Thursday, March 03, 2011

Movies Are To Film As Pulp Fiction Is To Literature

I apologize for the couplet-title. I'm studying for the Miller Analogy Test and I'm thinking in analogous phrases.

In junior high my best friend was a Mafiaphile. While other young women (aka, me) fantasized about being a Bennet girl or at least living in 18th century England, Kate imagined the romance of being a Corleon matriarch. She also dragged me through the shadowy underground of R-rated movies. Growing up in white-bread Utah, I didn't realize that said shadowy underground mostly exists in minds of members of the Church, and that to other people such a rating didn't particularly influence movie-watching choices. Especially R-rated movies circa the 1980's. As Kate and I made our way each weekend through another gangster movie, I felt delightfully rebellious. And though my Italy-fever never reached my friend's near-obsession, I actually really enjoyed all of the contra-band.

Kate and I didn't stay BFF's. (I guess the label is misnomer.) My new peer group was very anti R-rated movies and, at the time, the Church issued the first edition of its youth pamphlet titled, "For the Strength of Youth" which carried a firm warning against viewing any movie rated R. The line in the sand was more than enough for me and some years passed without me watching any others.

Enter The Mistake. Despite his church-ish demeanor (at least around me), he had few qualms about such viewing. When I had been home from my mission just a month we had already seen Air Force One (actually cool and thought provoking), The Full Monty (hilarious) and The Rock (wrong on nearly every level). The irony, of course, is that of all the movies we saw together (what else did we do, after all?) the trashiest two were both rated PG-13. The first Austin Powers, during which I ultimately had to leave the room; and Titanic. Okay, okay, there are some awesome things about Titanic, but I thought it was highly overrated and plenty heavy on the Tit. Though I'm sure The Mistake was thinking about how artistic Kate Winslet was as she disrobed for her paramour.

Yes, yes, "trashy" is a relative word and certainly in the eye of the beholder. The other strange thing, to me, is that in Australia there is no "R" rating. Most movies in the US that get a PG-13 OR and R rating are labeled "M" for mature in Oz. Every member of the Church I knew went to a wide variety of "M" movies, several of which I knew to be rated "R"in the US. Oooo. . . .even "good" members of the Church.

Not long after returning from my mission, the Church issued a second edition of the Strength of Youth booklet, counseling specifically ONLY against pornography. The header scripture for the section is an excerpt from the 13th Article of Faith, "If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things." The new emphasis on the section is on the dangers of immersing yourself in media of any type that causes of a loss of the Spirit. And that is pretty much it.

There are a variety of opinions on this: some say that the standard is therefore stricter than ever. That there are plenty of even PG rated movies that can't make the cut here, and virtually none of the other movies with their seedier ratings are appropriate, just by virtue of all that can be allowed in movies that have those ratings. Others have gone just the opposite and say that now it doesn't matter what we watch, and that we should just exercise a particle of caution. My own view is more in the middle, though I've definitely gone to the side of more caution and with a reversion to the standard from my teenage yars.

In our married life, Plantboy and I have only rented R-rated movies on two ocassions. One was not a bad movie at all (and I'm still a little confused about the rating); the other was a bloodbath predicated by characters with bloodlust and covered with loads of bloody blood after most scenes. With Mel Gibson. I guess that image should be pretty clear.

We have never paid to go to the theatre to see one; though, admittedly, I've seen plenty of PG-13 and even PG movies that could not pass the 13th Article of Faith Litmus Test.

So it is with the background that I stood in line to buy tickets for The King's Speech last Friday night. I felt anxious. Naughty. Like a 14 year old boy trying to sneak into a porn film . . .

Okay, maybe not THAT bad, but I don't think I've ever paid, personally to see an over-17. The young man behind the counter hesitated, ever so briefly, when I told him what I wanted. No doubt, he was waiting for his computer screen to tell him that, yes, there were still seats available, but I thought he was going to ask for my ID, though I blow past the over 17 thing by more than double. He stared at me lazily, his mood clearly out of step with my shaking hands.

We are so conditioned.

The King's Speech is a movie about loyalty, bravery, war, true love, patriotism, friendship, family, overcoming, suffering . . . Along with such grand themes, every other aspect of what makes film making (and literature) interesting is also present--brilliant juxtaposition, careful characterization, mood and pacing. From the opening minute, you feel such an intense connection to the main character (it IS Mr. Darcy, after all), that you already begin rooting for him. The humanity of this story is truly remarkable.

The film is praising of virtue. It is Lovely. Of good report. Praiseworthy. I came away uplifted, and with a greater conviction to treat others with kindness, to understand their story. Do not miss this film, but seek after this thing as soon as you have opportunity.

So, in other news, I've been very busy. (And I don't just mean breaking commandments that don't actually exist.) I've discovered the graduate program I want to be a part of and am working on my application. My friend and I backed away from running the BIG race because we couldn't get enough support, but we are running a half-marathon at the end of July and I'm making a rather weak effort to train for that. Plantboy was in charge of last weekend's ward party; and, of course, that meant we were co-chairs. Church in general has kept us ridiculously busy. The novel-writing is progressing: slowly but surely. I have maybe 30 pages left to finish a 300 page manuscript. At that point, that is where YOU will come in. I will definitely be soliciting readers. I'm making my six year old a blanket out of granny squares.

Oh, and I un-closeted myself as a registered Democrat the other day on Facebook which generated a very interesting discussion with 65 comments. No, not all of them were mine. Sheesh, if I had that much to say I would just start a blog where I spend an unhealthy amount of time writing/thinking/discussing politics and religion. . . . wait a minute . . .


heidikins said...

I absolutely loved The King's Speech. I think it's something that everyone should see, in its entirety. But then apparently I'm also part-heathen, so there's that. ;)


Melanie said...

Interesting. I have a friend who maintains that no prophet has ever explicitly said that we should not watch R rated movies. But I knew I'd seen it spelled out somewhere; the previous version of The Strength of the Youth was the current pamphlet when I was in YW, so that explains the mystery.

I know why The King's Speech is rated R, and I've heard that it will be re-edited and re-released as a PG-13 movie. The article I read made it sound like they'll just cut the sound of the word, but I'm sure it will still be very clear what word is being used, so I'm not sure how much of a difference it will make. That being said, I'd really love to see this movie but I'll probably only do so as a PG-13 movie.

I also totally agree that many PG-13 movies (and even some PG) movies are pretty inappropriate. . .which is why I prefer period romances (not that those are necessarily free of the sex scenes).

Sherry said...

I had a chat with the most movie-loving friend I have yesterday. He expressed his dismay that so many LDS people will not see The King's Speech when it is has so many themes and messages that LDS people would actually appreciate. We have a ClearPlay and a NetFlix subscription, and if it weren't for that, we'd probably see the film. But we just don't go out to see movies. Even more now that we have a baby.

Courtney said...

This movie has been on my to-see list so maybe with your added recommendation I will actually get out to see it.

Science Teacher Mommy said...

I searched the topic "R-rated movies" on through general conference and only came back with the following list:

No prophet or apostle weighing in with that kind of specificity over the pulpit with at least a cursory search. Anybody have anything else to add?

Loradona said...

Thank you so much for posting this! I have been dying to go see it, and I have been trying to find the time to do so, while also battling my ingrained "fear" of the R rating.
Oh, and thanks for outing yourself as a democrat. I need more people to stand with!

Amy said...

I know lots of LDS friends and family who have or will see King's Speech. Some of them were also big proponents of other must see-can't miss-will change your life R rated movies like The Passion of the Christ, Schindler's list, etc.

And I have no problem with that. And I honestly don't care what other people watch. It's their agency, their lives. But I did hate having my father and others tell me that I should see the above mentioned movies, that they were life changing, uplifting and testimony building even. I even had one man on an airplane tell me that I couldn't be much of a Christian if I wasn't going to see Passion of the Christ.

I felt like they were working harder to convince me that they weren't wrong for seeing it, and that by me watching as well then they would be vindicated in that choice. Maybe not. Or maybe I come across more judgmental than I mean to. I hope not, because I have enough imperfections to work on without worrying about other people's faults.

I guess my point is (I do have one, really:) that if people want to watch an R rated movie or every PG-13 movie under the sun, then great! But I don't understand the desire to get me to change my mind with insinuations that people who won't watch King's speech, or other movies, are conditioned, prudish, or following an imaginary commandment. I just make decisions for myself and my family based on what I feel best about, as do we all, I'm sure.

This is all said in my nice, happy voice, by the way. You seem strong and secure enough to handle a dissenting opinion, that's why I felt safe to share my real feelings:)

Science Teacher Mommy said...

Well said, Amy. I guess my point was more that there are many ways to be uplifted, and that we have to be careful about throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

When it comes to it, "life changing" is a pretty bold statement. Perhaps the most we can really say is "perspective enhancing!" And even at that, it certainly isn't right for me (or anyone else) to imply that a certain media product is the ONLY way to produce such changes, or enhancement, if such is even necessary.

And my remark about being conditioned was probably mostly me poking fun at my behavior regarding a decision with which I really felt okay. I think that when we think about the letter rating system, it is important to remember that the system cannot actually reflect what LDS people actually value, as the system (and most of the products it judges) is not made by anybody with prophetic insight.

My idea here was to try to spark a letter of the law/spirit of the law discussion, though I think my post on the Sabbath Day from a few weeks back already addressed a lot of that.

Science Teacher Mommy said...

And your remark about "imaginary commandments" is well-taken. But I do think it works both ways. We also have to be careful that we aren't perpetuating as gospel what prophets and apostles have said if it wasn't given as general counsel to the Church; and we have to be careful about misquoting or using their quotes in light of our own pre-conceptions. I think this is why people outside (and, heck, even inside) the Church are sometimes not clear on our doctrine. So do Mormons drink caffeine, or what?? :)

And while I'm vaguely on the topic . . .The other one that bothers me is the quoting scriptures that don't actually exist. My favorite, that you get about once a month in Sunday School is, "It is like when the Savior said that it wouldn't be easy, but it was worth it, you know?" GRRRR . . . .

The new FTSOY guidelines seek to make Church members more responsible for keeping the spirit in their own lives, and to broaden the standard to a worldwide Church. This line will therefore be different for every person and family. Which is the very reason that it is so hard to create a ward book group that doesn't offend/ostracize or create cliques.

Amy said...

Thanks for such a thoughtful reply!

I feel that who we are as people, as members of the church, as children of God, is shaped in so many different ways. So an understanding that we aren't all going to make the same decisions, yet have equal chances at returning to live with Heavenly Father, is very comforting to me.

And I have to have faith that the atonement makes up for so much, otherwise the one time I managed to read my scriptures in the last 3 weeks isn't really going to make up for all of my shortcomings! ha ha