I watched a Gilmore Girls rerun (original air date: January 20, 2004) with my wife tonight. GG is no Northern Exposure, of course. But it is (perhaps was before the present season) good for consistently clever dialog. The following is certainly not the first GG reference to Mormonism. But, as a Mormon blogger, it is my favorite by far:
Tobin: I moved to Utah because I heard there was lots of job opportunities for industrious Mormons.
Loralei: I didn’t know you were a Mormon.
Tobin: I wasn’t, so I became one. The paperwork took weeks. And I didn’t know about the alcohol thing.
Loralei: They famously abstain.
Tobin: No coffee either. The choir is fabulous, but then there’s the funny underwear. It didn’t last.
* * *
Tobin: I found some websites I’d like to recommend to you, Loralei. I spent a lot of time online when I was a Mormon. There wasn’t much else to do.
I am not entirely comfortable with the underwear quip. The temple is sacred to me. Yet now we live in the Can Mitt Romney Overcome the Mormon Thing? world. Every journalist in America has or will pose that question, cite the same lame polls, and observe ominously that (1) the Republican base considers us heretical-cult-freaks, and (2) pretty much everybody considers us strange. And that’s not all. In recent months, a ubiquitous blogger dedicated an entire week to smirking at us. And Slate, The New Republic, and Tobias have called Mormons stupid, lazy, and/or dangerous. As long as Romney remains a contender, I expect more strong opinions on Mormons that are blissfully (or willfully) unencumbered by understanding.
All of this attention is somewhat awkward. Mormons (since roughly Utah sought statehood?) have strived to be PR-savvy paragons of wholesome respectability. It is a little unnerving to be reminded of why such efforts are considered necessary. Yet there is something exciting about the attention too. While we want people to think well of us, we should probably appreciate people thinking of us at all. Long term, I believe that the attention–and particularly the emphasis on Mormon distinctiveness–will be a good thing. Mormons will answer the questions raised. Others’ fascination or amusement in things we consider sacred will no longer shock us or make us feel ashamed. Thoughtful observers will see glib commentary and bigoted attacks for what they are. Such people may never join us, but they will see us as human.
The attention will also be good for Mormon art and culture. As understanding of Mormons and our peculiarities increases, stories populated by Mormon characters will become more comprehensible to general audiences. Hopefully such stories will become more appealing too. That’s not too much to hope for now, is it?