Your Comprehensive Guide to Johnny Lingo: A GIF Extravaganza!

Please welcome a very funny woman (and my SIL), Jessie Jensen, with her first BCC guest post. She tweets as @JessieJensen, if you’re into that sort of thing, and you might have seen her popular “baby names” posts on her Bloggity Blog.

For better or for worse, Johnny Lingo is an inescapable part of Mormon lore, as immovable as the everlasting hills. This short film, the joint creation of the Sunday School General Board and (what is now) BYU-Hawaii and abounding in abysmal wigs, has been delighting LDS audiences for all the wrong reasons since 1969. If you’re unfamiliar with the storyline, you can view the thing in its entirety here, or you can save yourself 24 minutes of cringing and check out my handy GIF guide instead. Consolidated cringing!


We begin with the announced arrival of the much-anticipated title visitor.


Johnny, a successful trader, has returned to the island to strike a deal with Moki, the father of a (purportedly) stupid, ugly girl named Mahana.


Mahana won’t come out from her hiding place for the bridal negotiations, resulting in her abusive father gifting viewers the single most quotable line in LDS cinema:


The villagers arrive at Moki’s hut, and he and Johnny begin the haggling…



Jude Law Johnny Lingo

Meanwhile, the ladies waste no time boasting their perceived worths.


“Really? My husband paid five cows for me.”


Women, amiright?? Always slighting each others’ purchase prices.

The crowd collectively agrees that the most Moki could possibly ask for Mahana is one cow, and that Johnny would be right to counter with a strictly-severed-appendages-only offer. Moki consults his counsellor then demands,



Johnny holds up his hand to silence the villagers, and THEN (wait til you see!)



Moki can barely reply.


Then for some reason there’s this old white guy, who is sorta the narrator, because we wouldn’t trust a Polynesian to tell the story correctly? I guess? Anyway, he asks the second most important question (the first of course being, “How will this inflation affect the island’s economy?”),


Why, indeed. Why, indeed.

The most eligible bachelor on the island, Johnny Lingo, has just offered an unprecedented eight cows for undesirable Mahana. His next stop is the general store for a gift for his new bride-to-be.


This mirror isn’t good enough for Mahana. After some back and forth, Mr. Harris eventually gives in and orders a fancier one, because…


Meanwhile, Mahana hides in the hut and doubts that Johnny will bring the cows at all. Well with THAT attitude!! She’s wrong, of course.



Moki is the proud new owner of eight cows, Johnny is the proud new owner of Mahana, everything’s settled, all that’s left is for her to timidly place her perfectly manicured hand in his.



Months later, the two return from their honeymoon. Mr. Harris locates the mirror Johnny ordered, which has been collecting dust in his shop,


Mr. Harris sets off to greet the newlyweds. As he approaches their home, he sees Mahana’s father storming away, hollering about having been cheated. Cheated?? What on earth could Moki mean?



Mr. Harris forgets his manners and spends the next few minutes staring intensely and repeating her name.




Blah blah blah, something about Johnny wanting a wife who knew she was better than all the other wives…



  1. andrew h says:

    Did you know that Blaisdell Makee (Johnny Lingo) also played a crewman on two episodes of Star Trek including being in fan favorite episode “The Space Seed”?

  2. Funny you mention Space Seed, I’d swear Khan makes an appearance in gif #10.

  3. Thomas Parkin says:

    I appreciate the presence of the white trader to help interpret for me the exotic and primitive culture.

  4. Does old narrator dude have a “most interesting homeless man in the world” thing going on, or is it just me?

  5. Makee also played Charles Manson (!) in a 1971 exploitation movie called The Manson Murders.
    The movie was also released under the name “The Cult” with the tagline “The family that preys together, slays together”- which makes it just about the weirdest Bizarro-world mormon messages video I can imagine.


    and the trailer:

  6. I always assumed he had a “running from the law back in America” thing going on.

  7. He’s no Sawyer. He’s not even a John Locke. Bernard at best.

  8. Proud Daughter of Eve says:

    “Blah blah blah, something about Johnny wanting a wife who knew she was better than all the other wives…”

    You know, I like a good parody. And “Johnny Lingo” is ripe for the plucking in many ways. But this last line is just a world of wrong. He wasn’t doing it because he wanted a wife who knew she was better than all the others. He did it because he had loved her for a long time and wanted to her to feel valued. She went from being the least-wanted girl to one of the most respected. From a feminist viewpoint you can get snarky about a man “buying” her self-esteem but to do so misses the central point of the story: how we treat others (men, women, parents, children, friends, family) affects how they feel about themselves.

  9. Uncapped sleeves! No sleeves! No shirts! Can someone ban this as it. obviously violates all sorts of modesty standards? None of our youth should see it for, well, many reasons.

  10. Amen, PDofE. Cheesy or not, all issues aside, that message is a great one.

    Also, I think the “belonged to him” is an incorrect summary of the message and of the interaction between Johnny and Mahana. I understand how repulsive the idea of buying a wife is, but there is nothing in the movie itself that implies Johnny believes he owns Mahana or treats her as property. If anything, the way he treats her is a repudiation of the culture from which he freed her.

  11. Loved it, kevinf.

  12. Proud Daughter: Fair point, but considering that the very last line in the movie is, “And now she KNOWS she is worth more than every other woman on the island,” as the music swells to a climax, I don’t think my snark was too far off base.

  13. Sharee Hughes says:

    The last line of the film is obnoxious because, of course, no person can (or should, anyway) own another person (slavery notwithstanding) so Mahana should not have “belonged” to Johnny. But we have to look at the culture being portrayed. A man who pays a father for his daughter would be assumed to own that daughter. However, that isn’t really the point, and I agree with Proud Daughter of Eve that the point of the film is that how we treat others affects how they feel about themselves. Mahana had always been told she was ugly (why, I have no idea, since the two women who were bragging about how much their husbands had paid for them were certainly no beauty contest winners), but Johnny obviously did not agree and it was his love that inspired him to offer an unprecedented 8 cows for a women he believed to be truly beautiful. I once heard someone say that “there is no such thing as an ugly woman, only one who does not know how to be beautiful.”

  14. it's a series of tubes says:

    Some of these GIFs are going to see a long, healthy life in the bloggernacle. Well done. Well done, indeed.

  15. Who knew there were Johnny Lingo apologists?

  16. There are also women who worry about more important things than being beautiful.

    But I agree. Chintzy and outdated, yes. But the line where he says that she was always beautiful still twinges me. He always knew she was amazing, he just wanted to teach her to know it, too. Because, as he says, what matters most is how she thinks about herself. I think there is something in everyone that hopes to find someone who can look past their outside flaws to find their worth.

  17. Please give this same treatment to Bitter Wind, my vote for best/worst LDS movie ever.

  18. My father’s obsession with this movie led to him asking my stepmother to marty him by putting up 10!! wooden cow cut outs on her lawn, as his way of proposing. She lived on the corner of two relatively busy streets. The number of people who drove by, and caused daily traffic jams, got to the point where the city asked him to stop standing on the corner giving out fliers with how to get a Johnny Lingo VHS, how to contact the local missionaries and what being a 10 Cow Wife meant. I felt bad for her kids, some of whom ended up on the local news because they were trying to get in the house after school. I can’t say that I liked the movie before all the hoopla, but my stepsibs, (from what they have told siblings) positively hate it. My father was, of course, totally oblivious to what he was putting his future stepchildren through.

  19. Would, “Holy Cow!” be appropriate, Julia?

  20. John Mansfield says:

    From Bloomberg:

    “Cows-for-Bride Inflation Spurs Cattle Theft Among Mundari in South Sudan”

    “Emmanuel Gambiri said an educated wife in his cattle-herding Mundari tribe in South Sudan costs 50 cows, 60 goats and 30,000 Sudanese pounds ($12,000) in cash.
    “At that price, some men who otherwise can’t afford a bride turn to stealing livestock in order to buy a wife and gain status, said Gambiri, citing a friend who is now a cattle rustler. A surge in ‘bride price’ has fueled cattle raids in which more than 2,000 people are killed each year.
    “In his village of Terekeka, in the state of Central Equatoria, Gambiri recalls a time when wives cost as little as 12 cows and tribal chiefs wielded enough power to call the parents and set an affordable bride price.”

  21. Julia, is your father Bronco Mendenhall?

  22. It occurs to me that Johnny Lingo is a rip off of the 3 years earlier Mudd’s Women episode of Star Trek. Substitute non-descript islander culture for horny dilithium miners, then force an entire generation of seminary students to watch it. I’d like to see what kind of seminary videos they could make with other class Trek episodes, These things practically write themselves!

  23. No Romni, that is not his name.

  24. Julia, I think Romni was alluding to this
    I thought it was pretty funny.

  25. I guess not being from Utah and never going to BYU, left me out of the loop.

  26. Leonard R says:

    I grew up in a small town on the Alberta prairies, with only a couple of other Mormon families. I had two other LDS kids in my grade. As youth, we all watched Johnny Lingo many times.

    Then, one day in Grade 8, our Health class teacher starts a movie, and what do we start watching but Johnny Lingo. Our classmates watched in bemusement as the three of us repeated line after line, scene after scene of this little film. Ah, what a gloriously fun day that was, with 24 minutes of inside jokes in our public school class….

  27. This must have taken some time. It was enjoyable. 8 cow post.

  28. Jessie, this is great! Thanks for posting it!

  29. Jessie, I follow your blog and always love the realism and awesomely snarky comments. After reading this and then reading people’s remarks about “treating others kindly” and the whole feminist “belonging to him” is so wrong. C’mon, it’s frickin hilarious. (Yeah I said Frickin!) It is meant to be funny and a spoof. Pull your heads out….

  30. Oh man. If you can’t make fun of Johnny Lingo, what CAN you make fun of?

  31. True story: my seminary teacher’s wife has a huge diamond on her wedding ring. He told us he wanted her to have a massive rock so no one would look down on her “because some ladies, even in the church, do that.” I thought that was ridiculous until my freshman-in-college self was in biology lab across from a newly married 18 year old who pouted and moved back in with her mom until she got a bigger ring “because my friends kept asking me why I had a promise ring and not a real ring.” She this as “the best decision I ever made.” I started to think that maybe I’d missed something and women do judge each other’s rings. Thankfully I’ve never heard this idea again.

  32. Ugh, sorry about lack of commas and a missing word.

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