Star Wars Needs A Faith Crisis

Along with my love of the original films is a massive appreciation for Ralph McQuarrie's excellent concept art for the very first Star Wars. (Fair use)

I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but there’s a new Star Wars coming out next month. Remember Star Wars? It was a 1977 low-budget film from the chronically anti-social merchandising kingpin George Lucas that shamelessly ripped of Kurosawa and Frank Herbert. Believe it or not, the film was followed by not just one but two sequels in the ‘80s, and then an entire prequel trilogy in the early ‘00s. Now Disney owns the property and is planning on inundating the public with more Star Wars films fro … [Read more...]

Sister Wives’ Madison Brown’s Mormon Baptism Rejection, Explained


Confession: I actually really love the show Sister Wives. It is a pretty remarkable snapshot of American life that is uncommon, but it is also kind of an anti-reality show, designed not to hype up mundane existence into needless drama, but instead to normalize the lifestyle of the polygamist Brown family, proving that not all polygamists are cultish creeps like Warren Jeffs.The problem, it appears, is that the mainstream Mormon church isn’t buying this show’s premise. The Browns are members o … [Read more...]

Remembering Wes Craven


Horror movies were off limits when I was a kid. That’s the way it should be. My mom, in her best intentions, always declared that watching a scary movie would definitely lead to nightmares the following night. I suffered from sleep paralysis as a kid, so nightmares were inevitable. But the connection between the two was profoundly influential on my relationship with horror. The idea that some piece of art could affect me in such a way that I physically suffered—how cool is that?Sometimes it f … [Read more...]

Jon McNaughton, the Obama Era’s Most Significant Artist


Gaze upon the works of Jon McNaughton, the most important painter of our time.*Undoubtedly, there’s an uncle, or a father, or a former bishop out there who has admired, shared, and maybe even paid for a painting by the Mormon artist and curmudgeon with a paintbrush. They may have it hanging in their study, or, God forbid, in their living room next to the red-robed Christ and a photograph of the Provo temple.McNaughton’s works are well known for their patriotism, and their subtle use of sy … [Read more...]

Review: “Selma”

Selma deserves a Best Picture win, because even with all of its imperfections, it is a story that engages with history honestly and insightfully. It highlights an important part of the civil rights movement, enlightens a common narrative of a historical figure, yet respectfully keeps the integrity of Dr. King’s legacy intact.It is good history as far as narrative filmmaking goes. Somehow I’ve managed to keep up with most of the Oscar nominees this year, and a disproportionate number of them a … [Read more...]

Old Stories and Familiar Tropes: Anti-Catholicism and the Female Body in Dan Brown’s ‘Inferno’

In her post “Dan Brown’s ‘Inferno’: An Eternal Return” earlier this week, my colleague Susanna Morrill observed that Dan Brown has a knack for telling familiar stories in a language of standard tropes. As Susanna showed, Brown’s work taps into a variety of American anxieties, and it reflects a number of movements in American thought. Susanna’s observations approached Brown with a wide-angle lens, and she ably illuminated the ways in which Brown’s latest whodunit novel featuring the intrepid “reli … [Read more...]

Recommended Readings on Modern Mormonism

There's a lot of top 5 lists out there listing the best books on Mormonism. I thought it might be useful to provide a similar list specifically focused on "modern Mormonism." Judging which books are the "best," of course, is a bit subjective. I am, by training, a historian of the early American republic, and my research on Mormonism is thus largely limited to its earliest years. The books listed below, then, are those I've found most helpful in trying to understand modern Mormonism.Note: … [Read more...]

The Divine Doctor

For the last few years, some of the world’s most interesting Mormon theology has been playing out in front of sci-fi geeks on laptops and television screens. Unbeknownst to nearly everyone, the writers and actors of one of my favorite shows have created a touching and compelling but still critical portrayal of Mormonism’s distinctive understanding of God.I’m referring, of course, to Doctor Who.For those of you who don’t share my love of fantasy, the BBC’s Doctor Who is among the longest-r … [Read more...]