Bloggernacle Classics, a Continuing Series
It is time once again for the young students of the Bloggernacle to open their notepads and prepare for study, as I present the second installment of my fledgling series, Bloggernacle Classics. You may recall the first entry revolved around the exploits of BCC’s own Aaron B., who has recently returned from the ranks of the Emeriti to grace BCC’s screen on a more regular basis. Today, my subject matter is the R-Rated Movie. However, the purpose here is history, not doctrine; therefore, the pros and cons, the virtues and evils, of R-rated movies will not be reviewed.
Although it is not specifically mentioned in some of the seminal Bloggernacle literature, virtually all of the R-rated movie debates in Mormondom are a result of the following quote:
We counsel you, young men, not to pollute your minds with such degrading matter, for the mind through which this filth passes is never the same afterwards. Don’t see R-rated movies or vulgar videos or participate in any entertainment that is immoral, suggestive, or pornographic. Don’t listen to music that is degrading.
Ezra Taft Benson, “To the ‘Youth of the Noble Birthright’”, Ensign, May 1986 (reporting the proceedings of Priesthood Session, 156th Annual General Conference)
Incidentally, this quote was used as a Friday Firestorm topic in August, 2007, and resulted in 183 responses, including a marvelous contribution from Ray, where he exhorts everyone to avoid turning the thread into a debate about ETB’s political views, then debates ETB’s political views for several comments, and then apologizes for doing exactly what he told everyone else not to do.
The earliest post I found (admittedly, I didn’t get into the smaller solo blogs) which addresses the R-Rated Movie debate is a short-ish posting from Russell Arben Fox in February 2004. This post focuses on a newspaper interview in which BYU Religion Professor Robert Millet said that, while he usually does not watch R-rated films, he would be attending “The Passion of the Christ” with clergy from various religious organizations. Said Millet, “This isn’t Freddy Krueger. This is Jesus Christ.”
Nevertheless, RAF’s post is also important historically for more than being one of the first posts to address this topic. It also introduces students of the R-Rated Movie debate to Bob Caswell’s take on R-Rated movies: “I always love discussing the ‘R’ rating even if in some aspects it’s been beat to death.”
While various other authors have contributed comments and posts on this subject, perhaps no single individual has weighed in as frequently, as passionately, or as creatively as Rusty Clifton at Nine Moons. In October 2004, just prior to several other posts centered on the Passion of the Christ, Rusty wrote the following:
I’m distracted. And a bit peeved. I’ve been working on a post for some time now. It has great spiritual significance to me and have been formulating it in a way that I hope makes sense for those who might read it. However, tonight something has come up.
It has almost zero spiritual significance to me (and most members for that matter) and I am barely going to spell check this thing before posting it. Why would I post this one over the other? Because I’m so bothered I can no longer concentrate on that other post, no longer concentrate on school, not on work, not on seminary, I don’t even remember my wife’s name!
I found out tonight that the bishop of a close friend of ours has committed all the men in the ward to … never watch an R-rated movie ever again. Also, to never watch a PG-13 rated movie without his wife’s permission…I vehemently object to A) the bishop committing members of his ward to the living of a non-commandment, non-church policy, non-doctrinal, non-recently-mentioned-in-an-official-setting-to-establish-it-as-anything-remotely-like-a-commandment,-church-policy,-or-doctrine…
…When did “no R-rated movies” become church doctrine, policy, or commandment?…My biggest objection to this whole charade is why didn’t the bishop commit them to something that could actually increase their spirituality rather than trying to help them avoid becoming “more bad”? Why not, “will you commit to finding someone to talk with the missionaries within two months?” or “will you commit to going to the temple once a month for the next six months?” or “will you commit to studying your scriptures every day for the next month?”
This post is fascinating for a handful of reasons. First, it touched on multiple popular subjects in the Bloggernacle, such as local leadership, revelation, Internet use (I omitted that part from the text above), and pornography. Second, it becomes clear as you read the comments what all the old veterans in the Bloggernacle mean when they say that the ‘Nacle was a tighter community–it seems that virtually all of the comments (over 100 of them) were made by 5-6 people. Lastly, the outright condemnation of Rusty’s blog because of his disagreement with the Bishop’s tactics shows how completely insane some people are.
More recently, Rusty received a coveted Niblet Nomination for his touching, soul-baring “A Note to My Buddy, the R-Rated Movie.”
Here’s why I feel bad for you, R-rated Movie: You have been made a scapegoat. Because we can’t measure our levels of charity, forgiveness, judgment, kindness and love—you know, the things that Christ droned on about ad naseum—and because we CAN measure how many R-rated movies we are not seeing, as a tangible measuring stick you’ve become the biggest jerkwad in the room. I’m sure you’ve noticed that we are attracted to commandments we can live perfectly like tithing (on gross of course), half of the Word of Wisdom, monthly home teaching and avoid R-rated movies. Being charitable? Uh…I’m working on it. Forgiveness? I try. Love? I’m doing my best. But let me tell you about the difference between ratings in America and Europe…
It is nevertheless important to note that Rusty (“… frankly, violence doesn’t bother me that much … and I don’t want to see man-parts in my entertainment.“), Bob Caswell, and others don’t necessarily hate the MPAA, but rather view it as an unhelpful guide to spiritually safe media consumption. Some bloggers have attempted to frame the battle over R-rated movies as class warfare between the elitists and the rednecks. One thing is certain, however: To proclaim loudly that certain movies are not appropriate in the Bloggernacle is to CALL DOWN WRATH!
Now, this is obviously not an exhaustive accounting of the movie ratings debate among Internet Mormons. In October 2004, Kaimi Wenger responded to Rusty’s post criticizing the commitment to not watch R-rated films with a T&S post titled “(When) are bloggers permitted to criticize church leaders?” Hidden near the bottom of over 300 comments, Aaron B. made a comment that characterizes much of the difficulty in establishing a true and living record of the Bloggernacle’s arguments over movie ratings:
273. Aaron Brown
Thousands of years from now, when the Morlock and Eloi historians are reviewing the ancient T&S Archives to figure out how early 21st Century Mormons felt about R-rated movies, they’re going to have a real difficult time finding this discussion by looking at the thread title. What a shame. Let’s hope they have the technology to search the comments.
Although there have clearly been many posts throughout the ‘Nacle devoted to R-Rated movies, Aaron B.’s comment underscores the reality that many of the great debates and gems in the Bloggernacle are the result of threadjacks, and cannot be found simply by scanning post titles, as fights over the weightier matters of cultural Mormonism and the Gospel manifest themselves in unexpected places. I trust that the commenters will supply any noteworthy firestorms I’ve omitted.
 This should not be confused with the unethical and nefarious use of this spoken-for title by some crew of “BT Editors” in recent days.
 If anyone from the SMC is reading this, let me just get on the record as saying that there are no pros or virtues to discuss. Please contact me at your earliest convenience for a complete list of every Bloggernacle participant who has admitted to watching (and enjoying!) R-rated movies.
 I wanted to do a Bloggernacle Classics post featuring this sort of phenomena in comment threads, but it became apparent that Steve Evans was the most prolific at this sort of thing, and I’m scared of him.
 Little-known trivia: Only(!) about 12% of Bob Caswell’s posts at BCC were about R-rated movies, but a full 100% of his comments throughout the Bloggernacle were about R-rated movies. I might be making that last part up, but after researching this topic, I’m not actually sure anymore.
 The women at Segullah weighed in on this issue recently as well. You have been warned.