Media Mindfulness Strategy for The Golden Compass
As a media literacy education specialist I know that a media mindfulness strategy can be very helpful when analyzing books and films such as The Golden Compass. By simply asking and answering these four questions below, families can make an informed decision about seeing the film and once they see it, talk about it in meaningful ways with young people. Catechists and religion teachers can also use this strategy as a means to talk about theology and philosophy in the greater context of the books (presuming that they will choose the wise approach and read the books and see the film before entering into dialogue.)
Everyone can use the strategy as a point of departure for further exploring what they believe and articulating this well.
Here is the four part-strategy:
1. What’s going on? What’s the story? How is the film’s reality created and why
2. What’s really going on? Who is telling the story and why? (The film business; the author; the screenwriter).
3. What difference does the film make? Is it really atheistic? Or does it evoke thoughtful conversation about things that matter?
4. What difference can I make? What did the characters in the film learn? How did they grow and change? Did they? What, if any, light did the film shed on how I can live the Christian life is ways that respect human dignity? (See Media Mindfulness: Educating Teens about Faith and Media, Hailer/Pacatte, St. Mary’s Press, 2007, www.smp.org )
The Golden Compass film challenges believing adults to articulate their faith and values and to brush up on Church history, theology, and literature and literary forms to do so - not because the film deals with these issues but because of the culture surrounding the release of the film. This film is an opportunity for us to develop our critical thinking skills: to ask questions and seek and articulate the answers: the answers to "why?"
This is a difficult assignment for busy parents and teachers, but an excellent way to engage in our culture rationally and faithfully and with relevance. To “just say no” is not a valid option in today’s media world. Let us respond, rather than react, to the world around us.
The Golden Compass: To Talk About
- What kind of a story is The Golden Compass? Do you like fiction and fantasy? Why or why not?
- In one or two sentences only, explain what the movie is about.
- What did the movie mean to you?
- Who invented the Golden Compass and why?
- Who is your favorite character in the film? Why?
- What do you think are Lyra’s best qualities?
- Does Lyra change and grow on the inside over the course of the film? How?
- What did Lyra do when she was afraid?
- If you could ask Lyra any question, what would it be? What would you ask Mrs. Coulter, or any of the characters?
- Do you think it is a good thing to ask questions? Why?
- Lyra is very curious in the film; what is curiosity? Do you think curiosity is a good thing? Why or why not?
- Why do you think God gave us the ability to ask questions and seek the truth?
- What purpose do the daemons serve in the story? What are they meant to represent?
- What do the scholars – and Mrs. Coulter – seek in the story? What will happen if they get what they want?
- If you read the book, how were the film and the novel the same or different? Which did you like more? Why?
- In the film it says that if a child’s daemon is cut away, then the Oblation Board will be able to raise a generation of people that will not ask questions about anything, including about their teachers and government. What do you think would happen in the world if children (or grown-ups) stopped asking questions?
- What do you think is the meaning of “dust”? What do you think it stand for in real life?
- If you don’t know the meaning of the word “Magisterium”, look it up. Do you think it is used properly within the context of the story? Why or why not?
- At the end Lyra says that “free will” is the most important thing. What does she mean by this?
- What does “free will” mean to you as a Christian? What is free will for? How and why do humans have free will? What happens when anyone misuses their free will? Where does our free will come from?
- How did the film make you feel? Did you like it? Why or why not?
The film opens tomorrow, December 7, and here are some links to recent articles about the film that some may find helpful:
United States Catholic Conference Office for Film and Broadcast:
The Christian Science Monitor:
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Toronto (Canada) Globe and Mail :