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The voice of Aslan

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  • Kathleen Lamantia
    I had concerns about something like this when I first read that Liam Neeson had been chosen to be the voice of Aslan. Can a non-believer as I think he was
    Message 1 of 11 , Dec 22, 2010
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      I had concerns about something like this when I first read that Liam Neeson had been chosen to be the voice of Aslan.  Can a "non-believer" as I think he was at the time, [and I don't know what he believes now] give a perfomance infused with the true essence of Aslan?
       
      I can't answer that question, but am writing in order to share an article written by Dorothy Sayers which addresses a similar question. 
       
      In "Types of Christian Drama with some notes on Production," she states (my paraphrase0 that it is better to use professional, though perhaps unbelieving actors in a performance, rather than devout amateurs. (She is writing in reference to stage plays, but I think her comments can apply to movies as well.)
       
      I have been mulling this over ever since I read it, and the current controversy re Neeson seems to be a particularly apt case in point.
       
      Please forgive the incorrect format of the article citation which follows.  I am a librarian rather than a scholar, and I am also late for work!
       
      This article appears in the journal Vii, An Anglo-American literary review, Volume 3, March 1981, pgs. 81-99.
       



       


    • Jason Fisher
      ... Of course he could. It s called acting for a reason. What Neeson believes personally shouldn t enter into his performance in any substantive way, not if he
      Message 2 of 11 , Dec 22, 2010
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        > I had concerns about something like this when I first read that Liam Neeson
        > had been chosen to be the voice of Aslan. Can a "non-believer" as I think he
        > was at the time, [and I don't know what he believes now] give a perfomance
        > infused with the true essence of Aslan?
         
        Of course he could. It's called acting for a reason. What Neeson believes personally shouldn't enter into his performance in any substantive way, not if he is doing his job. Even to entertain the idea that the roles of believers should be played only by actual believers ... I find this very troubling. We might as well say that only an actual talking lion could play Aslan. But of course, no actual lion can talk -- and an actual lion might eat his castmates, which would be inconvenient. I mean, when you get right down to it, acting is make-believe. The idea is to be convincing, sure, but it's still just make-believe. I don't think it should make any difference whether a devout Christian belief -- along with accent, personality, and lionness -- is one of the things the actor is making believe.
      • dale nelson
        I haven t been able to verify the anecdote, but I believe that Luther offered this thought experiment: if the devil himself preached a true Gospel sermon, the
        Message 3 of 11 , Dec 22, 2010
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          I haven't been able to verify the anecdote, but I believe that Luther offered this thought experiment: if the devil himself preached a true Gospel sermon, the Word thus preached would be efficacious according to God's will -- even in spite of the evil one's wishes.   For what Luther's opinion may be worth, I don't think he would be too worried about the personal beliefs or unbelief of an actor in an entertainment such as this, any more than he would be worried about whether the construction crew rearing a church building was composed of faithful Christians. 

          Parents of children who are fans of the Narnian movies might respond that they regret it when, in publicity related to the movies, members of the crew make statements that might confuse kids.  That's a separate issue.  It really belongs to a discussion that the parents need to have with their kids about the whole publicity business. 


          From: Jason Fisher <visualweasel@...>
          To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
          Sent: Wed, December 22, 2010 10:11:55 AM
          Subject: Re: [mythsoc] The voice of Aslan

           

          > I had concerns about something like this when I first read that Liam Neeson
          > had been chosen to be the voice of Aslan. Can a "non-believer" as I think he
          > was at the time, [and I don't know what he believes now] give a perfomance
          > infused with the true essence of Aslan?
           
          Of course he could. It's called acting for a reason. What Neeson believes personally shouldn't enter into his performance in any substantive way, not if he is doing his job. Even to entertain the idea that the roles of believers should be played only by actual believers ... I find this very troubling. We might as well say that only an actual talking lion could play Aslan. But of course, no actual lion can talk -- and an actual lion might eat his castmates, which would be inconvenient. I mean, when you get right down to it, acting is make-believe. The idea is to be convincing, sure, but it's still just make-believe. I don't think it should make any difference whether a devout Christian belief -- along with accent, personality, and lionness -- is one of the things the actor is making believe.

        • Carl F. Hostetter
          I find all the studied perplexity and hairsplitting in this thread itself to be symptomatic of the very obvious reason why Liam Neeson s remarks have
          Message 4 of 11 , Dec 22, 2010
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            I find all the studied perplexity and hairsplitting in this thread itself to be symptomatic of the very obvious reason why Liam Neeson's remarks have occasioned comment: in a time where Christianity is more and more being cast by media and government into the role of The Religion That Dare Not Speak Its Name, the notion that Aslan stands for any old religious figure at all, or even a mere tutor of children, is one more straw on the proverbial back.

            And if we're really supposed to be surprised that some viewed these comments as worthy of response, why then was this matter introduced as a worthy topic for this list?

            Carl
          • Kathleen Lamantia
            Thank you for your thoughts, Jason. I fear in my hasty post, I did not make myself clear (and I included a lot of typos.) I was trying to ask the question,
            Message 5 of 11 , Dec 22, 2010
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              Thank you for your thoughts, Jason. 
               
              I fear in my hasty post, I did not make myself clear (and I included a lot of typos.)  I was trying to ask the question, not state an answer.  Therefore your reply and Dale Nelson's later in this thread, were the sorts of opinions I was wanting to discover.
               
              This was also Dorothy Sayers' contention in the article to which I referred - that the beliefs of the actor did not impact the performance, and she preferred the trained actor to the devout amateur.
               
              I was trying to avoid controversy, not create it, as, generally speaking, it is not helpful. 
               
              Sincerely,
              Kathleen

               


              To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
              From: visualweasel@...
              Date: Wed, 22 Dec 2010 08:11:55 -0800
              Subject: Re: [mythsoc] The voice of Aslan

               
              > I had concerns about something like this when I first read that Liam Neeson
              > had been chosen to be the voice of Aslan. Can a "non-believer" as I think he
              > was at the time, [and I don't know what he believes now] give a perfomance
              > infused with the true essence of Aslan?
               
              Of course he could. It's called acting for a reason. What Neeson believes personally shouldn't enter into his performance in any substantive way, not if he is doing his job. Even to entertain the idea that the roles of believers should be played only by actual believers ... I find this very troubling. We might as well say that only an actual talking lion could play Aslan. But of course, no actual lion can talk -- and an actual lion might eat his castmates, which would be inconvenient. I mean, when you get right down to it, acting is make-believe. The idea is to be convincing, sure, but it's still just make-believe. I don't think it should make any difference whether a devout Christian belief -- along with accent, personality, and lionness -- is one of the things the actor is making believe.


            • Darrell A. Martin
              Greetings: First, I agree that Aslan is not an allegory. That is, there is no intended close point-by-point parallel between him and Christ. One obvious
              Message 6 of 11 , Dec 22, 2010
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                Greetings:

                First, I agree that Aslan is not an allegory. That is, there is no
                intended close point-by-point parallel between him and Christ. One
                obvious example is that Jesus was incarnate, as a man; Aslan simply
                appears, as an animal.

                Second, the fundamental nature of Aslan is who he is, not just what he
                has to say. He is the son of the Emperor Over Sea, not merely the most
                fearsome and admirable animal in Narnia. To a Moslem it might be the
                difference between a portrayal of Allah and one of Mohammed. I say
                "might" because I cannot speak for them, but I imagine they would be
                rather annoyed in either case.

                Third, I believe the original author's intentions, where they can be
                discerned, are a crucial component of any work. Consider Tolkien's
                reaction to some of the more enthusiastic elements of Middle-earth fandom.

                Lastly, I am not particularly troubled by an overt unbeliever playing a
                dramatic role in a work that features (or should feature) a Christian
                theme. It is all pretense anyway. *How* he plays the role is a different
                matter. The biggest problem I have with Liam Neeson's comments is that
                they may be fairly taken as representative of the point of view that
                will be seen in the film, absent objections from the producer and
                director or contrary opinions from other actors in the film who might be
                sent out to promote it.

                Darrell
              • Carl F. Hostetter
                ... Consider too the reaction of many of us to the liberties Peter Jackson took with Tolkien s themes, emphases (or lack thereof), and characterizations in the
                Message 7 of 11 , Dec 22, 2010
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                  On Dec 22, 2010, at 2:36 PM, Darrell A. Martin wrote:

                  > Third, I believe the original author's intentions, where they can be
                  > discerned, are a crucial component of any work. Consider Tolkien's
                  > reaction to some of the more enthusiastic elements of Middle-earth fandom.

                  Consider too the reaction of many of us to the liberties Peter Jackson took with Tolkien's themes, emphases (or lack thereof), and characterizations in the m*vies.

                  Carl
                • lynnmaudlin
                  Yup - actors are actors and a good one can play a part ENTIRELY at odds with who he/she actually happens to be. I haven t been thrilled with Neeson s Aslan
                  Message 8 of 11 , Dec 22, 2010
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                    Yup - actors are actors and a good one can play a part ENTIRELY at odds with who he/she actually happens to be.

                    I haven't been thrilled with Neeson's Aslan performances (and I'm a fan of his work, fwiw) - Diana Glyer mentioned listening to Patrick Stewart's Narnia recording (Last Battle, I think?) and THAT is the voice casting that would have been much better!!

                    But I'm more bothered by the thing that won't change, in all this: our culture's superficial focus on the actors and their opinions rather than the reality of the source material. I guess that's too much effort for most folks; films are easy - pay a ticket, sit back and watch.

                    -- Lynn --



                    --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, Jason Fisher <visualweasel@...> wrote:
                    >
                    > > I had concerns about something like this when I first read that Liam Neeson
                    > > had been chosen to be the voice of Aslan. Can a "non-believer" as I think he
                    > > was at the time, [and I don't know what he believes now] give a perfomance
                    > > infused with the true essence of Aslan?
                    >
                    > Of course he could. It's called acting for a reason. What Neeson believes
                    > personally shouldn't enter into his performance in any substantive way, not if
                    > he is doing his job. Even to entertain the idea that the roles of believers
                    > should be played only by actual believers ... I find this very troubling. We
                    > might as well say that only an actual talking lion could play Aslan. But of
                    > course, no actual lion can talk -- and an actual lion might eat his castmates,
                    > which would be inconvenient. I mean, when you get right down to it, acting is
                    > make-believe. The idea is to be convincing, sure, but it's still just
                    > make-believe. I don't think it should make any difference whether a devout
                    > Christian belief -- along with accent, personality, and lionness -- is one of
                    > the things the actor is making believe.
                    >
                  • lynnmaudlin
                    yes, God uses all things (which isn t to say that all things are as He desires them to be; He takes no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked, for example,
                    Message 9 of 11 , Dec 22, 2010
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                      yes, God uses all things (which isn't to say that all things are as He desires them to be; He takes no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked, for example, and would prefer they repent and NOT be wicked) to advance His purpose.

                      I spent enough time on the edges of the Christian music industry as well as the secular music industry to know there's not much difference... in fact, I've seen more rip-offs happen in the name of Christ :( that's a very sad thing indeed.

                      -- Lynn --


                      --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, dale nelson <extollager2006@...> wrote:
                      >
                      > I haven't been able to verify the anecdote, but I believe that Luther offered
                      > this thought experiment: if the devil himself preached a true Gospel sermon, the
                      > Word thus preached would be efficacious according to God's will -- even in spite
                      > of the evil one's wishes. For what Luther's opinion may be worth, I don't
                      > think he would be too worried about the personal beliefs or unbelief of an actor
                      > in an entertainment such as this, any more than he would be worried about
                      > whether the construction crew rearing a church building was composed of faithful
                      > Christians.
                      >
                      >
                      > Parents of children who are fans of the Narnian movies might respond that they
                      > regret it when, in publicity related to the movies, members of the crew make
                      > statements that might confuse kids. That's a separate issue. It really belongs
                      > to a discussion that the parents need to have with their kids about the whole
                      > publicity business.
                      >
                      >
                      >
                      >
                      > ________________________________
                      > From: Jason Fisher <visualweasel@...>
                      > To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                      > Sent: Wed, December 22, 2010 10:11:55 AM
                      > Subject: Re: [mythsoc] The voice of Aslan
                      >
                      >
                      > > I had concerns about something like this when I first read that Liam Neeson
                      > > had been chosen to be the voice of Aslan. Can a "non-believer" as I think he
                      > > was at the time, [and I don't know what he believes now] give a perfomance
                      > > infused with the true essence of Aslan?
                      >
                      > Of course he could. It's called acting for a reason. What Neeson believes
                      > personally shouldn't enter into his performance in any substantive way, not if
                      > he is doing his job. Even to entertain the idea that the roles of believers
                      > should be played only by actual believers ... I find this very troubling. We
                      > might as well say that only an actual talking lion could play Aslan. But of
                      > course, no actual lion can talk -- and an actual lion might eat his castmates,
                      > which would be inconvenient. I mean, when you get right down to it, acting is
                      > make-believe. The idea is to be convincing, sure, but it's still just
                      > make-believe. I don't think it should make any difference whether a devout
                      > Christian belief -- along with accent, personality, and lionness -- is one of
                      > the things the actor is making believe.
                      >
                    • David Emerson
                      ... I would ve said James Earl Jones, but maybe he s been overused for that kind of thing. ... Right. It s always disturbed me that media-oriented SF cons
                      Message 10 of 11 , Dec 22, 2010
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                        -----Original Message-----
                        >From: lynnmaudlin <lynnmaudlin@...>
                        >
                        >I haven't been thrilled with Neeson's Aslan performances (and I'm a fan of his work, fwiw) - Diana Glyer mentioned listening to Patrick Stewart's Narnia recording (Last Battle, I think?) and THAT is the voice casting that would have been much better!!

                        I would've said James Earl Jones, but maybe he's been overused for that kind of thing.

                        >But I'm more bothered by the thing that won't change, in all this: our culture's superficial focus on the actors and their opinions rather than the reality of the source material.

                        Right. It's always disturbed me that media-oriented SF cons make a big deal over TV/movie actors from SF shows, as if the fans are confused enough to be unable to distinguish between actor and character. But then I started out in "traditional" SF fandom, where the emphasis is on *writers*, so maybe I'm biased. (Naw...)

                        emerdavid

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                      • lynnmaudlin
                        If it was purely the voice, James Earl Jones would be brilliant. But we have to take into consideration the associations with the voice and, in this case, I
                        Message 11 of 11 , Dec 22, 2010
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                          If it was purely the voice, James Earl Jones would be brilliant. But we have to take into consideration the associations with the voice and, in this case, I don't think it would be wise to have Darth Vader give voice to Aslan... eeeek!! ;D

                          -- Lynn --


                          --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, David Emerson <emerdavid@...> wrote:
                          >
                          > -----Original Message-----
                          > >From: lynnmaudlin <lynnmaudlin@...>
                          > >
                          > >I haven't been thrilled with Neeson's Aslan performances (and I'm a fan of his work, fwiw) - Diana Glyer mentioned listening to Patrick Stewart's Narnia recording (Last Battle, I think?) and THAT is the voice casting that would have been much better!!
                          >
                          > I would've said James Earl Jones, but maybe he's been overused for that kind of thing.
                          >
                          > >But I'm more bothered by the thing that won't change, in all this: our culture's superficial focus on the actors and their opinions rather than the reality of the source material.
                          >
                          > Right. It's always disturbed me that media-oriented SF cons make a big deal over TV/movie actors from SF shows, as if the fans are confused enough to be unable to distinguish between actor and character. But then I started out in "traditional" SF fandom, where the emphasis is on *writers*, so maybe I'm biased. (Naw...)
                          >
                          > emerdavid
                          >
                          > ________________________________________
                          > PeoplePC Online
                          > A better way to Internet
                          > http://www.peoplepc.com
                          >
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