Big Love to Show Temple Ceremony

Big Love, the HBO drama about a polygamous family living in Sandy, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City, is rumoured to be airing an episode next week (15 March) that will feature scenes and events from the mainstream LDS Temple ceremony.

“We researched it out the wazoo,” says [executive producer Mark] Olsen, who along with executive producer Will Scheffer hired an ex-Mormon consultant to help the set and wardrobe designers re-create even the tiniest details. “We go into the endowment room and the celestial room [areas of the temple], and we present what happens in those ceremonies. That’s never been shown on television before,” says Olsen. Adds Scheffer, “But it’s not for shock value. It’s really a very important part of the story.”

The church has issued a response to the unwelcome publicity stating basically that no official protest against the show will be forthcoming but that members are free to boycott as they see fit.

As someone that watches the show regularly, I am surprised by the move, since the show doesn’t really centre itself on mainstream beliefs and the temple ceremony can’t possibly be necessary as “a very important part of the story”—it’s quite the publicity stunt.

Previously

Movies and Chastity

I visited a different ward last Sunday while on vacation. The elders quorum lesson was on the law of chastity. The discussion quickly turned to the portrayal of chastity (or the lack of it ) in popular media, specifically movies. Three points that were brought up that I felt needed addressing were as follows:

1. The implication that morality = sexual purity
2. The virtues of CleanFlicks
3. The importance of avoiding R-rated movies

I addressed each of them as follows.

1. Morality is not synonymous with sexual purity. Likewise immorality is not synonymous with sexual impurity. Morality by definition is a system of right and wrong. Morality encompasses not only sexual purity, but also modesty, honesty, humility, charity, and an entire spectrum of virtues.

2. CleanFlicks is hypocrisy. First, someone has to watch the videos to edit them. Is it better for us to let some stranger to view objectionable material for us? Secondly, and more importantly, buying CleanFlicks videos supports Hollywood. In order for you to purchase the edited DVD, someone has to purchase an original, thus providing economic incentive for Hollywood film creators to continue producing the sort of content the buyers find objectionable.

3. The rating system is flawed. Not to mention the fact that every country has a different rating system. What may be R in the US, may be a PG in Canada. Each rating is assigned by a third-party panel. Their decision is based on the organisations standards at best and their own biases at worst. It is far better for us to take responsibility for what we watch. We live in a time when all information on a film is available to us beforehand to make the decision whether we find material in a movie objectionable. I find it plain lazy when people blindly choose their film watching activities based on a secular body instead of making an informed decision on their own.

Big Love

An email is circulating among LDS circles regarding the HBO series, Big Love. The email is typical social action stuff (i.e. write to the station, complain about the show, take a stand, yadda, yadda, yadda).

A couple of points are made in the letter I thought I would briefly comment on here:

Parodies of beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints occur- belief in priesthood by a man blessing his hunting rifle, belief in personal revelation from the Holy Ghost by dramatic visions that the polygamous leader discusses casually with a friend. Talk of “celestial kingdom”, “free agency”, and the “Choose the Right” slogan are included.

Other than perhaps the “Choose The Right” slogan ( I am not familiar with the context with which its usage appeared on the show), none of the above is specific to only the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Big Love. . . demeans and distorts sacred beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. By setting the show in Salt Lake City, it blurs the line between the Church and the long renounced practice of polygamy.

Right. Because no other Mormon denominations or followers exist in Salt Lake City. Even so, I wish the originator of this email would explain exactly how it is demeaning and distorting. Is it because they are sexualising polygamy (implied by the earlier statement that it is a “sexually driven show”)? Seems odd then that a sacred belief (if they are indeed referring to polygamy) would be long renounced, or that a long renounced belief would be sacred. After all, I thought polygamy was a practice.

Worthless TV

In response to the recent HBO film Big Love, the Church issued a statement that said, in part, the following:

Big Love, like so much other television programming, is essentially lazy and indulgent entertainment that does nothing for our society and will never nourish great minds. Parents who are casual about their viewing habits ought not to be surprised if teaching moral choices and civic values to their children becomes harder as a result.

Should we avoid worthless television programming?

Rated R

I once had a discussion with someone a couple of years ago about the movie The Breakfast Club. This individual stated that the film was rated R and I did not believe it. I could have sworn it was rated lower. So I did a bit of sleuthing and I discovered something interesting. This individual was correct: it was rated R. The thing is though that the R rating was a US rating; in Canada, it was rated PG-13.

This brought up an interesting conversation: when the Brethren state that we should not watch R-rated films, are they referring to US ratings, or are they referring to the ratings of the films where one lives? Should I have based my decision to watch The Breakfast Club on the US system (where the general authorities live), or should I have based it on my local rating system?

Perhaps this is something the brethren recognised, and that is why we rarely hear this specific counsel anymore.

Which actually brings up something else. What about films that were originally R-rated, but have been edited to remove objectionable content? While it may be true that one would be following the letter of the law in not watching an R-rated film per se, it is also true that at some point the R-rated film had to be purchased. In one sense, such an individual would still be supporting R-rated movies.

Five Years and Mormon Cinema

March marks five years since Excel Entertainment released God?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s Army in limited theatres in the United States. Certainly in the past five years a lot has happened in the LDS film industry, but are we any better off? Has LDS film become respected?

When we saw Other Side of Heaven Charly in the theatre someone walked out as soon as the Mormon references emerged. Does that same sort of thing happen today? Are people going to see The Work and The Glory who are not Mormon?

Are we producing films simply for consumption, or are there though-provoking, well-written films being produced?

What is going to happen from now until March 2010?