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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : Schadenfreude » Schadenfreude


Tom - September 5, 2007

I admit to being happy about the abject failure of September Dawn, a film about Mountain Meadows Massacre, and by most accounts a ham-fisted, campy, anti-Mormon hatchet job. This is an opinion shared by critics across the ideological spectrum with no connection to the LDS church. Steven Hyden at the Onion AV Club put it pointedly:

With its complete lack of empathy for early Mormons and simplistic rendering of historical figures, September Dawn is that rare movie that actually deserves whatever condemnation might come from religious groups.

I also admit to finding it just hilarious and pathetic that Carole Whang Schutter, co-writer of the film, believes that her film’s failure might have been due to covert efforts of the LDS church, which has not publicly commented on the film.

My happiness at the film’s failure is compounded by it being pretty clear that, despite protestations by the filmmakers to the contrary, September Dawn was inspired by anti-Mormon animosity and was at it’s heart intended as a slander against the LDS church.***

If my happiness at the film’s failure was purely derived from it being an anti-Mormon project that fell flat I would feel OK. I want all anti-Mormon projects to fall flat becasue I believe the LDS Church is good and is fulfilling an important mission for the benefit of God’s children. But that’s not the only reason I’m happy that the film failed. I’m also happy that Schutter and director Chris Cain failed. I see every scathing review as kind of a punch in the gut, or at least a ‘neener neener’, to the people who go to such lengths to slander my church, and that ‘neener neener’ is the main reason I enjoy reading those reviews. I’m feeling guilty about that.

I couldn’t find anything in the Gospel Library at lds.org about schadenfreude (nor about ‘neener neener’), but I’m sure it’s a sin and I think I know why. Taking pleasure in the misfortune of others reveals our enmity towards them. If we love others as God loves them, we may be happy that their efforts against us fail, but we won’t derive any happiness from the personal pain experienced by those who fail.

My feelings around September Dawn tell me that I have an enmity problem. I might try to excuse myself by pointing to all the virulent animosity directed my way by some vocal evangelicals, but letting myself off the hook like that won’t do me any good. I’ve got to fight it.

***This point is debatable, but that’s not a debate I’m interested in right now.


  1. The more I read about it, the more I’m thinking that it’s my kind of movie! Except for the blood and gore part.

    Comment by Susan M — September 5, 2007 @ 9:37 am

  2. I say it becomes a cult movie among LDS youth. They’ll start playing it at movie theatres at midnight and throwing rice at the screen when Terence Stamp comes out as Brigham Young.

    Comment by cj douglass — September 5, 2007 @ 9:42 am

  3. We need to reach out in love to those who slander our church. They say they’re reaching out to us in love so we should do the same. But we can reach out in love and say “this anti-mormon film is a disaster and embarassment” just as they reach out with love to us and tell us we’re going to hell.

    Comment by anothernonymous — September 5, 2007 @ 10:49 am

  4. I guess 3:10 to Yuma will be the way to go for Westerns this fall.

    Comment by john f. — September 5, 2007 @ 11:36 am

  5. I really don’t know the details of MMM but I know it was a tragic mistake that should not have happened. I’m glad when the church is open and honest about our past history – the good and the bad – but I don’t think ANYONE should be able to isolate a discussion about MMM without acknowledging Hans Mill, The Extermination Order of Governor Boggs and the 6000 saints who died on the trail to Utah because our government failed to uphold their rights to practice their relgion – not to mention the countless other injustices perpetrated on the Saints from the beginnings of the church. I’m not suggesting that any of those injustices should excuse MMM, I’m just saying, for the sake of fairness, that the discussion should include the entire hitory or it shouldn’t be discussed.

    Comment by Lamonte — September 5, 2007 @ 12:51 pm

  6. The filmmakers will have the last laugh. This thing will play in poorly dubbed reruns in the developing world for at least the next 20 years. It will do real harm despite the fact that it has no audience in the USA.

    Comment by a random John — September 5, 2007 @ 2:36 pm

  7. a random John,

    Good point. That’s a sad reality I hope is kept to a minimum by foreign theater owners realizing how bad it will do in their buildings but I can see it somehow getting into the hands of some son of mine’s investigator right before they get baptized the way Godmakers got in the hands of my investigators.

    Comment by Bret — September 5, 2007 @ 3:14 pm

  8. THat is a good point, arJ. I still remember having to “sacar dudas” from an investigator after she saw the famous CHarles Bronson movie Messenger of Death.

    Comment by TIm J. — September 5, 2007 @ 3:40 pm

  9. September Dawn…..what a stupid misleading title anyway. I mean come on…Neil Diamond almost had a lawsuit in his corner.

    Why not be honest and call it “The Morning a Bunch of Mormon Terrorists Butchered an Arkansas Wagon Train for Breakfast and How Brigham Young beat the Rap”?

    Comment by fregramis — September 5, 2007 @ 5:41 pm

  10. Ah, if you can’t reason your way out of guilt about schadenfreude for September Dawn, you need a refresher course in creative rationalization.

    You’re not gleeful that Cain (now, why not explore the symbolism of that name??) and Ms. Schuetter and their work are joining the grand parade in the dustbin of history. Instead, you’re grateful and glad that only a few people were affected by the movie, and thus the cause of truth marches on!

    Comment by Mark B. — September 6, 2007 @ 12:31 pm

  11. Brigham Young said the only direction you can kick the church is upstairs. He also said a little persecution is good for the saints, or we’ll get too lazy and complacent.

    Anti-mormon stuff serves some good purposes, including free advertising, which generates investigators, and even people who want to know the full or real story since the anti-stuff is so obviously slanted.

    Comment by Bookslinger — September 8, 2007 @ 6:04 am

  12. I also admit to finding it just hilarious and pathetic that Carole Whang Schutter, co-writer of the film, believes that her film’s failure might have been due to covert efforts of the LDS church, which has not publicly commented on the film.

    She’s right isn’t she? The Church probably is partly responsible for poor ticket sales. Think about movies in the past that have been protested and condemned by other churches. Don’t you think those film benefited from the extra publicity? I’m sure if the Church would have come out yelling and screaming about how horrible the film was, it might have caused more curious people to buy a ticket.

    So I don’t think the Church contributed to it’s failure in the way she thinks it did, but they probably contributed in a different way.

    Comment by jjohnsen — September 12, 2007 @ 2:30 pm

  13. Maybe I’m wrong here, but I don’t think anyone should feel bad for this movie’s failure. The directors are enemies of the church, therefore, they are enemies of the Lord. Don’t we want the enemies of the Lord to fail? We should love them, but we should also be happy that they didn’t succeed in getting their message to many people.

    Comment by Raizinbrant — September 16, 2007 @ 8:03 pm

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