Narnia marketing: Christians as a turn-off?

Here’s an interesting thing: Disney are having trouble pitching the new Narnia film’s soundtrack/s because of the religious content of the movie. They’ve released a Christian soundtrack, but they may release another one too, to try and not put off whole sections of the market.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis are roughly based on Christian stories and morality, and Disney has been trying its hardest to capitalise on the religious market that did so well for Mel Gibson’s Passion of Christ. They’ve been marketing hard at Christians, showing trailers at Christian conventions and suchlike, and have released a soundtrack album for the film of songs ‘inspired by’ the story, all by Christian performers and treating the material from a Christian perspective. The problem that they’re facing is that they don’t want to turn off the secular (non-religous) parts of society from buying the music and watching the film. Equally they’re scared that Disney might become seen as a Christian-film maker (although after The Lion King I’m amazed they’re not already). Disney is hoping to release a non-Christian soundtrack album too, but currently isn’t sure if it’s going to manage this because music for the film hasn’t been fully settled on yet.

I find this a little weird. I don’t think I’ve heard of a soundtrack album being released targetted specifically at a group based on its religion before. Is this something we’re going to see more of in the future: I’d love to see the ‘Blade 4: The Christian Rock Original Motion Picture Soundtrack’, featuring songs about the Christian metaphor of a man with supernatural powers, born from death and to deliver humanity from evil. How about having whole different soundtrack options on films, so you’d have one version of the film with the secular soundtrack, and another one with Christian folk singers chirping uplifting ballads between actors’ lines?

But why stop there? ‘Lord of the Rings: The Bollywood Edition’ would be great. You could do a George Lucas style remake of the film’s special effects, having Gollum dance on, twirling his wrists, and sing in Hindi about the need for understanding of the balance between the physical incarnation of the body and spiritual fulfillment.

Should Christians be insulted that their religion is now just a marketing tool? Or are they expected to simply enjoy the idea of celebrating Christ through their consumer choices? It all smacks of buying redemption to me. It wouldn’t be the first time in history that people have tried to buy their way into heaven (the medieval church became massively rich selling pardons) but it’s certainly an interesting manifestation of late-stage capitalism’s interpretation of religion’s position in society.

More (in a slightly more serious tone) here.

3 thoughts on “Narnia marketing: Christians as a turn-off?”

  1. as a christian, and a huge fan of the narnia books, i feel obliged to respond here.
    i am looking forward to this movie. mostly because i think it’s a great story and it seems, from the trailers, like it has been done well. i am very interested in how a secular company will tell a story that, in one place, has a barely veiled allegory where the jesus-figure is killed to save others. but, it’s still a story and the people are represented by animals, and the idea of a martyr is not solely christian. so, i figure it can work.
    as far as the christian soundtrack, i personally doubt i will be buying it. there are many christians, however, who believe that all secular music poisons the mind and they will only buy artists who record under a christian label. which excludes some very christian-minded bands like U2, and includes others like MXPX which have little to no christian content. if i had a quarter for every time someone has said to me, “oh you like U2? you should listen to deliriou5 instead,” i would have, well, at least a few quarters. but i like U2…
    the irony to me is that it’s DISNEY. and the same people who refuse to listen to secular music also generally refuse to watch secular movies, especially those made by the evil disney, made “evil,” i believe, by some practice regarding the hiring of gays. so they won’t be watching the movie or buying the CD. i expect that most of the CD sales will come from people who saw the movie and liked it and think that owning the CD will somehow prolong that experience, or who look at the back cover and buy it because they like the performers who were involved in the project (sadly, the latter group will probably be smaller. there are mindless masses in both christian and secular circles).

    i’m not really offended that christianity is being used in this particular case as a marketing tool. i’m offended at a much deeper level by the presumption that america is a christian nation, and when my religion is used to defend things like capitalist greed and the bombing of iraq. but that’s the nature of christianity in america. it’s something that everyone pretends to be, but few people really live. i’d take a chinese pastor who has to hide in his basement from the authorities over publicly christian hypocrisy like america is famous for any day.
    and yes, it does smack of buying redemption. christianity is the only world religion that i know of that proclaims (if you really look at the fundamentals, anyhow) free salvation. all you have to do is accept it. this runs absolutely counter to human nature. we want to earn everything. we like to feel deserving. so, we make all these rules and we spend all this money on the right things and we pretend that we deserve salvation. there is no such thing as a free lunch, and when someone tries to give us one, we either shy away or try to pay or justify how we deserve this one break because of all the crap we’ve suffered other times (or all the good we’ve done for other people that was never appreciated).

    so yeah, i want to see this movie. but not because it is christian on non-christian or anything of the sort. i just want to see it. but then again, i hate to say it, but i think about things more than the avergage christian and/or movie-goer. i expect there will be some people who see this movie because it is christian, some who refuse to see it because it is too christian, and some who refuse to see it because it is too secular. in the end, they will probably all balance each other out, however. i just hope it’s a good movie, because i really love the story and would love to see it done well.

  2. Thanks for a thoughtful response there. I really enjoyed the stories as a child so I hope they do a good job with the film too. The BBC adaptation many years ago was very enjoyable and suggests that modern technology applied to the same story could produce a very good film.

    I wouldn’t agree with you about Christianity being the only major religion offering free salvation, but I guess it depends on your classification of ‘free’. Most religions only ask that you accept their teachings as being true to be a member.

  3. i guess what i mean by “free” is that salvation within the religion is not earned by any human actions. buddhists reach nirvana through meditation. muslims have to engage in the five pillars (alms-giving, prayer, etc). jews have to follow the rabbinic laws, etc.

    but, maybe my views of these religions are just as distorted as most people’s views of chrisianity. you ask most people what christianity is about and they will say something along the lines of “you live a good life and go to heaven.” which, in my study of christianity, is actually dead wrong. christians choose to follow the laws of the bible as a result of gratitude for salvation, not as a prerequisite for it. in theory, anyhow. the “christian right” in america would have us believe the opposite. which is why, sometimes, i hate to even call myself a christian. the word is so tainted in today’s world, i hate to be identified with what it has come to mean.

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