Monday, August 08, 2005

Da Vinci Cop-out 

Am I the only person who hasn't read "Da Vinci Code"?

Probably not, seeing that even though the book has sold 25 million copies so far, and even if many of these copies have been read by more than one person, that still leaves a lot of people who haven't caught on the craze.

But hey, the film is coming up, so "The Code" will be even more difficult to avoid:
The film version of The Da Vinci Code is attempting to reduce the offence that the best-selling book caused to Roman Catholics.

Sony Pictures, the studio behind the film starring Tom Hanks and Sir Ian McKellen, is reported to have been so concerned that it has consulted Catholic and other Christian specialists on how it might alter the plot of the novel to avoid offending the devout.

Film officials have held talks with Catholic groups and other organisations despite Dan Brown, the author, insisting that "it's only a novel and therefore a work of fiction", The New York Times reported yesterday.
Sony Pictures is, of course, perfectly entitled to make a faithful adaptation of the book, and considering its cult status, I doubt it would suffer too much damage at the box office for that reason, but what I do find concerning - contra Dan Brown's assurances - is that so many people do think that he has indeed stumbled onto some long suppressed earth shattering truth.

Not so. Firstly, because everything that Brown has so successfully fictionalized has been out in the public domain for a long time (as recognized in a recent court decision involving accusations of plagiarism), and certainly in the popular culture since the appearance in 1982 of the bestselling "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail", soon followed by the whole cottage industry of pseudo-history.

Secondly, Brown's ideas don't stand up to any historical scrutiny. But in our brave New Age, all the ingredients are present - distrust of organized religion, quest for pseudo-religious "spirituality", obsession with conspiracies - for the acceptance of the Gospel According to Dan as, well, the gospel truth.

This problem is exacerbated by the fact that less and less people know less and less about areas more and more, including in areas such as history, religion or geography. It is not necessarily a new phenomenon, but it certainly hasn't been improving lately, as our education systems keep putting premium on self-esteem and political correctness ahead of knowledge. And so, ever so often we get a chance to chuckle (or cry) at surveys which show that 5 per cent of young Britons think Gandalf defeated the Spanish Armada and one third who don't know that the Battle of Britain happened during the Second World War. Or that three quarters of Americans believe the Bible teaches that "God helps those who help themselves."

Little wonder that the idea that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and the holy bloodline has been covered-up by a giant conspiracy spanning two millennia doesn't seem too outlandish at all.


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