There were tons of amazing presentations at the Sunstone Symposium, but I think my favorite was Holly‘s analysis of Johnny Lingo. This one was controversial enough to have gotten covered by the Salt Lake Tribune in addition to inspiring many blog reactions:
Journy Gal’s title alone (A Man’s Right to Determine a Woman’s Worth) sums it up pretty well (but read the whole post anyway). Mr. FOB’s reaction (in Those Fascinating Mormon Women) was mixed. Evgenii explains (in Coming Up Next At Sunstone: A Critical Look At Cipher In The Snow) that Holly was overreacting. Chris counters with the Benefits of “Bashing”Johnny Lingo:
The point of [Holly]’s presentation was not to justify her haughty, elitist disdain for a popular film, as some seem to assume. The point was not really about the film at all. The film was a teaching tool in making a larger point: that there are implicit messages in our words and actions and artistic expressions that may alter the way we see the world.
The moral, as Kaimi explained at the banquet, was “Women are property — if you treat them as valuable property, they’ll be valuable property.” However, since the women-as-property theme was so overpowering, I think it overshadowed another important message that I wanted to discuss:
I hadn’t seen this film since I was a teenager, so I was listening with (almost) fresh ears when I heard Johnny Lingo explain why he bought Mahana for eight cows. (I’m paraphrasing since I don’t have a transcript.)
Johnny explains that the women of the village like to gossip about who was bought for the highest price, such as three or five cows. “And the woman who was bought for one or two cows — how does she feel?” he asks.
“Hmm, that’s a problem,” thought I.
“But that won’t be my wife!” he explains. (again, paraphrasing) “She’ll be happy because she knows she’s the most valuable woman on the island!”
“What the…? What the hell kind of solution is that???” thought I. So you’ve decided your wife will get to be number one at helping those one-or-two-cow wives feel inferior. How noble!
Now, I know the LDS critics are probably thinking that I need to just accept that there are some winners and some losers in life. Not in this case. In the case of what makes a good mate, there is no reason why mates should be linearly, numerically ordered (even if we ignore the sexism of the fact that the ordering is naturally assumed by the film to be applied only to women and decided only by men).
As I explained in Finding Love 101, we all — men and women — have a range of qualities we desire in a mate, and we place different priorities on the different qualities.
So my husband is far more desirable to me (for a range of wonderful qualities that I value) than he might be to many other people who have different priorities.
This is one of the points I love about the adorable kids’ book I discovered lately: Cinder Edna. Cinderella and Prince Randolph are the two most beautiful in the kingdom, and each is the other’s #1 choice as a mate. Cinder Edna, however, has no interest in Prince Randolph, and similarly the other prince, Prince Rupert, has no interest in Cinderella. Cinder Enda and Prince Rupert are both resourceful and love silly jokes — they fall in love based on various qualities they both value — and they live happily ever after. It gives a beautiful message both about self-worth and about relationships.
Even if you think the eggheads are protesting too much in complaining about poor Johnny Lingo, that’s no excuse for being lax in picking stories with the best morals for your kids. If they’re still little, pick up a copy of Cinder Edna!