Review: 8: The Mormon Proposition

Because Cowan and Greenstreet have not made a documentary that will appeal to Mormons — in fact, they’ve deliberately created one that will turn them off.  Mormons are the enemy.   8: The Mormon Proposition has divided the population into Us and Them…and Mormons – ALL Mormons – are part of Them.

I submit that this is the biggest criticism that can be levied at 8: it’s constructed in a way that will immediately scare off what should have been its primary target audience.

  • No faithful Mormons are presented sympathetically, as noted above.  8 pretends faithful Mormons who were ambivalent to (or directly opposed to) Prop 8 don’t exist — an immediate turn off for those members who could have been the most accessible audience for the film to reach out to.
  • It’s narrowly focused on “gay marriage in California” instead of the larger issue — charity towards gays, especially gay Mormons.  8 doesn’t believe that one can develop greater charity towards gays as fellow human beings and children of a common God without needing to support legalized gay marriage at the same time.  8 defines “charity towards gays” AS “supporting legalized gay marriage”.  That’s far too narrow and limiting, especially when the most emotional and moving parts of the documentary have NOTHING to do with gay marriage.
  • It’s rated R, because of three or four swear words and vulgar terms.  While the “should Church members watch R-rated movies” debate is ongoing, the R-rating is still a huge handicap for attracting Mormon viewers.  None of the profanity in 8 is vital to the content and could not have been cut for a lower rating.
  • Quotes from Church leaders out of context, scary music and audio cues whenever Church leaders are displayed on screen, questionable interpretations of LDS doctrine, and a host of other biased (and unnecessary) filmmaking tricks.   Even the film poster (featuring a dark image of an unseen puppet master manipulating minions on strings — gee, who does the puppet master represent here?) is designed to scare off faithful Mormons.

Add these all together and you have a package designed not just to NOT attract faithful Mormons, but deliberately offend them.   Even the Mormons who can (and should) consider the secondary theme of the film about charity and Christ-like behavior towards gays aren’t going to watch 8: The Mormon Proposition because they’ll hear about it being merely an anti-Mormon polemic.

And for the most part, they’d be right.  Unfortunately, it seems the filmmakers of 8 think “tolerance” is something only other people need to do.

8 wants to make clear that most gay marriage supporters are sincere about their beliefs.  They’re not trying to “destroy marriage”, but in fact trying to support marriage and families in their own way. They have a particular opinion on optimal social policy, and how they feel governments should recognize personal relationships between individuals. Most of them peacefully utilize their rights under the US Constitution to vote according to their beliefs, encourage others to do the same, and donate time and money to causes that support their views.

Is it too much to ask that Mormons who oppose gay marriage are accorded the same courtesy?  That most of them are also sincere about their beliefs? That they are also not trying to “destroy families”, but trying to support marriage and families in their own way? That they also have a particular opinion on optimal social policy, and have the same rights as everyone else to vote according to their beliefs, encourage others to do the same, and donate time and money to causes that support their views?

Conclusion

The end result is that 8: The Mormon Proposition becomes a film with virtually no audience and virtually no impact. Gay marriage supporters were already on board with their thesis, and 8 does nothing to help further the cause other than recount past history. Those opposed to gay marriage are given no reason or arguments to change their mind.  Mormons who supported Prop 8 aren’t going to watch because the film hates them and has no sympathy for their views, and the Mormons who didn’t aren’t going to watch it because…well, according to the film, they don’t exist.

It’s really too bad that the important messages here are going to be lost.  If I was asked by another Church member if they should see 8, I would say, honestly: “20 minutes of it should be required viewing for all Church members…and the other 60 minutes are an intellectually dishonest framing of a serious issue that is probably a waste of your time to watch.” You can decide for yourself how many members would end up seeking out the documentary based on that “recommendation”.

[Cross-posted on LDS Cinema Online]

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