Wm says: Hey look — it’s time for another guest post from Theric. Thanks, man. I was going to subject everyone to the playlist of insufferably indie-pop songs I write most of my fiction to.
In DavidEdelstein’s NPR review of the movie inspired by that ubiquitous book by “Brigham University graduate Stephenie Meyer,” he describes the movie as, in “its undercooked way . . . enjoyable” despite its “barely functional” script. But I’m less interested in his view of the movie’s merits.
Check out this:
The best thing in the film is Kristen Stewart [who plays the
female lead], and she’s better at conveying physical longing than any
of the actors playing vampires. She alone suggests how this series was
born, in the mind of a young Mormon girl who had to sublimate like mad
with thoughts of vampires. Duncan Lance Black, the screenwriter of the
gay-rights activist Harvey Milk biopic with Sean Penn opening next
week, is also a Mormon. With characters that veer between implosive
sexual repression and explosive sexual liberation, Mormons might well
be the new Catholics!
Although on A Motley Vision we have often spoken of becoming more like Catholics in the public eye, the fact is, we would much rather be Jews than Catholics. Being Catholic has more downsides than upsides — sure, you’re the default version of Christianity that everyone recognizes, but that means that everything from Nunsense to The Exorcist is necessarily a Catholic story. Jewish stories on the other hand bring to mind Fiddler on the Roof and Asher Lev — Jewish stories told by Jews. But Catholics? It’s open season on Catholics.
The two writers Edelstein mentions have Mormon heritage (and perhaps this is a good sign for our acceptance into the mainstream), but nationally recognized writing about Mormons (by Mormons and especially not) is only beginning. And we can’t count on being misrepresented by only beautiful art (e.g., Angels in America) or unseen art (eg, Miss Misery) either. Count on more South Park instead (rather literally, if Parker and Stone’s magic-underwear Broadway show comes to pass).
But if Mormons do become as popular a canvas for our nation’s writers and filmmakers as Catholics now are, what does that imply for Mormon artists?
[Note: I don’t think there is anything wrong in writing for an exclusively LDS audience. We need such writers and they perform a great service. Let me make that clear now before I try to convince you of the opposite point.]
As Mormons characters become more and more common in public media, the idea of “Mormon” will start evolving more quickly in the arts than through the lives of the Saints or the LDS newsroom or anything else. One huge movie with a bizarrely misinterpreted Mormon lead character will affect public perception more than all the ballyhooing we do on our respective blogs. We Mormon artists need to get out into the world and make a difference.
It would be easy to misinterpret me and suspect I’m suggesting we need to lock arms and present to the world a homogenized, vetted-and-approved image of Mormonism Proper, but please don’t because I’m not saying that at all.
For instance, I’m about a hundred pages into right now and its closest-thing to a vetted-and-improved Mormon is a lady who wears a Glock on her thigh (which Glock she has used, fatally, on humans), collects vibrators, and drops the f-bomb like it was ten-for-a-dollar at the Hy-Vee (on the bright side, she’s thirty-five and a virgin, so she does have that going for her). And you know what? I don’t mind Jovan’s representations of Mormons because they feel honest and real. The lapsed Mormons went through natural and believable and human processes in their lapsing; the sole active Mormon has her issues, sure, but she’s trying (and compromising) and she never ceases to be human while being a Mormon.
Outside Mormondom, we will continue to have writers who present us with a) human characters who aren’t recognizably Mormon and b) Mormon characters who aren’t recognizably human — and in greater and greater numbers. We can’t count on anyone other than ourselves to provide the world with characters who both human and Mormon.
This is our call.
This is out challenge.
Let’s accept it and get to work.