Rated R Movies and Mormons

Panel Discussion

Posted December 11th, 2016

Bob is joined by fellow Infants Randy, Jake, and Heather — plus special guest Logan — to discuss why Mormons tend to avoid Rated R movies, including fun side-track topics like degrading music, sabbath day observance, and violent video games.

Bob

Heather

Jake

Randy

  • Larry

    This is so weird. Music with drums? I grew up in Utah, my friends went on missions, and we never had qualms with watching movies, listening to music, or smoking and drinking for that matter. Different group of people I guess. I have played trombone in the chapel! Saxophone is not a brass instrument, by the way; it is a woodwind.

    • Huh. Can’t tell what you’re going for with this comment… Sure, there are plenty of people who live in Utah who also smoke and drink. And yeah, makes sense that those people would be the same ones that wouldn’t have qualms about way lesser stuff.

      It also makes sense that those people would be pretty out of touch with the core experience of growing up ultra Mormon and, I suppose, by extension might think of it as “so weird.” But it feels weirder that you can’t imagine that there might be Mormons in Utah who would take this stuff super seriously, lol.

      • Larry

        Sorry I was confusing. I meant it seems weird that people would take things so seriously that they would never watch an R-rated movie. I did grow up pretty active. Most of my friends who drank and smoked were active Mormons too. I just don’t seem to remember experiencing this “ultra” Mormon side of things. The podcast was great. Thanks!

        • Zooming out, yeah, I could see how relying on the rating system religiously could seem weird from a lot of perspectives. But again, your nonchalant use of “pretty active” combined with “most of my friends drink and smoke,” while maybe weird is the wrong word, you make it sound so common place. Where in Utah did you grow up? Perhaps I’m projecting too much, but I doubt it was in the Provo/Orem area.

          • Larry

            You’re right. It was Logan in the ’80s. I definitely knew people who would not have watched R-rated movies, but we watched one–a horror film–at a scout activity. There are lots of other stories too that would not jibe with “ultra” Mormonism, like finding a leader’s Penthouse magazine and smoking cigars, both at church/scout activities. Maybe it was the time or the place or maybe we were just in a particularly non-strict ward. I don’t know.

  • Bill

    When my dad was the bishop in the 80’s we went as a family to see Airplane. Some of his youth from the ward were sitting in front of us and he almost injured himself trying not to laugh out loud and the raunchy parts! He thought the movie was great but certainly could not let that be known to the youth!

  • Interesting and spirited discussion on a topic that hits home for me. I always had issues with the LDS prohibition on content that was deemed improper— especially movies and music. Guess that was a sign that I was headed for apostasy.

    I totally can see the value of creating appropriateness standards based on a child’s age and was fine keeping my kids away from certain content before they became teens but the LDS tendency to take these standards into adulthood is crazy to me…but then so is the whole arrested development approach many Mormons embrace.

    I have to admit too that I’m a little bugged with the whole clean flicks approach. Editing someone’s art to meet another’s view of what is acceptable or not is a little troubling. Clearly great movies can be ‘clean’ and some stories clearly are made better by showing sex, violence etc…but that decision though is up those creating the art— not vidangel. Those who don’t agree should vote with their remote or their dollars IMO.

    And 10 points from Heather for suggesting any edit, however minor, to Eternal Sunshine is OK. That move is great.

  • Jason Anderson

    I absolutely agree with Randy that the leadership of the LDS Church use the rated R movie ban to keep the core membership ignorant.
    I have long felt the the R rating rule was not just to keep members from seeing nakedness, and to a much lesser extent, extreme violence, but it was instituted to hide depictions of the real world from them as well.

    • Travis Gower

      What I was thinking as Randy was making his argument was that yes, church authorities would rather have members be ignorant to these gruesome, serious evils in the world, because it could make the members realize that the church’s “moral” priorities are shockingly petty and irrelevant.

      It might be harder for Mormons to give a damn (and a tenth of their income) about gay marriage, consensual sex, masturbation, coffee, tea, alcohol, and rated-R movies… if they are aware, in detail, of everyday atrocities like sex trafficking and child soldiers, among many other actual moral problems in the world.

  • Susan Mowers

    Just to let you know – my parents’ ward has a couple that is in the local Philharmonic that plays their brass instruments several times a year (French Horn and Flugelhorn). I guess their ward is one of those crazy rebel wards. 😉

  • Susan Mowers

    And speaking of extremes in movies… my parents won’t watch any movie, even PG, that says “Jesus” or “Jesus Christ”. That REALLY limits movies let me tell you!

  • Duke of Earl Grey

    I don’t think the question of why violence is considered OK, but not nudity, got fully answered. I can’t say for sure, but if we are still coasting on attitudes that were established 100 years ago or more, back before WWI, in a time when boys were excited to get to go to war and prove they were men, I can’t imagine a little depiction of violence here and there being discouraged. And not everyone’s attitudes towards violence have changed in that 100 years.

    More than that, I always assumed parents (and church leaders) were just more concerned with thoughts and behaviors their children (or 5th grade level adult members) might emulate. So nudity and sexuality would be heavily discouraged because it would make people at least think sexual thoughts, and maybe act out sexually. Swear words would be discouraged because they can easily be parroted back. Violence though, while Heather’s studies claim causation/correlation with violent behavior, won’t be as likely to lead to the same action in real life. Everyone has, at some point, repeated a dirty word they heard somewhere; very few people who see a movie character get shot will end up shooting someone.

    • So sounds like what you’re saying is that you have a theory that puts violence as ok over the past 100 years as a result of Western war culture mixed with humans drawing better distinctions between appropriate/inappropriate behavior with violence (in movies vs. real life) as compared to what we’ve thought that could lead in terms of sex/language (more likely copycat behavior). Seems plausible.

  • Orrin Dayne

    Die Hard in the movie theatre was my first R too! (So awesome.) I was 16 at the time and was worried about being carded, but I and my friend, who was also a priest, got through. My friend’s little brother and friend, however, weren’t as lucky. They were forced to buy tickets for “Mac and Me” (an E.T. knock off) and tried to sneak into Die Hard, but were foiled by someone guarding the door to the theatre.

  • AnotherClosetAtheist

    I fall into the hypocrite-American camp too, and I don’t know why. I let my kids (youngest is 9) watch Deadpool. I have no problem letting them watch him put a sword through a man on a freeway and say ‘fuck’ 1000 times, but I skip the boobies and “Happy International Womens’ Day” scene.

    Why? Because murder The virtual rapists modify the game’s code to let them do things they otherwise couldn’t. They choose a naked or pantless man as their character, lock him to another player and play an animation that thrusts his pelvis back and forth.

    • Thanks for the clarification. I didn’t want to call out Randy on the spot because I wasn’t sure… But what I wish I would have said is that I played Grand Theft Auto 5 (the most recent one) all the way through. And while I didn’t play every side quest, it didn’t seem like rape was really any part of it. My point that was lost in the South Park troll reference (lol) is that most games make you go through effort / a conscious choice to do the really bad stuff (if it even exists in the game). But we sort of mischaracterized the whole setup by going with the erroneous rape angle, doh.

  • My problem is that I’ve gotten so jaded concerning Rated-R movies that I’m afraid to recommend movies to anyone. Nudity, “sexuality,” smoking, drug use, f-bombs, alternative lifestyles, all go right past me; I don’t even notice them anymore except as they fleetingly appear in the context of a particular movie. People ask me if I liked a movie and I say, “Yeah, I loved it,” without remembering or realizing that it had stuff in it that might send them screaming from the building with their hair on fire.

    I lent Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, one of my favorites, to a coworker at The Workplace of Tomorrow because he was taking his daughter to Australia for graduation and they were planning to go to Alice Springs and Ayers Rock and, of course, Sydney. I told him that they make really great films, and some really hilarious ones, in Australia and that this one depicted a number of the places they were going. What I hadn’t really forgotten but just wasn’t sensitive to was that the three protagonists in the film are two transvestites and a transsexual, there is romance between the transsexual and a straight guy and it is sprinkled throughout with non-family-friendly language and “adult” situations including a Filipina mail-order bride who does things with ping-pong balls that some people might consider unnatural. To me, the movie is hilarious, heart warming and life affirming, and all this “content” just zooms past as part of the story. Well the guy I lent it to brought the DVD back, set it down on my desk loudly and didn’t speak to me for a couple of months.

    So now I don’t recommend movies to anyone. I might say I liked a movie with the caveat that I like all kinds of weird shit that the Everybody-Loves-Raymond/Malcom-In-The-Middle crowd might find offensive or just not get. I nearly got punched out once for recommending a movie that had subtitles. This guy spent $16 to take his wife to a really cool Euro-flick that happened to be French, German and Dutch with subtitles. He was pissed. Subtitles are a non-issue for me and I don’t even remember which movies have them and which don’t. So no more. DO NOT go see movies I like; you’ll be disappointed if not downright disgusted.

    • Thomas Moore

      This reminded me of a humorous anecdote. About 3 yrs ago I went totally digital with all of my movies, so I decided to sell most of my DVDs at a rummage sale. Well this Mormon guy and his teen son came and started going through a couple. They weren’t checking the ratings, but were going by the covers. I could tell because they brought me Saturday’s Warrior, Where the Red Fern Grows and…”Latter Days” to buy. They were just going by the cover picture which shows a Mormon missionary. I had to warn them that “Latter Days” was not pro-Mormon; I wish I would of let them take it. I also wished the Mormons would watch “Dallas Buyers Club” etc… However; Now I’m learning that more and more Mormons are watching TV-MA and/or R rated movies because they don’t have to worry about a ward member catching them renting or buying at Block Buster or Walmart. More Mormons seem to have more of “Game of Thrones” memorized than I do.

      • I never thought about that. I guess nowadays you can watch whatever floats your boat with impunity. I met a friend of our family coming out of the “back room” at Blockbuster a few years ago and she was visibly flustered that I even knew she had been in the “back room.” I invoked the Golden Rule, of course, and said nothing to anyone, but that is such a non-issue now. There isn’t even a Blockbuster to be seen in anymore. Or a Hollywood or a Hastings.

  • Matthew A

    I was taught in seminary that violence in movies is not OK. I was taught that King David was denied the chance to build the temple because he had witnessed too much violence in his life, and his spirit was therefore damaged in some irreparable way that made him incapable of constructing the temple without tainting it somehow. “If David wasn’t allowed to build the temple because he had seen too much violence, why would we think it was OK to watch violent movies one night and then attend the sacred temple the next?”

  • aerin64

    -A discussion about the research into video games/violent video games would be a great Infants discussion. I have heard of the aggression studies that Heather referenced, Another piece of evidence is the drop in violent crime over the past 30 years. Violence in video games has proliferated, but actual violent crime has not.

    -I definitely remember being taught that seeing one rated r movie or listening to one evil song would drive out the spirit. At one point, I think I blamed my faith crisis on watching a rated r movie (I was young, and took things literally). While there are definitely things that can’t be unseen, I think the mormon focus on purity just leads to guilt and shame. There are ways to talk through this stuff with kids without terrifying them.

    -Finally (in this all over the place comment) I also disagree that men can’t rise in the leadership and watch rated r movies. They may not be able to be very open about it, but if they have been very successful in business, have a large mormon family (being related to General Authorities helps), devoted wife, etc. Just because someone is the most devout, doesn’t necessarily mean they will be the bishop/stake president (particularly outside of Utah/Arizona/Idaho. I always thought it was much more about appearances.

  • Tim

    My parents have always strictly avoided R-rated movies. Not long after the addition of the PG13 rating, they heard a talk where a general authority suggested that those movies should be avoided as well. Then there were the pre-PG13 movies that were “inappropriate”. I think it was just before my wedding that my parents let my then fiancee pick out a movie for us to watch — “Overboard” with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. It was tense in the room from the first scene when Goldie walked out in a bikini. A little swearing, a little innuendo, and they vocalized their disapproval and walked out. My fiancee felt shamed. We gave up watching anything but animated movies with them.

    Fast forward several years: I’m out as a non-believer, and my wife is a TBM. We visited my parents for Easter, and they insisted that everyone watch the church production, “The Lamb of God”. I winced at the graphic portrayal of Jesus’s torture and execution. Before the actual crucifixion scene, my youngest child got up and left the room crying. When my parents asked why, I told them the graphic imagery wasn’t appropriate for little children like him. They might have blown it off as an opportunist jab by their apostate son, but my TBM wife agreed that it was an awful movie for kids.

    I guess art in many forms can offend or inspire. It’s easy to dismiss others’ offenses, but it may be better to just accept that we all have differing moral sensitivities (thanks for the recommendation of “The Righteous Mind”, Glenn). But the church doesn’t teach that. They teach that, underneath it all, we all “know” what is “right” and “wrong” through the Holy Ghost and the Light of Christ.

  • Jared Sholar

    I’m not going to read thru all of these, so someone else may have already mentioned this. Randy, the move is TAKEN w/ Liam Neeson. Jake, when you were talking to Heather about repenting you had said “what were you…what were you…” I thought you were going to say “wearing”…that would have been perfect. Heather, it seems like ol’ Kent was able to trick you easily and often. How may times did you let him trick you with the line “just the tip”. Haha (trying to be funny, not mean). Good show. I agreed w/ Randy w/ the church wanting to keep members in the dark about real pressing issues. They like to keep the sheep dumb fat and happy. “only worry about what we tell you to worry about”

    • Randy_Snyder

      Taken came to mind immediately but that ain’t exactly a great example to hang my hat on bc it’s a revenge porn fictional film. I’ve seen other films on the topic but didn’t memorize the titles. So I was stuck either saying Taken, or I can’t remember.

      We still need to do our episode dude. It’s gold I tell you! Let’s pull the trigger soon.