Listen up Game of Thrones Fans! HBO is rolling out a new series that is rumored to fill the void left by its fantasy predecessor. It's called His Dark Materials, and like GoT, is adapted from a popular fantasy book series, which explores similar topics of power, philosophy, religion, and human struggle. There is one major difference: the book series was written with a younger audience in mind.
Before you reject Dark Materials on the basis of its intended audience, let me acquaint you with the staying power of this trilogy. The American Library Association has tracked these books as frequenting the Top 10 list of Banned Books throughout the years since they were published. In 2007, New Line Cinema took a crack at a film adaptation of book one, The Golden Compass (Northern Lights to our British friends). The Catholic League called for a boycott and many other Christian denominations warned parents about the film having an atheist agenda. The box office did not fare as well as anticipated -- the cause of that is also debatable. Yet, 12 years later, as the curtain closes on one of the most successful television franchises in HBO history, the cable giant, in collaboration with BBC, is still willing to take a chance on it.
As a librarian, and an enthusiastic defender of the expression of different ideas, this utterly thrills me. Why the controversy, one might ask? This three-book series (the first of which preceded Harry Potter a mere and unfortunate two years) was created as an inversion of Milton's Paradise Lost. According to author Philip Pullman, he was inspired by angels plotting revenge against god, and ultimately he describes his books as the “triumph of knowledge over ignorance” (a twist on Eve and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, if you will). In reading the series, I came away with a clear criticism of power structures that use religion to control people, and much less an anti-deist message. In fact, The Authority represents god in this series, which is anything but a portrayal of atheism. As someone who has read, then watched, the success of the Harry Potter series, I can’t help but draw a comparison between an extremely diverse market of all ages in the midst of surrounding controversy.
As a fan of the book series, I am looking forward to so many characters in this HBO adaption. This tale features parallel worlds, spirit animals, and young people with pluck. For me, these things are a winning recipe for fantastical world building and compelling storylines. To set the scene a bit for those who are interested in Dark Materials, and are simultaneously shocked that San Jose Public Library will be screening the first episode a day before it drops to the rest of the world, let me introduce you to Lyra Belacqua -- played by the amazing Dafne Keen of Logan. She is an 11-year-old orphan who has complete disregard for personal hygiene, but lives a happy life in Oxford of another universe. One of Lyra’s signature features is her daemon (pronounced demon), which is a shape-shifting spirit animal, and external manifestation of her inner-self. In Lyra’s Oxford, everyone has a daemon! When Lyra (and her daemon Pan) discovers a friend of hers has been abducted and experiments conducted on his daemon, she uncovers a human rights crisis that spans worlds. Many will risk their lives to assist her on her quest for truth -- one of which is Lee Scorsbey a cowboy aeronaut played by Lin Manuel Miranda. I cannot wait to watch it unfold on the screen! Daemons, armored bears, floating balloons. All the things I read about coming to life on the screen!
I don’t know about you, but I will be at Educational Park on Nov. 2, 2019 to take it all in. Screening times are 11:00 AM, 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM. HBO recommends that children be age 10 or older. Customers can also participate in a themed scavenger hunt, photo opportunity, book-giveaway, and daemon-matching quiz.