Does so-called “Mormon Cinema” making a bid for mainstream acceptance make anyone else feel uneasy?
I like going to Apple’s movie trailer page every week or so to see the latest round of trailers for upcoming films. A month or two ago I came across the trailer for a film called “One Good Man.” I had never heard of it, so I began to watch the trailer. It became apparent fairly quickly that this was a film about Mormons. I felt the uneasiness I often feel when something like this comes around, watching to see if it was pro-Mormon, anti-Mormon, or in-between. It appears, in fact, to be a new entry into the burgeoning genre of “Mormon Cinema”. (Or as it’s unfortunately known by some colloquially: “Mollywood”.)
Am I the only one who cringes a little at these things? I’m nervous when anyone attempts to encapsulate and sell the “Latter-Day Saint Experience”, especially if it’s being marketed to the world at large.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to the idea of a film that can demystify Latter-Day Saint beliefs, or send the message that we’re a lot more normal than most people give us credit for. That’s good. But I didn’t elect these people to do it. I didn’t get to vet their message, or approve their interpretation of how Mormons live. I know I don’t have any right to complain, but if I’m going to be judged by a non-Mormon based on what they’ve seen in this film, I have some kind of stake in it. People who don’t know anything about Mormons, but who happen to see this film may have their entire opinion about our beliefs and culture informed by it. I know this scenario is unlikely, but hypothetically speaking, if the film defies all odds and becomes a monster indie hit, (stranger things have happened) the ramifications of its success and (more importantly) its message would affect me personally in my daily interactions.
Again, I’m not (really) complaining, and I’m not even suggesting that the film is without merit. I’m just saying that when something like this comes along, I get a little uneasy. Like the first time you saw the trailer for Big Love. Whenever Mormons come up in mainstream popular culture, I just cross my fingers and hope they get it right. They frequently do not. I’m all for Mormons making films; it’s a shame so many of them are terrible and embarrassing, but the instinct is sound. I just get nervous, that’s all.
(Maybe this post would be better on the MormonFray.com site, but since I don’t really deal with “Mormon Cinema” on that blog per se, it’s probably better here.)