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Reflections of a working writer and reader



The Da Vinci Code – the movie

In todays Guardian, Mark Lawson claims that:

In a nation where it was reported yesterday that the most popular new name for baby girls is “Nevaeh” – the word “heaven” spelled backwards – religious beliefs, which are properly a matter for that variety of opinion called faith, have been redefined as fact.

The nation is America and Lawson’s comments are prompted by a discussion on the Today show about whether the producers of the movie The Da Vinci Code should submit to a request from religious lobby groups to begin the film with a caption pointing out that audiences are watching a work of fiction.

This brings up a number of questions for me. Can someone help me out here? Is it true that there are people out there who think that the events related in the bible are incontrovertible fact?

And, whether the answer to the first question is yes or no, are there people out there who are so incredibly dumb that they might consider the movie of The Da Vinci Code to be a documentary?

8 Responses to “The Da Vinci Code – the movie”

  1. Debi Alper says:

    Hi John,
    I reckon the answers to your questions are Yes and Yes!
    But we also need to consider how many more books Dan Brown has sold than all the rest of us put together. (Your contribution to our total being significantly larger than mine!)
    I’m not sure if this should make us despair or not, but I do think we have to be aware of what people out there want … even if they’re not the same people who are ever likely to read our books.
    I have to confess I read the DVC – 20p at school jumble sale. I wanted to see what it was that was captivating people in their millions.
    While I was appalled at the language, plotting, characterisation etc etc I was also sucked into the page turning mode. I reckon we ignore this at our peril. Well, mine anyway – you’re probably doing ok …

  2. Sich says:

    First off, the answer to both of your questions is, unfortunately: YES.

    I see the request for “a work of fiction” in light of a few issues. First, history. Whether or not we regard the Bible as fact, fiction, myth, or what have you, many of the issues Dan Brown is playing with are historical first, religious second. History, too, is subjective of course, but when you get down to it, either a certain event happened or it didn’t.

    Also, given James Frey and the plagiarizing Harvard student, maybe we all need to be more careful with our “fact or fiction” labels … ?

    And last … my own feelings about Brown: a writer whose literary skills are surpassed by many of my high-school students with a plot based loosely on ideas that any first-year religious studies major already knows. Nevertheless, he could buy and sell me ten times over, so … sigh.

  3. John Newnham says:

    Sadly, yes to both.

  4. Maxine says:

    Hello John
    My disclaimer first: I am a reader not a writer. I have read the DVC.

    The answer to your questions are yes and qualified yes. I know people, and of people, who both think the Bible is fact not myth, and although I don’t think people perceive the DVC as “documentary”, I do think that people “think it could be true”.

    I have various reasons for thinking this. Some of them are: religion is taught in schools as if it is truth. (I have two school-age daughters so I know this is true.) I imagine it is rammed down children’s throats more in the USA (or parts of it anyway) than it is here. Either way, children are taught young that religion as in the Bible is true, and we all know the Jesuit motto. (I say the Bible because I live in a C of E/RC dominated culture, but I am sure it is true of other religious cultures/scriptures too — look at the Muslims — “grab em young and brainwash them” is the general idea).

    Second, science. I am a trained scientist who was a researcher for some years. I have been a science editor for some years at the world’s leading science journal. The level of public knowledge and debate of scientific issues is laughable. Look at climate change, evolution — these are not subjects that can be decided intuitively eg in a blog posting or editorial. The majority of people don’t have an interest in scientific method or in understanding the basis of scientific inference— what is evidence, what can be deduced, etc.

    We live in an age where superstition, horoscopes, astrology, sentimentality (anthropomorphism) over animals, and all that stuff is accorded equal weight with actual facts and evidence.

    Returning to the DVC, I believe it is tosh, and no worse or better than lots of its ilk. I am sure you remember when Holy Blood Holy Grail was first published — it was on the bestseller lists for ages. I am sure that some people who bought it thought it was real — indeed it sort of passes itself off as pseudo-research I believe (I have not read it).

    Probably most readers of DVC do not believe it, and treat it like any thriller or piece of popular fiction. But I am sure that some people do believe it. And I don’t suppose it will do anyone any harm.

    Hope all is well with you,
    all best

  5. Thanks for the comments. I agree that not a lot of harm has been done. People are taken for a ride every day. So what is one more mystery tour on a bus we didn’t book?
    But the whole affair does make us realize once again how our individual and community consciousness is subject to a process of constant undermining.
    And, anyway, I’m an optimist. What doesn’t kill you makes you strong.

  6. skint writer says:

    Yes and yes, but it’s not surprising. Nothing is surprising since Bush got re-elected and Tony Blair became God.

  7. Stephanie says:

    Do people believe everything in the Bible is true? Yes. I have worked with several Jehovah’s Witnesses and to a person they have told me “if it’s in the Bible, I believe it.”

    Might people think Da Vinci Code is true? Probably. Yes, it is meant to be fiction but there are some very intriguing theories in this piece of fiction.

    A friend and I go round and round about the nits I have with Brown’s “facts.” She repeatedly says sternly, “It’s fiction! Get over it!” I repeatedly say, “I know! The problem I have is that in the foreword, he says that xy&z are true and then screws them up.”

    If Brown hadn’t said “these things are true,” I would have let them go but I am … well, more than a bit miffed that he didn’t. People who are not critical thinkers might really think those things are true and then construe that other things in his book are true.

    As for being a hack, that frustrates me as well. I’ve read 3 of his books and they were page turners but for the life of me I couldn’t/can’t figure out why. The writing is clumsy, there are plot holes you could fly a 747 through and his characters are 1 dimensional at best. I’m not a writer, I’m a historian in training with loads of history papers under my belt and I write better than he does. We should all be irked!

  8. john baker says:

    Mark Lawson in Wednesday’s Guardian has something interesting to say about this. He postulates the theory of the critic-free book or film.