Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Prince Caspian

I watched Disney's live-action version of Prince Caspian last night. Well, I watched the last hour yesterday from the comfort of my treadmill. The first bit of the movie seemed to follow the book as I remember it, but it wasn't my favorite Narnia book, so I'm not sure how the rest of the movie matched up.

I do know that I was almost proud of how they handled "The Problem of Susan" (an excellent Neil Gaiman short story/essay on how much it sucked that Susan Pevensie was damned to hell for hitting puberty and becoming a girlie-girl). Anyway, at the beginning of the movie the viewers see that Susan is not interested in boys. Point in her favor, according to the misogynistic Lewis. However, we also see that she's a bit world-weary and doesn't quite believe in Narnia anymore. To keep it fair, though, we see some of that same doubt in High King Peter as well.

Throughout the movie, we see Susan's strength with a bow-and-arrow, but I think this has less to do with her strength as a female character and more to do with the fact that she's really pretty and has boobs. Throughout the movie, we see her very slowly start flirting with Prince Caspian. At the end of the movie, she kisses him before going back through the portal to 1940s England, but we can almost forgive this. Because just before she goes, Susan and Peter are told by Aslan that they won't be coming back. Nope, neither one of them. They've "learned all they can" from Narnia and it's time to live their own lives.

Now I can't remember if Voyage of the Dawn Treader had just the two young ones or if Peter got a bye as well. Either way, Disney seems to be the good guy in the war against sexism this time. It's not lipstick and hairpins that make Susan unsuitable to return to Narnia. She and Peter have both hit puberty and they're both (very kindly) not invited back. By itself, this is a much milder reproach than Lewis's own words would have us believe.

In the context of Pullman's His Dark Materials series, the importance of puberty as a soul-altering (or fixing) transition can be seen as a little ominous. But I prefer to temper it with some of William Blake's ideas about innocence and experience. Innocence is childhood, Experience is post-childhood, but maybe both Peter and Susan have been well-equipped enough in their adventures as high king and high queen to achieve a kind of experienced innocence.

Instead of Susan being killed in the apocalypse at the beginning of The Last Battle.

1 comment:

a.k.a. Mr. Jeff said...

Never read "Narnia," and now that Disney's got it's greedy little mitts on it I'm a whole lot less inclined to do so. Hmmm... I sense an idea forming.