Remember my discussion on reclaiming our stories? About how we should take every opportunity to tell our own experiences, instead of standing by and letting the church invent the â€œapostateâ€ narrative, according to its own agenda…?
Well there are some natural conflicts when it comes to being sure that your group is portrayed fairly and accurately. The biggest one is that stories have lots of people in them. And while you’re in righteous pursuit of portraying your own group right, you may simultaneously be portraying someone else unfairly.
I just heard that LDS playwright Mahonri Stewart wrote a new play, set in modern times, about a conflict between a Mormon family and an atheist. From a quick perusal of some posts about the play, I gather that the atheist is the villain ([the actress playing the atheist] “was forced to make a character who does some pretty mean-spirited things seem socially acceptable and even occasionally endearing”).
Now, this is par for the course, and I wouldn’t expect any different from a faithful Mormon playwright writing a faith-promoting Mormon play. I mean, it’d be cool if a faithful Mormon would write a play featuring an atheist who’s a friendly, laid-back, mild-mannered mom like me — but it ain’t gonna happen, so c’est la vie.
The thing about Mahonri Stewart, however, is that he’s one of the most outspoken people in the “only faithful Mormons should be writing about Mormons” camp. He’s especially prolific in complaining about “Angels in America”:
Angels In America is a political piece set in the 80s attacking Reagan-style conservatism and the religious right. It tries to raise awareness of the plight of the homosexual, especially in reference to AIDS. And it often uses Mormon characters as straw men to knock down so that it can raise up the standard of its cause.
very few of the Mormon characters actually seem, well, Mormon. Even accounting for the fact that Mormons come from many different backgrounds and have struggles and vices just like any other person, there is something â€œoffâ€ about Kushnerâ€™s portrayal of Mormonism through characters like Joe and Harper Pitt.
I have personally experienced a double standard in this regard, where tolerance was only preached, but not practiced by certain â€œprogressiveâ€ individuals when it came to views or lifestyles that opposed their own.
Whether or not you agree with his assessment of “Angels in America” (or of “The Book of Mormon” (the musical)), he’s right that it’s reasonable to expect a fair portrait.
Given these statements of principle, I would expect that — to show people how it’s done — in his own work he’ll be doubly careful about this point, right? I certainly wouldn’t expect to see a “double standard in this regard” where “when it came to views or lifestyles that opposed [his] own” he would use those “characters as straw men to knock down so that it can raise up the standard of its cause.” Right?
So let’s see if he holds himself up to this high standard in his portrait of an atheist:
So far I’ve only watched up to the part where the atheist badgers the Mormon girl into explaining about her visions (as a set-up so she can tell the Mormon how she thinks visions are a bunch of hooey), and then she explains how she decided not to believe in God because God is unfair to her gay friend who loved Jesus so much. Mmmmmkaaaaaaayyyy…..