Golden Compost: Washington Post Goes Soft On Film's Director

Sometimes, newspapers bury the lede on purpose. Today’s Exhibit A? The Washington Post Style section profile of Chris Weitz, the director of the new anti-religious movie The Golden Compass. The Post’s anodyne headline was "‘Golden Compass’ Director Seeks True North." David Segal’s story takes eight paragraphs and a sentence before it gets to the point, why the publicity: The trilogy of books behind the movie "attacks the concept of organized religion -- more specifically, any religion that rules by fiat and claims an exclusive pipeline to the truth."

Weitz has done quite the comedy routine in defending the film. In a soundbite on CNN’s The Situation Room on Tuesday, he claimed: "I don’t think the books are a threat to organized religion. First of all, I think organized religion is strong enough to stand on its own. Secondly I don't think that Pullman is aggressively anti-Catholic or anti-religious." Come again? This is like Weitz claiming his American Pie movies weren’t about teenage sex.

In his Post profile, Segal declared himself a fan of Weitz’s "terrifically creepy" indie film Chuck and Buck, and quoted people lauding Weitz’s incredible smarts, but he didn’t blink as he recounted how Weitz wears a T-shirt that metaphorically compares his critics to the Nazis:

When the cappuccino comes and he warms up, Weitz takes off his sweater, revealing a red T-shirt that in yellow letters says "Keep Calm and Carry On."

"It's a phrase from British propaganda posters during World War II," he says. "It apparently was all over the place. I saw it and loved it, so I bought about 14 of them and sent them to everyone doing postproduction."

For someone who’s hailed as terrifically smart, Weitz seems to be confused about his intentions: he doesn’t want the film to offend churchgoers, but he hopes more and more people read the atheist "masterpiece" from which it originates. Perhaps Segal should write that Weitz hoped the movie is bland enough to still make money, but he hopes viewers follow up by drinking in the strong God-hating brew from the books. Here’s the confusing paragraph:

Weitz, the son of a Jewish dad and a half-Jewish, half-Catholic mother, describes his own religion as "lapsed Catholic crypto-Buddhist." He has faith in some kind of supernatural explanation for the universe, which he says gives him an affinity for religion in general. Yes, he snipped out some of the more aggressively anti-religious elements of "The Golden Compass," most notably any mention of "church" in connection with the villains. He didn't want to offend churchgoers. And the more people who read a trilogy he calls "a masterpiece," the better.

How someone with an "affinity for religion in general" desperately campaigns to be in the director's chair for Philip Pullman's crusade ought to be a profound question for a journalist who's asking questions instead of composing gauzy press-release packet clips.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis