After watching the controversial latest episode of Big Love, and reading several excellent posts and comments about it at BCC, Mormon Mentality, Messenger & Advocate and Times & Seasons, I’m left wondering what, if anything will be the effect of this.
Maybe nothing. This show is, after all, a fictitious drama, not a documentary, but HBO has made statements to the effect that they are making an effort to be accurate regarding the temple ceremony, and such statements, coupled with the fact that many people take even fictitious programs as having some basis in truth, may mean that many people will base some part of their view of the Church on the way it is portrayed in Big Love. That would be a mistake.
My feeling is that the temple segment itself, while objectionable on the basis that it gratuitously broadcast sacred rituals that the Church prefers to keep private, was nevertheless at least accurate and respectful. Too bad you can’t say the same for the rest of the episode. The plot was practically nonsensical, partly because it was required to bend over backwards to get Barb into the temple. I found the portrayal of a church court to be both inaccurate and distasteful. The developing “Hoffman forgery” plot is painting the Church as hypocritical and publicity-phobic on the issue of historical documents. Practically every active Church member in the show comes off as a smiling phony, a backstabber or a hypocrite.
As offensive as all that is, I wonder if the final effect of this might not actually be positive. My guess is that, despite its serious lack of proper context, those who watched the temple segment will not find it to be a negative experience. Those who know Church members will know that they are not as portrayed in this show. Those who are familiar with Mormon history will know that the Church is in the midst of a renaissance of sorts and has released many historic documents as part of a real openness about its history. I’m guessing the show will engender at least some conversations between members and non-members about our Church that otherwise might not have happened. It may be that, in the end, the old adage will be proved true: There’s no such thing as bad publicity. Let me know your thoughts on the episode and, especially, what effects you observe from it.