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Lin-Manuel Miranda Shares His Dark Materials' Terrible Parallel to Our Own World

Lin-Manuel Miranda plays Lee Scoresby on His Dark Materials.
Lin-Manuel Miranda plays Lee Scoresby on His Dark Materials.
Photo: HBO

HBO’s His Dark Materials, based on the Philip Pullman books, may be a high-concept fantasy series about a mysterious dust that connects all realities, but it’s not without its own connection to our world. As explained by star Lin-Manuel Miranda, it’s about people in authority abusing their power to control others... including taking children away from their parents.

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In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Miranda (who plays Lee Scoresby) shared more about his personal fandom of His Dark Materials—something he previously mentioned during the show’s San Diego Comic-Con panel—having read the series “many times” and shared them with his wife while he was filming Mary Poppins Returns. But here, the interviewer asked him about something different: how the books may have a “different impact” now than they did back then. Miranda’s response was stark and distressing.

“I wish that the images of children being separated from their parents didn’t echo what is currently happening in our country,” he said.

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His Dark Materials has a timeless quality, taking place across countless strange worlds (with only one of them being our own), but that doesn’t mean its subject material doesn’t reflect what we’re going through in 2019. The first book focuses on “The Gobblers,” boogeymen blamed for the disappearance of dozens of kids—namely orphans, gypsies, and other children from disenfranchised groups. The gypsies take it upon themselves to find their lost children, because the theocratic and authoritarian government isn’t doing anything to stop it. Without giving too much away, let’s just say there’s a reason why.

Every parent fears having their child taken from them—it’s a universal horror. But it’s especially pertinent in the United States right now as reports continue to surface of immigrant children being forcibly separated from their parents at the border and placed with others without the parents’ consent. There are still thousands of separated children and it’s having lasting impacts on these families. For example, a report from the Associated Press showed that the Trump administration is not prioritizing reuniting parents with their children who’ve been given to “sponsors,” meaning foster or adoptive services.

Miranda also discussed the book’s message about the dangers of trying to control people’s bodies, another situation that continues to play out in our own government with the array of anti-abortion laws and other regulations designed to limit body autonomy. In short: It doesn’t matter what world or reality we’re in, it still manages to suck really bad.

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His Dark Materials debuts on BBC November 3, airing one day later on HBO.


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Video Editor and Staff Writer at io9. My doppelganger is that rebelling greeting card from Futurama.

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DISCUSSION

Finally finished the books! Ok, so...

Really liked TGC. It was an exciting mystery story set in an uncanny valley sort of world. And that’s part of what made it so compelling: wanting to see the additional ways in which Lyra’s world differed from ours while being so similar.

TSK was...interesting. I did not expect the multiverse arc to take over the entire story. It completely changed the tone set by TGC. And I found the canonical introduction of Will’s/our world to be a bit immersion breaking. I dunno, when you introduce me to a fictional world I want to believe that is THE world. Suddenly learning that our world exists in-universe was kinda strange. Anyway, I generally liked the rest of the book. What an explosive ending.

And TAS, eesh. My biggest critique is the extreme ending fatigue. I’m totally okay with Lyra and Will not participating in The Epic Final Battle (it’s very Hobbit-esque), but things definitely could have wrapped up faster after the battle was done. Instead, the other threads get drawwwwwwwwwn out. I mean, what’s even the point of the assassin subplot, especially because it resolves itself without any of the main characters knowing? And there are some egregious author filibusters (as someone who’s very atheist even I was rolling my eyes).

All in all it was definitely an interesting series and I’m excited to watch the show. I’ll also probably read the sequel material because I’m a sucker for world building. But I definitely took issue with some of the presentation.

Also I think Pullman was trying to outdo Tolkien with his descriptions of walking.