dawn treader retreaded

Dawntreader Retreaded, gender roles in the movie

Growing up, I devoured the Narnia books. I imagined myself to be a composite of Edmund and Lucy — adventurous, courageous, and able to converse with animals and fauns.

The talking mouse, Reepicheep, was one of my favorite characters, so I was eager to see the movie version of the “Voyage of the Dawntreader.”

It’s disappointing to realize that something you loved was stamped by its time in ways you had forgotten. The Narnia books don’t hold up to my adult reality. Has anyone else had that reaction?

What’s hard to admit is that the movie adaptation was fine. It’s CS Lewis’ plot lines that gave me pause. Of course, if I were making the cinematic decisions, I would have treated Aslan differently, giving him many fewer lines (hopefully none at all). I would portray him as a shimmering glimpse of mane and a magnificent roar. He would be a presence, rather than a character.

But that aside, I found myself unsettled by the plot lines about encountering temptations. The boys are tempted by power (Edmund) and greed (Eustace), while Lucy is tempted by an incantation that promises to make her beautiful.

Lucy wants to be beautiful. She wants to be loved. Isn’t that exactly what women have been encouraged to be across history? Beautiful and loved. So shoot Lucy for wanting that, right?

Apparently nice Christian girls aren’t supposed to desire love. They must be punished for desiring these things.

Remember that Lucy is far away from her family, especially her (conspicuously absent) parents. She basically gets stuck taking care of her brother, as well as everybody else she encounters. Why is it so wrong for her to want to be on the receiving end of love and care? Why is it so wrong for her to want to bask in adoration?

CS Lewis, I think you’re great. But that doesn’t your entire body of work stands the test of time. I’m feeling a little sad today. But I’m also getting fresh insight into the things that shaped me growing up.


Comments

2 responses to “Dawntreader Retreaded, gender roles in the movie”

  1. I haven’t reread these books in awhile, it I kniw them pretty well. I know the section on Lucy wanting to be beautiful is in the book, but it is one small episode. The film makes it a major theme of the whole story. The same with the boys. What are a few conflictual, character-building moments in the book get harped on and dragged out in the film. The become recurring themes rather than brief temptations. The real character moment for Lucy in the book wasn’t wanting to be beautiful; that was incidental and the catalyst for the eavesdropping on her weaker friend and leads to one of Aslan’s “you can’t know what might have been” moments. I was disappointed in how the movie over-emphasized character flaws. I didn’t think it was fair to these characters I adore. Maybe Edmund (after the whole betrayal thing) and Lucy are too good to be true, but I like them that way.

    As far as the books go, I am much more troubled by the dismissal of Susan in The Last Battle and the Muslim/Arabic overtones of the Calormenes. I think The Silver Chair and The Magician’s Nephew could be made into movies (though now they may not be), but The Horse and His Boy and The Last Battle would be tough.

    1. Wendy, thanks for your comment. I agree that a re-read is in order, because now I’m curious how all these themes unfold in the books. My memory and the books are two different things. I like how you stick up for the characters. I personally don’t mind them being flawed. In fact, I wish it was more okay that they are flawed. They’re children. They’re humans. They’re going to get it wrong.

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