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From the People Who Brought You Proposition 8 [Nov. 22nd, 2008|09:52 am]
Okrzyki, przyjaciel!
'Twilight' seen as a crypto-Mormon morality play

I'm not in the target demo for 'Twilight,' and have not given it any thought, beyond thinking that a teen vampire movie would do well in theatres. This article talks about the book series and the movie and the connection between the author's Mormon faith and the moral universe of her books. She even namechecks Orson Scott Card, the OTHER LDS auther who's gone more or less mainstream.

Interesting how her criticism of the 'Twilight' series parallels my objection to Card's writing. The barely veiled misogyny and careless cruelty of Card gets played out again, this time targeted at young girls. Hurray?

Mormons, of course, eat this shit up. It is their proudest moment when one of their own gets some mainstream credibility without 'forsaking their LDS values.' They definitely see 'art' like Card and Meyer's as promoting the Mormon church, if only subliminally.

As someone with Mormon family, who actually attended BYU despite rejecting the church at 14 (long story), I have my own, perhaps jaundiced, perspective, namely: Nearly all art made by Mormons is shit. Stuff like Card & Meyer's books is marketable shit, but shit nonetheless.

The reason for this is that capital A art requires intellectual and emotional freedom, and a willingness to transgress. You're not required to be a drug-addicted sexual deviant, but you have to at least be able to think about the entirety of human experience without squeezing it through an inflexible moral bench vice.

To the Mormon Church, those attributes are the enemy. There is no 'reform' wing in the LDS Church, there is the 'excommunicated wing' of the LDS Church. In the religion class I cheated my way through at BYU during my year there, one of the church Elders wrote in our curriculum that there was no way to be 'liberal' and a good Mormon. What you say, what you do, which soft drinks you drink, it's all dictated from the top in a strict moral and behavioral hierarchy.

Anyone trying to take their art seriously has two choices: leave, or stay and make sure their art fits well within the bounds of that moral universe. The LDS Church promotes a giant category error with respect to art: Anything that does not depict virtue and promote the church's value is to be abhorred. Depiction is the same as commission.

This is hugely damaging to art, because art needs to be able to disturb. Art succeeds when it finds beauty in the ugly and disturbing. Art fails when it does nothing but attempt to promote virtue. Art fails when all it achieves is 'pretty.'

Do I sound bitter? I am bitter. I spent my most impressionable years in a church whose teachings were emotionally abusive. When I was young, I had nightmares about being cast, as the LDS catchphrase goes, into the outer darkness. The LDS Church is just a cult with staying power. It's Scientology, with funny underwear. And while I read "Ender's Game" when it came out, I refuse to give even a penny to Card ever again. That goes double for Stephanie Meyer.

[User Picture]From: colorless_pixel
2008-11-22 04:46 pm (UTC)
um, ok. I read the books and yes they are juvenile and got down right silly. But I didn't catch the Mormon vibe at all. Vampires? werewolves? Mormons? Did you scoff at the movie napoleon dynamite as well? Apparently that also was oozing with Mormon morality because it was made by Mormons. I guess I don't get what the big deal is? Who got harmed here?
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[User Picture]From: chaircrusher
2008-11-22 06:12 pm (UTC)
I liked "Napoleon Dynamite" and even "Nacho Libre" precisely because Jared Hess chooses not to follow Mormon themes. He's not going to put salty language or sex in his movies, partly because of his Mormon upbringing, but at the same time it seems a more genuine aesthetic choice than I see in a lot of 'art' made by Mormons.

I haven't read the vampire books, you'll have to read the IO9 essay and decide if you think it fits.

I don't hate Mormons -- they're half my family after all. It's not Mormons I don't like, it's the fascists that run the church. The church hierarchy is really a tax free business empire that practices it's own stealth diplomacy around the world.
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[User Picture]From: chaircrusher
2008-11-22 06:17 pm (UTC)
I can't comment directly on the particular family about which you write. But I can say that there are a lot of LDS housewives who suffer from the oppression of their husbands and the church. Like a lot of evangelicals, they distrust psychiatry, and think people who are unhappy are just weak-willed and unwilling to pray sufficiently.

And like any other group it's full of good-hearted, honest, sincere people doing the best they can within the framework they find themselves in. Unfortunately, the patriarchal domineering church hierarchy is also the sort of organization in which sociopathic control freaks can rise, so long as they say the right things and maintain appearances.
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From: joeker
2008-11-22 05:33 pm (UTC)
Interesting. Never once in reading all of the Ender series did I get the feeling of careless cruelty. Maybe it's due to not having been exposed to Mormons until my mid 20's and then only have met a small handful. I never checked out any of his other books besides the Ender series though. I still read them regularly.
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[User Picture]From: chaircrusher
2008-11-22 06:07 pm (UTC)
I realized after reading several Ender books that Card makes his characters suffer in ways that seemed to me an almost sexually prurient way. I stopped reading them for this reason before I found out he was a Mormon, and more than that, a profoundly orthodox Mormon, who worked for years at various magazines put out by the Church. The fact that he wrote for those magazines, which I was forced to read, and found the purest torture, sealed the deal for me. Plus, he's a right wing schmuck in his secular non-fiction writing.
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From: joeker
2008-11-22 06:27 pm (UTC)
I can see that. I went and googled other critiques of his writing and checked out his bio and political leanings. He's definitely got many contrary opinions to my own....
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From: elkay
2008-11-24 10:52 am (UTC)
The 'new' version of the Ender books have a seriously misogynistic streak. The irony is that it's dressed up as something much better than it is.

I will read him as trash, but I don't pretend it's anything more than that. I know what you mean about not wanting to give him any money.
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[User Picture]From: alicetiara
2008-11-22 06:25 pm (UTC)
I agree with this 100%. I find Twilight absolutely abhorrent in terms of sexual/gender politics, conservative and repressed and fetishizing patriarchy in a way I cannot handle even in a "so bad it's good" way.

One of my LJ friends wrote a fabulous zine called "I Was a Teenage Mormon" about her experience in LDS, and I learned a lot from it. She left the church after taking a religion class her first year of college where she realized that the assignments she was given were heresy to the church- and why would any church want to forbid free thought.
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[User Picture]From: chaircrusher
2008-11-25 03:25 am (UTC)
Mormonism is a Christian Religion but their doctrine adds a layer of shenanigans on top of core Christian theology. Oh, and they're sure they're the one true religion.

Anyway, I was linking to the article about Stephanie Meyer's books that argued that there was a Mormon subtext to it. Then I was spewing some of my own venom at the Church for giving me nightmares when I was a kid. Trust me on this: The LDS Church is a lot like being Lutheran, except with a lot more boring and a lot more shut the fuck up.
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