Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Not a lot of Big Love going around...

Sure enough, cranky Carly is back again! It wasn't long at all, was it?
Anyway, special thanks to Snarky Belle (who is honestly the provider of most of my news these days), to bringing my attention to the Big Love fiasco. I'm not going to pretend I'm capable of doing a better job summing it up or stating my viewpoint than she did, so I'll just direct you all to her post .
When you are done there, come back and check out what I would add.
Am I outraged by HBO's decision to show what I deem most sacred on a TV show just for kicks and ratings? You bet. After the initial "I hate Hollywood!!!" ravings started to slow, I was able to think about a few things rationally and while I'm still frustrated, my viewpoint has taken a few shifts. Initially I was upset because it is so insensitive to show things of a sacred nature on any TV show and "how dare they?" As I thought about it, however, I started to think about all the religious ceremonies that are shown on TV or in the movies today. I've seen depictions of what are supposedly, (considering how inaccurate they are when displaying my religion, I won't pretend others are accurate either) Bar Mitzvah, a Jewish Bris, and the Jewish naming ceremony for baby girls (whose name I don't even know, but it was shown on House a few episodes ago). Catholic confession and mass is shown on a near-daily basis, even consistently parodied. For case in point, watch 30-Rock. Non-denominational Christian sermons are shown, crime shows (like Law and Order:SVU) just love to make Pastors and their families into the bad guy--what a twist, the pastor is our rapist!!! The producers of House love using Nuns and Priests as patients so house can prove what they thought were "miracles" was actually some little known disease symptom. Just last night, Criminal Minds was about a priest who murders people during exorcisms. Lisa Simpson became a Buddist, a few years back, and several years ago (like over a decade ago) on The Simpsons, the Flanders tried to baptize the Simpson kids when they discovered they weren't baptized in infancy. Additionally, the Simpsons regularly attend the Church of Springfield run by Rev. Lovejoy, where various aspects of Christian life are parodied. Basically, religious rites and attitudes are everywhere in entertainment, and rarely are they handled with much respect and dignity.

Now, what I'm not sure of is if this is always wrong or not, and I still do love a lot of these shows (some I don't watch regularly, but have seen the above examples). I honestly never thought much about any of these things as being truly offensive, but that might be simply because the things they show are not sacred to me and therefore off my radar. What I don't know, however, is how the respective church members and leadership feel about these depictions. I must admit to laughing my butt off when Homer Simpson opened the front door, and upon finding the aliens Kang and Kodos standing there, he sighs "Oh, great. MORMONS!!" Freaking hilarious. I can take a satiric barb as a member of the church, and I think there's a place to laugh at our own culture. It doesn't bother me at all when Mormons are portrayed as nosy, self-righteous, or uptight, or when outsiders hold a magnifying glass to our beliefs. We are people after all, and those terms do describe a lot of us (like it or not). I am not aware of any outcry from other religions that their rites and ceremonies were too sacred to be depicted, and if (and only if) they don't mind, I am ok with Hollywood doing what it does. Therefore, I have to concede that in a world where little is sacred and there has been no outcry over what it has done in the past, I do not condemn the producers of Big Love for not understanding what sacred even means. It's really quite possible it's never come up before this show.

However, the second church leaders informed them of the sacred nature of these ceremonies and their importance to the members of the church worldwide, they should have stopped out of respect for religious leaders. I may not be Catholic, but as my mother and I recently discussed, upon meeting the Pope I would give him all due reverence and respect--even though he is not my religious leader I understand that he is to many people I love and respect. If any other religion asked a show not to depict their rites in the show, I would support them wholeheartedly and join their cause. In fact, if I were to find out that my Catholic or Jewish friends were offended by a show built around mocking and misrepresenting their beliefs, I would stop watching it simply out of respect for them. That's not just lip service, I'm a big believer in justice for all. That's where my anger and offense comes from, not that the producers of Big Love would think nothing of showing a temple ceremony in the first place, but that they would fly in the face of a world religious leader, and 12 million people worldwide asking them not to and show it anyway. I don't think they would show that kind of disrespect to other world religions, if only to not risk alienating that large a chunk of the viewing public. Further, the fact that when the show first started they promised the church not to show these things, but after all this Prop 8 kerfuffle with Tom Hanks, it seems the producers are taking off the gloves and taking pot shots at a world religion. Classy, really, guys. It looks like you're being sore losers with the timing of all of this. Losers being the operative word.
So, considering my new found understanding of Hollywood's lack of understanding, I was finally able to craft a response that I believe took into accounts all sides and properly channeled my anger to the disrespect they have shown, and not the lack of judgement they may not have realized they were showing initially.
You can read my email here if you would like. If you want to send your own, Snarky has posted the link at the end of her post!

Dear HBO,
I must admit I am surprised and saddened by your decision to depict an LDS temple ceremony in your show Big Love. Although you may not have realized this to be offensive when the idea came forth (after all, so little in this world or any religion is truly considered sacred anymore so I understand the confusion), surely, once you were informed by church leadership that this was discouraged, you should have stopped in your plans immediately. To me, it is a matter of respect to the religions of the world an those that practice them to respect the members wishes. If the Catholic church were to ask you not to show a sacred rite on the show, I would hope you would show them the same courtesy and fight for their dignity--as well as any other religion out there, Christian or otherwise. It speaks volumes of your producers and network that you would mistreat any religious leaders and show such disregard for their wishes. In this diverse world, I do not believe there is ever a valid reason for intentional offense of others. There is certainly enough unintentional offense to go around, and no reason to add to the anger, intolerance, and misunderstanding in the world. This is obviously a very sacred rite for the members of the LDS church and close to our hearts, please refrain from vindictiveness and disrespect. It is especially suspect that the decision to air this ritual it seems to come specifically on the heels of ill-informed and rude comments on the part of one of your producers (Tom Hanks) and truly seems to be used as a way to "punish" those who do not share your producers political views by exposing what LDS people hold most sacred. If that is indeed the case (and of course, only you would know) I am even more saddened by the juvenile use of retribution and intolerance.
Please do not show this ceremony and illustrate to the world that there is still respect for the sacred in the entertainment industry.
Thank you!


Alison said...

It's a tricky situation. On one hand, making a big deal about it is perhaps exactly what the media wants members of the Church to do. That will bring more attention to their show after all. On the other hand, it's just not cool! I think the important thing to remember is that even if these things are portrayed on television, it does not change how I feel about the temple and it does not change the trueness of the gospel.

The church has a great press release of sorts out on all of this, have you read it?

Natalie said...

Way to go Carly! A wonderful, well- thought out and presented response. Love you girl!

Kym said...

I love the South Park clip about "the mormons" being the right answer. At least someone got it right. J/K. Hee, hee, hee...

Chino Blanco said...

Tom Hanks puts this brouhaha into perspective (and waxes prophetic) at the 3rd season premiere of Big Love:

"There's gonna be lies, and secrets, and discoveries, and problems. Television!"