What sets Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code apart from other novels is not the number of websites and social media pages devoted to it; many novels benefit from such dissemination of information about it. No, what sets Brown’s novel apart from 99% of all the other novels ever written which have given rise to websites devoted to them is the sheer volume of discourse that attempts to treat it as though the author claims it is it not a novel at all, but more akin to something that might be found amongst Biblical apocrypha.
Anyone not already at least remotely familiar with the plot of The Da Vinci Code must either have been born sometime after its film adaptation starring Tom Hanks became one of the biggest blockbusters of the early 21st century or be an alien in disguise. The book’s narrative about symbologist Robert Langdon discovering secret meanings hidden in the works of Leonardo Da Vinci that leads him to the only surviving member of the bloodline of Jesus Christ resulting from His secret marriage Mary Magdalene is the stuff of which a literary phenomenon is made. Indeed, after a short career of virtual total anonymity as a novelist, Brown suddenly became the recipient of one of those inexplicable lighting-in-a-bottle moments that saw The Da Vinci Code suddenly explode out of nowhere from just another forgotten thriller destined for the 99% bin into the second best-selling novel of 2003, just barely lagging behind only Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix—another beneficiary of the lightning-in-a-bottle route to bestsellerdom.
And even though the number of websites devoted to castigating the Harry Potter series as nothing less than the work of the devil is only now just starting to recede, precious few of those sites criticized J.K. Rowling for trying pass off a biography as fiction. The truth is that The Da Vinci Code was originally marketed as a novel, was adapted into a movie as a complete work of fiction and has ever since been touted as nothing other than a work of imagination by its author and publisher. Despite this, the novels admittedly titillating sacrilegious proposition thesis that Jesus did not die a virgin on the cross, but instead not only married Mary Magdalene but fathered children with her to create a lineage stretching across the millennia to surviving members of the bloodline right through the 20th century and up to yesterday is the stuff of controversy gone over the top.
The Da Vinci Code was, of course, not the first work of fiction to suggest that very concept of an alternative timeline in the story of Jesus. A few decades before opposition seemed to be officially launched against Dan Brown, the film adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’ The Last Temptation of Christ stimulated a similar fever pitch of hysteria at the very idea of a sexually active Jesus. A very fictional idea. Those launching organized protests against The Last Temptation of Christ and creating densely layered websites citing “historical inaccuracies” in The Da Vinci Code shared two very important things. One, the level of anger aimed toward the two works of fiction was entirely out of proportion to any evidence of malicious intent on the part of the creators. And two, they both seemed to fail to realize that they were investing that anger toward a work of fiction.
The background story of The Da Vinci Code is certainly one of the most fascinating and bizarre of any novel in recent history. Quite literally, millions of words have been published in an effort to debunk the story that Dan Brown tells in his novel If the full dimension of that statement has failed to make the impact it should, try restating it by replacing Dan Brown’s name with Stephen King…or Ray Bradbury…or Dr. Seuss, for that matter.