Murder, Mayhem, Sin, and Voyeurism

Like many Americans, I consider murder to be a form of entertainment, and I’m a bit ashamed by that.  I can’t really survive international flights without a good gripping murder mystery in my hand.  The more creative and depraved, the more I can count on it to keep me occupied, make the flight seem short, and stave off air sickness.  I spent the new years holiday watching a marathon of “Castle” on cable.  More murder.  Somehow it doesn’t seem like such a horrible sin and terrible tragedy when it is presented as a “whodunit” or when it’s presented by characters who quip chirpily as their flirtation weaves its way through crime scenes, witness interrogation, and visits to the medical examiners and their corpses.  Have we become completely inured to this kind of creatively stylized violence?  Does the “criminal procedure drama” with its equation of mandatory twists, turns, and red-herrings somehow lessen the gruesomeness of the story, the seriousness of the sin?  A life snuffed out in violence.  A person dead.  A person with a mama who loved him, and a birthday, and a life, whatever that life was.  How can we look on these stories as entertainment?  (Very successful entertainment in the eyes of the studios and networks which produce them.) Is enjoying the dramatic consequences of sin the equivalent of committing some kind of sin oneself?

I felt a certain amount of guilt in enjoying these programs until I started my current job.  Basically, I work with foreign governments to help them build fair and efficient criminal justice systems that effectively provide safety to the populace, but also protect the rights of the accused–holding important the rights of individuals to be protected from their government.  One problem we frequently come across is a simple incomprehension as to what people really do deserve at the hands of law enforcement.  Depending on the society, they may not know that their constiution provides them with free speech, or freedom of assembly, or the right to a defense attorney.  This kind of education is generational.  Get kids to pay attention in civics class, and then 20 years later, you have community members who are likely to call the police, and complain to the mayor if the police don’t perform well.

How is it that Americans are so well versed in criminal law?  We all know we have the right to plead the fifth.  (Unless you are in Canada, then don’t do it, it’s embarrassing….people in my line of work make fun of you.)  We all know we have the right to an attorney.  We all know that the police aren’t supposed to beat the crap out of you, and if they do, call a lawyer.  As a result, more people have their rights protected, trials really are adversarial and between the prosecution and defense most evidence is unearthed, and law enforcement is constrained to act on behalf of the public rather than as predators of the public.  I know about the exceptional stories dug up by dateline producers, but the bottom line is, they are exceptional stories, and they receive public attention.  If the system breaks down, there are fixes, there are internal investigations, there is due process, there are appeals.

Our society works better because we are educated consumers of governance.  Our criminal justice system works better because we are educated citizens, and I have to admit, we are educated because we watch so much t.v.  We demand, in a Law and Order world, that t.v. writers do their homework.  I felt bad about watching so much Law and Order my first semester of law school until my Criminal Law professor admitted to writing fan letters to Dick Wolf complete with suggestions for future episodes.

So now we come back to the original question, if we are entertained by murder, mayhem, and sin, are we not also educated by it?  Is it a sin to be a voyeur in this situation, or should we be actively working to export this kind of entertainment as a way of educating citizens in nascent democracies overseas?  Is the entertaining presentation of crime morally acceptable?  Does it become more acceptable if it is presented in a more stylized way?  Or if it is presented from the viewpoint of “the good guys” does it become a morality play, and therefore less egregious?  We are voyeurs of murder, mayhem, and sin when we turn on the t.v.  What should our moral response be?


  1. Is enjoying the dramatic consequences of sin the equivalent of committing some kind of sin oneself?


    We are voyeurs of murder, mayhem, and sin when we turn on the t.v. What should our moral response be?

    Change the channel.

  2. This stuff relaxes me. It makes me feel like there’s some justice in the world, even though it’s all fantasy. Law & Order is justice pr0n. Except for those occasional episodes when there’s no justice. Then the metaphor grows disturbing.

  3. Love this post! I strongly recommend showing The Wire to every high school civics class. (do they still teach civics in high school?)

  4. We may be more prepared legally, but I wonder if we are less prepared emotionally for death or murder. Most death is distinctly not dramatic…quiet, slow and without investigation.

    Yet in the face of real violence…and to be fair this is what is happening at the highschool where my husband teaches and coaches –note the article did not make clear that it was after a friday night soccer game, many parents and the two coaches tend to go to dinner together…they were ALL there together. This woman asked someone to walk her to the car because of texts she had been receiving from her husband all night. Two guys went with her..then when she stopped to go to the bathroom, one guy begged off. He could see her car, what could happen…the coach walked her out.

    Watching or reading about murder seldom prepares you for the shock and regret and what ifs. I dont’ know if it prepares you for …what do you do about the coach’s 14yo son from a previous marriage? his mom can’t have custody, grandma is next in line, but she’s not really all there…what will happen to him?

    What about the daughter of the attacker? She was on the coach’s soccer team and is currently not attending school because there were some threats made AGAINT HER…as if she could control her father. Some people are crying, some are very angry… Most murder mysteries I have read gloss over that. What about coach’s wife who hopefully isn’t reading all the comments on these news story’s implying he was having an affair and some commenters saying he deserved the punch?
    My husband was helping coach the wife’s team last night in their first game since the tragedy…it’s not really like those motivational movies.

    I dont know how the wife of hte coach handled the hospital…The coach donated all his organs that could be used…that can be extremely tough in the moment…he was declared brain dead and the clock starts ticking. Sometimes in the rush to harvest viable organs the patient’s family is left wondering how happy and anxious everyone seems for your loved one’s death.

    I don’t know if all of that is one huge diversion..

  5. John Mansfield says:

    I am quite fond of Tony Hillerman’s mystery novels, largely because many pages are spent describing long drives through the desert and the weather, and that kind of thing makes me homesick in a good way. Though Hillerman’s main characters are policemen, legal aspects of things don’t usually get much focus, while morality is considered constantly. The mysteries that Hillerman’s detectives are seeking to answer come down to: What makes someone so unbalanced morally as to kill another? How can I restore a moral wholeness to the world?

    In spite of the moral sensiblity of these stories, however, I found reading too many too often to be not a good thing as it involved an excessive contemplation of evil.

  6. Karen,

    TV violence will never be the same as real violence. Here is a video I’m sure you’ve heard of, if not seen, of police in Salt Lake City invading a person’s home and then shooting him because he held a golf club in order to defend his home.

    There’s nothing in the fictional world that can match the visceral level of actually seeing someone die. I remember the video of the Iranian girl Neda who was shot by some sniper during their revolt. It was highly disturbing, and I say that as someone who hasn’t been all that bothered over the years over entertainment violence. I’ve slowly been shifting my view on entertainment violence. I don’t see it as entertaining as much these days.

  7. my comment is awaiting moderation.

  8. I guess it all depends on the storyline and how an act is presented. Truthfully, movies are not too different from a good book. Life would be incredibly boring and unfulfilling without a good storyline. And stories teach us things; in order to do this, there must be some type of conflict in the pages or frames of the book/show.

    Ultrasensitivity to such tension can sometimes be a problem for individuals whos struggle is swinging too far in one moral direction.

  9. Yeah, I hope I didn’t load the OP so much on the side of “this is immoral” to preclude discussion. That wasn’t my intent…I think it’s an interesting question, especially in the relatively peaceful society that we live in.

    Britt, what an incredibly tragic story. I think that really underlines the unreality of the way we usually see crime in the entertainment media. I’m so sorry for your family and community, that is just a horrible situation.

  10. #2’s comment alluded to a relationship that I find interesting. In Mormon circles we view murder as the greater sin and adultery/fornication as the lesser sin. Yet we largely see watching murder-thrillers as a lesser evil to watching p0rn. Most (probably including me) would laugh at the idea that watching p0rn has a positive effect of educating the masses about enjoyable sexual relationships. Yet your point about educating our society about rights and legal processes makes sense.
    Of course maybe the analogy breaks down – maybe a closer analogy would be p0rn v. torture p0rn (a la Hostel or Saw variety).
    But there still exists the same favoring of violent movies over “sexy” movies in our culture. IMO.

    At any rate, I think John (5) highlights two important points. 1 – not all are created equal, and the ones that glamorize murder are probably morally inferior to the ones that contemplate morality while entertaining (and educating). 2 – There is such thing as too much of a good thing.

  11. Our rating system for the movies (and perhaps for TV) suggests there’s a difference between observing the violence itself and the effects of that violence.

    Our moral code seems to favor seeing the consequences for the bad behavior properly displayed (though we seem as happy with the bad guy being shot by another bad guy as slowly working his way through the judicial process).

    I’m not a fan of the blood and gore, but I enjoy a great mystery.

  12. @B Russ – I suspect that it’s because watching a single murder mystery doesn’t really increase our desire to go kill someone, but watching a porno does increase our desire to engage in sexual acts. Since sex is a basic human urge, porn is more powerful, and thus more dangerous.

  13. @11 – But if one were to engage in sexual acts – noone dies, and one can repent and still be saved. (not to mention, the sexual act that one would theoretically be driven to commit, might very well be within the bonds of marriage and perfectly acceptable)
    If one were driven to murder, it would be the end of life for the other person, and the perp’s possibility of salvation might very well be in question. Also, murder can never be committed within the bonds of anything that would make it acceptable in the Lord’s eyes.

    I’m not arguing in favor of pornography, or diminishing its evil nature. But I don’t necessarily buy your argument.

  14. There are so many different kinds of murder novels/movies, and I think it makes a huge difference which kind we’re talking about.

    I can’t take writing that dwells lovingly on every detail of a gruesome murder scene or that explores too deeply the mind of a psychopathic murderer any more than I can watch sex porn or horror movies. But I have no trouble reading and enjoying a great detective novel, or even a light-hearted comedic mystery story, where murder is a factor. In that case murder is only the excuse for the real story: the witty solution of a difficult puzzle, or the nitty gritty of a police procedural, or the noble determination to bring justice to the slain, or whatever it is the soul of the particular book. It’s that end of a story that draws me in and that affects me by creating admiration or respect or amusement or a desire for emulation, not the crime that is merely the excuse to justify the display of the detective’s skills.

    But I’ve certainly been exposed to other writing where the murder, mayhem, sin and voyeurism are the reason for a story’s having been written. Brian Evenson comes to mind in a Mormonish connection. There’s no justification for the creation of that, or for its consumption.

  15. I think we all know that there is power in the vicarious experience observed at a safe distance, when the resolution reinforces our basic cultural mores (ie classical tragedy, as in Macbeth or Romeo & Juliet).

    Sometimes there is even more power in these vicarious experiences when they challenge those mores, and cause us to reexamine them with an eye to positive change, such as in exposing injustice. Huck Finn or Beloved by Toni Morrison spring to mind here.

    The problem comes when the cultural mores being challenged happen to be deeply felt religious feelings or what we might consider unalterable eternal truths. I don’t necessarily think that the crime dramas you use as examples are guilty of this directly, but we do need to be discerning in our entertainment choices.

    Narratives and stories do, as you indicate, play a huge part in building the cultural cohesiveness and education that you describe. One has only to go back a couple of decades, and look at how some ethnic groups or gender related issues were portrayed to see that we do seem to be at a higher level of tolerance for diversity (which is a good thing) but at the same time a higher tolerance for certain kinds of sexual immorality (not such a good thing, IMHO).

  16. Karen,

    TV violence will never be the same as real violence. Here is a video I’m sure you’ve heard of, if not seen, of police in Salt Lake City invading a person’s home and then shooting him because he held a golf club in order to defend his home.

    There’s nothing in the fictional world that can match the visceral level of actually seeing someone die. I remember the video of the Iranian girl Neda who was shot by some sniper during their revolt. It was highly disturbing, and I say that as someone who hasn’t been all that bothered over the years over entertainment violence. I’ve slowly been shifting my view on entertainment violence. I don’t see it as entertaining as much these days.

  17. The video is linked above in a link that is still under moderation.

  18. I don’t think it’s voyeurism so much as it is a desire to feel safe; to feel that good wins over bad.

    Like Ardis said.

  19. Others have said it, but there’s a difference between “Law & Order” and “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” – between Tony Hillerman (great books) and the type of murder story Ardis describes (don’t read them, so can’t think of an author) – between “Hotel Rwanda” and “True Lies” or “Lethal Weapon”.

    I do think there is validity in questioning our support of movies, television shows, books, etc. where “murder, mayhem and sin” are the main “plot” – with a more traditional plot woven into the story just to act as a vehicle for the murder, mayhem and sin. In those cases, it really is nothing more than voyeurism – and I think those cases are FAR more prevalent than we like to contemplate.

    At least, that’s true for me as I type this comment and consider what it says about what I have watched and read in my life.

  20. Karen,
    Are you advocating an American adverserial legal system as opposed to a french style cooperative system as a model for the third world, or are you just seeking to raise awareness of their existing system?

    I would like to see a comparison of the outcomes from adverserial v cooperative legal systems?

    A concern for many of us is “cultural imperialism”. More than half of our movies and TV shows are American, though we do have a number of British and Australian cop shows too. There is a very different approach shown on British cop shows to the American. Americanisms also infect our language- we have a cyclone “packing” winds (with) and cricket teams “going head to head” (playing).

    The level of violence is much higher, the level of confrontation higher, and the lack of sympathetic coverage of the criminals and victims, and the drawing of guns without any appearent threat, all traits of US entertainment, compared to British.

    So, is the US legal system the best to promote to the third world, or is it just awareness you are promoting?

    Is the increase in the level of fear worth the increase in awareness?

    Cultural imperialism- we can show you how it should be.

  21. I think the best writer of current mystery novels, bar none, is Anne Perry. Yes, there is an entertainment level. . . but the real genius of Perry is that she truly examines what that murder means to the involved parties. She asks a lot of deep questions about human nature and the human experience.
    I can never finish a book of hers without asking myself how I face the truth about others, how I treat others, how separation of classes leads to deep conflict, the injustice of poverty, redemption, etc.

    I suppose in the end, her novels aren’t particularly instructive to me about the legal process, but I’ve learned a lot about human nature and more importantly the way issues political and otherwise, affect ordinary people.

  22. I enjoy murder mysteries as long as they are moral. I am not interested in glorifying violence or murderers. If there is a protagonist who is trying to be a good person and there are people who are trying to do good, bring justice, etc. then it is not the same as violence porn. That doesn’t mean the story has to be black and white- it can be complicated and make you think. But I prefer an overall morality to it.

  23. I don’t read or watch murder for the very reason that you elucidate. My mind tends to immediately ask all the questions about the repercussions of the death of the murdered individual and all of that individually painfully difficult tragedy, not included in the prose, is not entertainment in my opinion.

    Murder and violence in books or in other media tend to make those things a form of passive escapism. We become watchers of violence and death. Violence and death, in the real world, require that we, as Christians, become active; protecting victims of violence, creating places of safety, mourning with those who mourn and comforting those that stand in need of comfort in its wake, not just standing around and watching.

    Way, way too often people in our society simply watch when
    real violence and/or death occurs in their presence. I believe that much of that is due to the many years they have spent developing the habit of passively watching it in media.

  24. My husband and kids love to watch TV and tend to watch things that portray murder, fantasy magic, and surreal plots having nothing to do with education on how the system works. I find myself in the other room listening to screams, metal crashing, and women making glib, arrogant one liners always showing up the man they are paired up with. They always wrap up the story without any complication and very abruptly. Nothing real about it. I have consistently opposed this as entertainment. I see your point about education and I think if a show/ book were actually educating about the real world effects and processes it would be valuable. The problem is that Hollywood and many publishing houses only want to entertain by pushing the limits of morality. They want something that will be surreal and will shock us, disgust us or create a fantasy world a la Avatar with violence and pornographic content. They hardly even follow a plot anymore. Add in the PC views of the harmony and virtue of Nature, and the arrogant supremacy of women/ goofy stupidity of men and you have education of a different sort.
    We cannot get away with mindlessly entertaining ourselves and passing it off as inconsequential. We live in a society that seeks to entertain/indoctrinate us and our children. The producers of the product are often very sly at what they are doing. Reminiscent of the phrase in the Word of Wisdom about evils and design of the last days. We just cannot trust the World! We have to be on guard and listen to the Spirit who will warn us about what is damaging to our spirits and the spirits of the children around us.

  25. I just started watching BBC’s new “Sherlock Holmes” series last night, and I couldn’t get this post out of my head. So thanks for ruining TV for me.

  26. I was kind of hoping more people would stick up for t.v., because I’m certainly not giving it up. :) Kyle, you and I can burn together and we’ll discuss pop culture while we’re doing it.

  27. Sounds like heaven to me!

  28. momnmb, I’m straining to find the pornographic content in Avatar, just as I strained to find any real redeeming feature in that movie, beyond the wow factor of the 3D technology. Dumb, lame plot dressed up in eye-popping graphics is still a dumb, lame movie, just slightly more interesting.

    I respect your choice to not watch certain types of entertainment, but well told tales with real character development, who face real moral challenges, even with violence and murder, can often make very positive and powerful vicarious experiences. I fear that you might reject the Lord of the Ring movies, which, due to a strong genetic geek tendency, I found very positive and uplifting, in spite of the incredible and heart-breaking violence.

    On the other hand, if you were talking about the Star Wars prequels, then you may be spot on….

  29. On the other hand Hollywood is rarely accurate and we have the problem of uneducated jurors thinking CSI reflects reality and thereby treating forensic evidence improperly. So if we do know the important basic items you mention we also get a lot of misinformation that can sometimes undermine justice. (Although perhaps there are criminals who think scientists can do everything on CSI are kept from committing some crimes)

  30. momnmb, I’m straining to find the pornographic content in Avatar

    I saw blue nipple, and was offended.

    On a related note, I saw Blue Nipple play live at Usana Amphitheater last summer, they put on a really good set, I suggest catching them if you get a chance.

  31. …if there is anything virtuous, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy… IMHO there are so many wonderful forms of entertainment to waste time on that which is not uplifting. I think we’d all be wise to stick to the For the Strength of Youth guidelines on entertainment.

  32. Klove, the problem is is that I’m not a youth. Some of the more uplifting, thought provoking, and ultimately inspiring media I’ve seen would not pass the FSOY guidelines. I think that it is perfectly acceptable for adults to be exposed to more complex ideas than children and teens. Adult themes does not have to be a euphemism for indecency. A lot of problems in this world are truly “adult” problems. They need to be faced, explored, etc. Infantilization is ultimately unhelpful for society.

  33. Karen-
    FSOY states ” Do not attend, view, or participate in entertainment that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way. Do not participate in entertainment that in any way presents immorality or violent behavior as acceptable.” I don’t think that eliminating entertainment that falls in this category would be “infantilization.” We can and should explore more “adult” topics in political, social and other world arenas. Letting these spill over into our entertainment is the line that I don’t think needs to be crossed.

    I am a physician and regularly face patients who are grossly immoral, violent, vulgar, crude and defile themselves and others in every way possible. I don’t need that for my entertainment.

  34. Adults can’t explore “adult topics” in media? Wow. Yes, that is infantalization.

    Some of what the Church itself produces fails the FSOY standard, IF it must avoid violence “in any way”. How in the world do you depict the crucifixion in any way that truly does convey the actual violence of the event itself without showing violence “in any way”? There’s a sanitized version that avoids all violence, and there’s “The Passion of the Christ” – and there’s a wide range of options between those extremes that can be edifying and enlightening and inspirational.

    I’m not an advocate of the “vulgar, immoral, violent (and) pornographic”. Far from it. However, those are very subjective terms, and if a move like “Hotel Rwanda” is considered a bad movie simply because it portrays real violence that actually happened in a non-gratuitous way . . . If Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” is seen as a bad book simply because it deals with rape in a non-gratuitous way . . .

    I don ‘t buy that for a moment.

  35. Klove, I should add that I have NO problem with you having a standard for yourself that is in line with the FSOY statements. If that works for you, great – and I mean that sincerely. It’s the implication or statement that such a standard is appropriate, and even best, for all adults that I can’t accept.

  36. This post reminded me of a recent Wall Street Journal article that talks about the US government helping to finance Afghan TV cop shows. When you realize that these people have had no basis for trusting or respecting the police, providing that viewpoint as “entertainment”, may just help in planting the seeds that justice might be possible. Maybe…

  37. little light says:

    violence=violence (whether it is “real” or imagined by Hollywood writers)
    rape=vulgar (whether it is a real event or imagined by writers)
    I do agree with Klove though, you have to intrepret the standard for yourself. Perhaps content such as what you mentioned, uplifts you do open your eyes to the world and inspires you to combat the evil that exists. Whereas for me it leaves me feeling dark and void. Your response made me chuckle though because it seemed to counter itself. I don’t understand why the “infantalzation” is so bad. Are wenot supposed to be “as a child”? We aren’t reading a pamphlet marketed by the “Little Einsteins” we are analyzing counsel and that was given to us by the prophet. The literal mouthpiece of God! Not just intended for youth but extended to everyone! But truly, that is what works for me. I am glad you have found the balance for you.

  38. @ Ray-
    Obviously neither you nor I are in a position to establish what is appropriate to be a standard for all adults. So what you or I “buy” or don’t buy doesn’t establish a standard, especially since entertainment and the media has been hit pretty hard over the last few years from the pulpit from sources that do establish a standard. My interpretation of those comments do not lead me to believe that where media is concerned that there is any difference to what adults should be choosing vs what youth should be choosing. I also agree with little light that there is no subjective in regarding what is violent, vulgar, pornographic or immoral. There are various levels or shades of grey as you point out, but mild, non-gratuitous vulgarity that really happened is still vulgarity. Keep in mind that my stance is that many of these topics need to be addressed in other arenas of life, but I believe that the guidelines we have been given regarding entertainment and media would stand against them. In many posts above- including your own- I find that people are defending the shade of grey that they have become comfortable with or I might say desensitized to- but from my point of view that those are man’s standards, not Gods.

    Since my interpretation of what has been spoken regarding the topic is obviously different than yours I would be interested in hearing what of that which has been spoken you would use to defend your point.

  39. Klove, my main point is that even the LDS Church shows some degree of violence in some of the movies they produce. There is no way to approach some subjects of depth without including the things that make them be of depth.

    If we are to avoid ANYTHING that includes violence or vulgarity or immorality to ANY degree, we would have to stop reading ALL history textbooks. Also, even more tellingly, we couldn’t read the Bible and the Book of Mormon – and we certainly wouldn’t be able to make any decent movies about most of the stories in them (history textbooks and our scriptures).

    My main point is that such a standard might be ok for youth who have not matured to the point where they understand the varying types and degrees of those things, but even for them I don’t want to skip the historical and scriptural stories that are vulgar, immoral or violent (although I’d make an exception for the scriptural porn that is Song of Solomon). It’s just not as clear cut, black-and-white, universal as your comments seem to imply – at least not for me.

  40. Song of Solomon is what? I thought that was about Christ and the Church. (Snicker)

    I think, along with the FSOY, the word of God in the scriptures contained in the Book of Judges should be considered. Samson making Rambo look like Donny Osmond? Jael the wife of Heber sleeping with an invading general and then putting a tent stake through his head? A Levite priest killing his defiled wife, cutting her up into pieces and sending them to the 12 tribes? (I also wonder who got which piece?) The near annilation of the tribe of Benjamin including all of the women and children and then letting the few men left kidnap/rape young girls for their new wives while their parents visited the contemporary version of the temple?

    The prophet Samuel hacked king Agag into pieces. Can you imagine President Monson hacking Waren Jeffs into pieces in a fit of rage? And there was Balaam’s talking ass, whoops not quite in the right book. I sort of relate to Balaam’s ass.

    I hope I never get so righteous that I can’t read the Bible without it defiling my pristine mind.

  41. @Mike
    I hope that I am incorrect in assuming that your comments are in response to mine, but I cant help in thinking that they are.

    I have clearly pointed out twice that I interpret the council from the brothren regarding ENTERTAINMENT AND THE MEDIA to not distinguish between what adults and youth should regard as appropriate choices for entertainment and that this would limit, as it states in for the strength of youth, media that is “vulgar, immorral, violent or pornographic”. The horrific point that you seem to be making, correct me if I am wrong, is that the standard should be “if its in the bible then it’s OK.” This would allow for a complete lack of discretion in what we consider acceptable media because, as you effectively point out, most any sin that can be in a movie can likely be compared to something in the bible. A brief example of that logic would be that we should watch women bathing so that we could more fully appreciate King David.

    I’m not exactly sure what point you were making in your rant. This post and my comments are regarding entertainment and not about religious study. I would like to see if someone who disagrees with my point has evidences from one of the many recent discourses on entertainment and media to oppose my arguement.

    @ Ray in Post 39 you are correct that there is a very minimal amount of violence shown in LDS produced films. Once again you bring up limiting religious study which is not my point, but I would pose to you a question? Where should we draw the line. The FSOY states no violoence but as you point out in the churches own productions, which are accaptable for youth, there is a miniscule amount. So should we draw the line at none, at where the church has apparantly drawn their line, or at where we each are individually comfortable?

  42. Yep, Bro. Klove it was for you. I hope you are not too wroth with me. But not just for you. If y’all think that was a rant then you might have an irony deficiency. See your doctor for a complete evaluation. My mind is not righteous and pristine and actually I can be a real jerk. In fact I think that on a really bad day I am probably capable of murder, fornication, embezzlement, arson, coffee drinking, etc. And so are you. That is the point. People are not even close to being as good as this discussion presumes.

    The Bible is about real people with real problems and if God didn’t want us reading it then he might have done something about it. We can use the Bible as a guide to other reading on a metaphorical level. Pamphlets have their place but they may not be intended for everyone. The African women going topless and the Maori tattooes come to mind.

    As for the question of whether adults and youth should have different or the same standards for entertainment, I give it as my opinion that the adults should have higher standards. The consequences of serious mistakes are far less for youth than adults with families, jobs and responsibilities. Recovery is less difficult for youth.

    Reasonable goals for youth include: Not getting killed or maimed especially while driving, not having your children before you can raise them, not being kidnapped, not acquiring a serious addiction, not finding yourself on the wrong end of a “business deal” gone bad in the drug industry and getting murdered, not becoming so depressed that you kill yourself, not developing so little self esteem that you are incapable of giving, etc. Basically arriving at adulthood with most options still open. A decent education and a pleasant personality would also be appreciated.

    We should not be surprized when MANY of our youth (possibly including our own kids) do not reach these basic goals. We are going to have to deal with these problems if we are not already doing so. When the Sherrif calls to tell you that your teenage son is dead, you are not going to be worried about what the FSOY pamphlet says. Think about at what level you might stand a decent chance of winning these battles. Not an easy task. Not unreasonably strict and not too lenient either.

    As for searching high and low for counsel from the brethren, what I tend to hear them say is: go figure it out yourself (except in a few well-worn cases that are covered ad nauseum in conference). And for heck’s sake don’t bother writing us about anything. If that dude we called as your Bishop can’t figure it out, what makes you think we can?

    One last point, the scientific evidence for viewing violence leading to violent behavior is far more compelling than the scientific evidence for viewing sexually explicit material leading to sexual immorality. Yet we shun the slightest indecency while absorbing enormous amounts of severe aggression thoughtlessly. A way forward may be viewing less violence.

  43. “So should we draw the line at none, at where the church has apparantly drawn their line, or at where we each are individually comfortable?”

    Klove, the Church has not drawn the line at none for all members, including adults. It simply hasn’t done so, so I am comfortable right now aligning myself with what the Church actually has said.

    Take the example of the counsel **given to our youth** decades ago to avoid R-rated movies. Even back then, movies that weren’t R-rated had plenty of things that were violent, immoral and vulgar to some degree – and yet the counsel was to avoid what essentially consisted of the worst that most teenagers were likely to watch at that time. That counsel, btw, wasn’t directed at adults; literally, there is NO implication whatsoever in the address that it was meant to be applied to anyone but the audience to which it was delivered.

    There’s this thing called hedging about the law. Pres. Uchtdorf spoke recently about the membership’s tendency to create so many rules and follow so many customs that the meat of the Gospel is in danger of getting lost. Many members have gotten down-right Pharisaical in their mis-interpretation of the counsel to “abstain from every appearance of evil” – so much so that they use that incorrect interpretation to avoid things that, perhaps, in some way, to some people, in some situations, for some sub-groups, ad nauseum might appear to be wrong.

    I might be wrong in your case, and I’ve already said that I have no problem with you having a standard for yourself that avoids ALL instances of any degree of immorality, violence, vulgarity and pornography in your entertainment – but it seems to me like you are using that mis-interpretation to ban lots of things that need not be banned for mature adults who have the Gift of the Holy Ghost and can reach differing conclusions about where the proper line is individually. I’m not going to try to set your line, especially since the Church really hasn’t set a line for its adult membership – and even more since the Church itself crosses your line when it produces pieces that are, in fact, entertainment. They use media to create entertainment, and they cross your line regularly.

  44. it's a series of tubes says:

    especially since the Church really hasn’t set a line for its adult membership

    This one is a howler, indeed.

  45. #44 – So, exactly where, objectively, in the context of this post and comments, has the Church drawn that line?

    Howling is easy; answering constructively is more difficult.

  46. This is a very tricky issue. Personally, I have gotten to the point where it is very difficult for me to watch programming portraying murder. But on the other hand, I have found some real value to portroyals of murder and other “very bad behaviors” where the consequences of the acts are explored and not glossed over. “Shindler’s List” of course comes to mind. And I find it entertaining and strangely illuminating to watch “Mad Men” on television–a great program. It shows all manner of vice and sin, but where it differs from other programs is how it explores the consequences of such actions, such as Don Draper’s serial infidelity. And I find it interesting to see that although the main characters are drinking and smoking non-stop, you often see the negative consequences of those actions (Draper wakes up every morning coughing; characters have lost their jobs because their boozing was creating problems). So, is there moral value to portrayals of “sin” where the real consequences of those acts are explored?

  47. Isn’t it interesting how certain people can only feel better by going to extremes to argue with those who try to use guide lines to thoughtfully draw a line? And some people are so sensitive that one persons thoughtful line drawing brings accusations of imposing a philosophy on everyone? One of the greatest virtues of the Gospel is our ability to draw lines through our own sensitivity to the Holy Ghost. My line is different than others precisely because my sensitivity is different. It is the demonstration of line upon line. Stop comparing! We are all in different place on the ladder and need to quit reacting to where others are, or the lines that others draw. If you find that you feel defensive about your personal lines, then look inward instead of throwing rocks at others.

  48. But Momnmb, by saying that people ‘higher’ on the ladder or ‘more sensitive’ to the Holy Ghost draw lines in a more strict manner you are indeed imposing a philosophy on everyone – one that says that the farther towards one direction your line is drawn, the more righteous it is. I think that’s where the true meat of this discussion is; can violence be used in entertainment in a way that instructs and even edifies or is less always better with none being the truly righteous option? I tend to believe the former (although I will certainly admit that my love affair with ‘Veronica Mars’ is probably well over the line from instructive to the side of unhealthy fascination with violence and smarminess).

  49. On “drawing the line,” LDS culture has become almost pharisee-like in some respects. I am just guessing that the current film “The King’s Speech” (an absolutely wonderful and uplifting movie) is doing poorly in Utah because of the R rating it received (too many f words), whereas many morally bankrupt films that have the PG13 rating (“No Strings Attached” comes to mind, though I haven’t seen it) may be doing quite well despite lousy reviews because they passed the “not rated R” test.

  50. Regarding the ratings I have found it interesting that anyone in the church would use a hollowwood based rating system to define their own personal line of discretion. The teaching of watching no rated R movies has not been used in decades in official church teaching. And knowing that producers are doing their best to get away with putting every form of moral decay in their films yet still keep it clean enough to maintain the PG-13 rating (the financially best class to make it in) is enough reason for me to put little merit in the current rating system.

    On “drawing the line”. The church hasn’t drawn an official line for adults as far as I can tell. This is their stance on many issues- to let competent members of the church use their own free agency to define their own lines. However, in my opinion they do encourage personal line drawing and probably have an ideal place for that line to be for everyone. They give us guidelines and hint at where the line shoud be and those seem to be pouring in.

    I have set my line at almost giving up all movies that aren’t rated G- using the above described rating system only because the alternative way of finding good movies is to watch all movies that seem good and make your decision after you have been exposed to the bad spots. I do watch select movies in other rating categories, but rarely. I, in general don’t spend a lot of time with TV, movies, or magazines at all so it is not very hard for me.

    I had seen many rated R movies in my pre mission life, but repented and when we were first married, my wife and I stuck to the traditional “if its PG-13, its OK rule”. Some friends of ours had stopped watching PG-13 movies and told us about it. We thought they were weird and laughed about it. Over the next several months we watched 5 or 6 movies- all of which were PG-13 and all of which had at least one scene of moral corruption (as they pretty much all do) which offended our spirits and we left feeling well… spiritually offended- even though many had entertaining stories, great messages and such. The problem was there was always that one part. Satan has such a brilliant plan, take a really good movie and toss in a few what seem like innocent little parts that make people comfortable and then over decades up the ante. Flaxen cords is how I believe it is referenced in the BOM. Boy has his plan worked.

    So after this my wife and I decided to only watch PG movies. That week we went out and rented a PG movie I think called “The Prince and me” where a prince based on seeing a “girls gone wild” tv ad decided to go to school in america where a morally corrupt relationship with a lot of physical passion developed. Here we were trying to be good and only watch a PG movie and it was nothing but smut. So we decided to try and find only movies that contain content that we felt would not leave us feeling spiritually void. HA. That is very difficult. Hollywood, believe it or not, has different standards than most of us do. We became very frustrated with this.

    Then, several years later I was in an elders quorum meeting and our stake presidency had made some statements that the adults should be leading the youth by example in FSOY guidelines and they wanted all adults to become familiar with those guidelines and lead by example. While reading the section on entertainment and media as mentioned above, I had a very strong impression which culminated all of my above frustrations, that I should be aiming to live closer to the spirit and keep my self unspotted from the world and that I had been guided away from movies containing material not in accordance with the churches teachings- those of violence, immorality, vulgarity, and other forms of sin.

    I felt that this was the spirit prompting me on where I should draw my line and should only seek entertainment that is virtuous, lovely, of good report or praiseworthy. Now if it was the spirit or not causing that feeling is something that I obviously can’t convey, but I can’t for the life of me think of why the spirit would not be teaching me something like that. My question is- if that is what the spirit taught me, why would it teach anyone else anything different? In other words is what Momnmb says regarding being spiritually sensitive defining our personal lines true? (So as to not come off as “holier than thou” I fully recognize that this is only one small area of life and I have an infinate number of faults and most of you are probably better people than I independent of what forms of entertainment you choose) And if so, which I’m sure there are going to be a lot of people who disagree, shouldn’t we all be aiming to rid ourselves of the spots of the world and draw closer to the spirit even in our entertainment? (sorry for the leading question)

    BTW, I am unfamiliar with the term “howling” what does that mean?

  51. As I said, Klove, I support you fully in establishing your own line wherever is best for you.

    “if that is what the spirit taught me, why would it teach anyone else anything different?”

    Because we are different – and because God might have a work for one person that requires some things different than what He might require of others. In a very real way, what stains some simply doesn’t stain others, if you will.

    For example, some people would never dream of going into a bar to meet someone they Home Teach; others would do so without hesitation. Is either one objectively “wrong”? I don’t think so. It depends on the needs of the person being Home Taught, imo, and the “sensitivities” of the Home Teacher. I certainly wouldn’t expect someone who is a recovering alcoholic to do so, but I have no problem with someone who isn’t tempted by alcohol to do so – especially if a bar is the only place the person being Home Taught will meet.

    Another example:

    Some people probably shouldn’t spend extended time at a beach – or any time at a nude beach. For others, there really is no ill effect. Nudity, in and of itself, is neither vulgar nor pornographic. Therefore, I can believe God might call someone to a mission to any area where there is extensive partial or full nudity, while he would not call someone else to that area.

    To phrase it differently, the Spirit might teach someone one thing but teach someone else something very different – and possibly even opposite. That difference doesn’t invalidate either experience, as long as the revelation / inspiration is targeted to the individual for a divine reason.

    As to your final questions, sure, I can buy that. It’s defining the “spots of the world” and “drawing closer to the spirit” that are trickier.

    As I said in my first comment in this thread, this post made me stop and think about how I am drawing my line. I appreciate that. I just believe it’s a line I have to draw for myself, just as you’ve thoughtfully drawn the line that works for you.

    (and “howling” means “laughing hysterically” – so a “howler” is something that is so ludicrous it makes someone laugh hysterically – in derision, in this case)

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