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.