The Wicker Man

Last night, I watched the 1973 film The Wicker Man. Basically, it is about a Christian policeman who (a) tries to prevent murder in and (b) tries to suppress paganism in a Scottish island community. It was a bit perplexing from a contemporary standpoint. Most of my friends would agree that the state has a critical role to play in deciding what children should be taught and the legitimate terms under which lives can be ended. At the same time, most of them would likely consider paganism less objectionable than Christianity, if one was forced to choose a religion.

As such, the film felt oddly disconnected from time, like a satire from a place and era you do not understand. From my current perspective, it was almost at the precise balance point between mocking the pagans and mocking the Christians. Neither had any claim to empirical validation of their belief structure.

It is enough to make one wonder about how today’s satire will be viewed in 25 years. Will people find themselves uncertain about whether The Daily Show was mocking or praising the Bush administration?

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

5 thoughts on “The Wicker Man

  1. If you want to see a truly baffling film see the Nic Cage remake if you haven’t already.

  2. don’t forget you also have friends who search for meaning within the Christian tradition

  3. Alex,

    I am aware of that, though I appreciate the reminder.

    This being said, I doubt you would find the character of the police officer very sympathetic. When it comes to asserting his religious beliefs, he comes across as a small-minded bully.

  4. This critical polarity takes the shape of Christianity and Paganism in Sutcliffe’s excellent analysis of religion in The Wicker Man. Director Robin Hardy and screenwriter Anthony Shaffer have both on record stated that their intention was not to make a pro-Pagan or pro-counterculture film. Their position, if any, was to be sceptical of any dogma which would place people in the “thrall of superstition” (p. 50) (nor do the director/author read the film as pro-feminist, as some have). And yet much of the film’s cult status can be attributed to an audience reading of the film as being pro-Pagan and in opposition to Sergeant Howie’s Catholic authoritarianism. According to Suttcliffe this audience sway to the side of the Pagans can be seen as a result of the post-Christian popularity in the 1960’s and 1970’s among the young of alternative forms of religion (Wicca, Druids, and Celtic), Asian-inspired cults such as the Moonies and Hara Krishnas, and the American Church of Scientology. In noting this diversity, Sutcliffe questions the simplistic binary structuralism (counterculture vs. the status quo) of those who read the film as an expression of the countercultural movement, in that it negates the great variety of alternative (countercultural) thought within this period.”

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