While most commentators are focusing on the atheism and paganism in the book, the movie has been slightly toned down so that the more troubling elements are the person of the heroine herself and some of the movie's themes. Children learn their scripts of behavior from movies and entertainment. The more intelligent the child is the more likely he or she will encode the behavior.
The role model for children in this movie is the heroine, Lyra. Lyra is immediately established as pugnacious, willful, rebellious, lawbreaking and deceitful. A witch tells Lyra that she is the fulfillment of a prophecy about a girl messiah who will overthrow authority, especially the Magisterium, a thinly cloaked reference to the Catholic Church.
Although the heroine and her friends are portrayed as the people the audience supports, a little objective examination of who they are would make any discerning viewer question why they're rooting for them. Lyra is known for her lying so much so that her bear friend calls her "silver tongue." In the story, this is a positive adjective. Even pagan and other non-Christian societies have disliked liars, however, so it's very strange that Lyra, the story's heroine, should be commended in this way. In fact, Lyra's lying is often a useful pragmatic device to solve the story's plot problems.
Mrs. Coulter, who turns out to be Lyra's mother, reaches out to the girl a couple times, including saving her from having her daemon separated from her and killed. In return, Lyra tricks her mother into opening a tin can containing a deadly poisonous mechanical insect. Her mother doesn't die, but Lyra doesn't seem to care and, in fact, wants to get rid of her mother. While Lyra is opposed to all authority, including her mother, she easily befriends strangers and accepts their authority and their directives.
Thus, the more one thinks about the world of "The Golden Compass," the more one realizes how upside down and inside out it is. Do parents really want their children hate them, rebel against them and want to kill them? Mrs. Coulter may be the villain, but all she really tries to do in this movie is to save her daughter's life.
Although the story's character motivations are not well developed, Mrs. Coulter and the rest of the Magisterium contend they are trying to protect the children, establish order and give peace to society. The way they express these statements, however, it becomes clear the audience should not trust them. Though most of the dialogue is too didactic, it never answers these motivations.
The logical consequences of these claims, however, are contradicted by the plot and by reality itself. Most children go through periods of rebelling against their parents. Quite often, they want to choose strangers instead of their parents. The real-world consequences of such rebellion can be devastating.
Beyond that, in the interest of self-satisfaction, it motivates children to seek to be joined with occult, demonic powers and principalities to get their own way. The official website has an area where children can meet their own daemon. It says:
"To discover your very own Daemon, look into your heart, and answer the following 20 questions openly and honestly. Your true character and the form of your Daemon will be revealed."
Our suggestion is avoid "The Golden Compass" if you don't want to turn your children into spoiled brats who want to kill their parents like Lyra.
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