May 25, 2006

The New Yorker

Marketing “The Da Vinci Code” to Christians.


Issue of 2006-05-22
Posted 2006-05-15

In the three years since the publication of Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code,” a best-selling suspense novel with pretensions to serious scholarship, the work has inspired a vast literature of refutation, including dozens of books and numberless essays disputing the story’s core contentions. The Internet, intrinsically hospitable to such a purpose, has grown a busy marketplace of “Da Vinci” debunkers, anticipating the big-budget film version of Brown’s tale, now arriving in theatres. Prospective moviegoers who have spent time at a Web site called The Da Vinci Dialogue, the most polished of these efforts, have been informed that the story is deeply anti-Christian, a pseudo history “fraught with inaccuracies” and “spiritual tripe.” They have been offered the opinion that, of its type, the book was only “moderately engaging,” attracting fans who were easily gulled and perhaps just a bit dim.
What is striking about these assertions is that they are part of a marketing project paid for by Sony Pictures Entertainment, the studio that has invested more than two hundred million dollars in producing “The Da Vinci Code” and distributing and marketing it worldwide. When Sony acquired the rights to the book, in June of 2003, it was the property that Hollywood most dearly coveted, a certain blockbuster with sequel potential, and the reported six-million-dollar deal that Sony made with Brown was seen as a triumph. The article in Daily Variety announcing the deal suggested no hint of possible religious controversy in the “Da Vinci Code” story, describing it as a murder mystery with “clues to a 2,000-year-old conspiracy encoded in the paintings of Leonardo Da Vinci.” John Calley, the Sony executive who made the deal, described the book as a “page-turner” and a “thrill ride” that seemed to have been written for the screen.

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