Well folks, today is May 16. And we all know what that means...
Happy anniversary, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette!
Just kidding. I mean, it is
their anniversary, but since they're kind of dead, they probably don't care that I've remembered it.
No, what I'm really referring to, naturally, is the fact that only two more days remain til The Da Vinci Code
opens in theatres everywhere!
And I for one couldn't be more or less excited!!
Being the cutting-edge trend-setter that I am, I read the Dan Brown novel upon which the movie is based right after it was published--er, if by "right after it was published" you actually mean "about three weeks ago." And, since all sorts of people have already taken it upon themselves to address the thematic merit of the book, I thought I would go in a different direction, and actually discuss the book's literary
Now, just give me a second, ok? I'm thinking. Literary merit, hmmm. Thinking, thinking...
Alright, alright, I admit it. I didn't think the book had
much literary merit, ok? Sorry.
But in spite of not being a great novel a la
, say, The Sound and the Fury
, it still was a pretty good read. What surprises me, though, is just how many people actually believe the story it presents is founded on fact. I knew, of course, that there were some of them out there, but an article on MSN.com
reveals the results of a survey commissioned by a Roman Catholic organization, in which (if I'm reading the summary correctly) a whopping 60% of 1,000 people who had read the book said they believed its "claims" were true.
I recently had an interesting chat with someone who would have been one of those 60%. She said the book "proved" certain things about Christianity, in her mind. And I assume one of those things would be the "fact" that the Church has wrongly denied Mary Magdalene's status as the wife of Jesus, who bore his child (or children)--since that was a big part of the book. I had not read The Da Vinci Code
at the time of our conversation, but I suggested that "proof" is a pretty strong word to use for a work of fiction. I also pointed out that a lot of additional research has been done to prove that the theories behind The Da Vinci Code
are erroneously founded. Her (paraphrased) answer?
"Well, I guess my inclination is to believe The Da Vinci Code.
" Ah. Well, of course. She would prefer
not to believe mainstream, orthodox Christianity, and The Da Vinci Code
gives her an easy "out"--albeit on a very shaky premise indeed.
Unfortunately for many people's inclinations, the only thing The Da Vinci Code
even remotely comes close to "proving" (key word being "remotely") is the suggestion that Leonardo da Vinci himself (perhaps) believed in the whole Mary Magdalene=wife of Jesus theory. And that is hardly conclusive evidence that the theory itself is valid, is it?
Unless, by "conclusive," you really mean "based on arguably faulty textual and historical research."
Let's just examine the Leonardo claim a little more closely, shall we? One of the ideas posited in the novel is that Leonardo painted Mary Magdalene (not the disciple John, as has been traditionally supposed) sitting at Jesus' right hand in the place of honor, at the Last Supper table amongst the other disciples. So how can the "truth," so vigorously refuted by the Church over the centuries, be denied in the face of such a pictorial testimony?
Quite easily, as it happens--and without doing any pesky research, either! Was Leonardo present
at the Last Supper? At a distance of well over 1000 years, how would he really know if Mary Magdalene was sitting next to Jesus or not? It's an artistic rendering, nothing more. It's kind of like saying, based on Leonardo's portrayal of all those first-century Jews as very white Caucasians, that the depiction in itself "proves" Jesus and his followers were white.
Ah, logic... It's obviously a strange, and relatively untrodden, world, isn't it.
Furthermore, it's unlikely that any women (including wives) would have been seated at the table with the men, for at least two reasons: 1) tables such as the one shown in the Last Supper painting weren't really in vogue yet in the Palestine of Jesus' time; and 2) if any women were present at the Last Supper, they would probably have been serving the men, not joining them as equals (cultural mandate!).
Of course, I am touching on only one point in the entire convoluted plot of the novel. But Dan Brown treats that point as rather a pivotal one. And despite the fact that it is a point easily contradicted even without the help of supporting research, people are taking it as incontrovertible.
Frankly, people who believe that the novel as a whole presents a factual account of Christian beliefs and history are simply too lazy--or at any rate, not "inclined"--to do the research that would show whether or not they should.
The real truth is, the book has added little to nothing of importance or even value to the realm of Biblical and theological debate, and the theories it puts forth are a pretty far cry from being infallible. The overwhelming amount of anti-Da Vinci Code
books is proof, at the very least, of that.
But then again, I don't think that proving anything theologically was really the novel's ultimate goal. I think that Dan Brown is a very savvy commercial writer who knows how to move an intricate plot along while keeping the reader enthralled, and who picked a theme that was all but guaranteed to generate controversy. And we all know that controversy can be a great boon to boosting sales, of books and movie tickets. (Just look at Mel Gibson's The Passion
So I must congratulate Mr. Brown for achieving the success that he did with The Da Vinci Code
. But I very much doubt he could have done it without the help of the Church.
Ironic, isn't it? Espcially if, by "ironic," you mean "full of irony."