Twilight novels, it does not take a genius to catch the constant usage of Mormon imagery, and the relentless advocacy of Mormon values. Does Grin expect horror novels and films to be not only overtly Christian, but specifically Catholic? Zah?