I’m a Baby Jesus Fan

This post is possibly history making. I’m going to relate “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” to the gospel. (I watched this movie in a trailer park with a bunch of armed security guards, so I just have to be a fan.) Anyways, at one point, Ricky Bobby prays to “Dear Lord baby Jesus” then, just to mess with his wife, escalates to praying to “Dear 8 lb. 6 oz. baby Jesus.” Heretical? Hypocritical? Scandalous? Nahh. This is why I love Christmas… [Read more…]

The Validity of Social Welfare Explanations of Polygamy

When asked about polygamy, a common answer given by modern-day Mormons is that polygamy acted as a social welfare mechanism, providing financial and social security for otherwise single and poor women. I know that my own family’s lone polygamy story stresses this aspect. My great-great-grandmother was orphaned on the way to Utah, and wound up marrying my relatively well-off and already married great-great-grandfather because she had no other way to survive. If I remember correctly there was a significant age difference between the two. They wound up settling in a small community in Cache Valley. Her relationship with the first wife was quite rocky, and when my great-great-grandfather left town, this much younger second wife would clean out the chicken coop and move herself and her children into it until he returned. [Read more…]

What I say, what you hear

I live and work in the same compound, which means that I never really go home. I work, eat, socialize, and cannot avoid the same group of people. The other night I was in the gym and ran into a colleague. He looked at me and incredulously asked “What are YOU doing here?” “Um, um, um” I stammered for a bit… “I’ve been having some trouble with insomnia lately, so I’m trying to work out…umm…” He looked horrified and said “I meant, what are you doing here at this job, I thought you transferred to Washington D.C.” Oh. [Read more…]

In Praise of our Secret Keepers

I have a secret. This isn’t one of those fun, gossipy secrets. It’s more like a burden…a trying to keep someone from getting hurt kind of a secret…and it’s weighing on me. I have this strong urge to divulge, like keeping it in is somehow painful. So, I went to see a secret keeper, my bishop, talked it over with him, unburdened myself, and left feeling calm, peaceful, and able to cope. On the ride home I thought, “how many more people unburdened themselves tonight? How many more secrets is he living with?” [Read more…]

The Best Dinner Invitation Ever

There is a scripture I’ve read several times this week, and everytime it makes me cry: [Read more…]

Does being a Mormon help or hinder your career?

I’ve been reading a pretty interesting book for one of my classes: “A Spy for all Seasons” by Duane Clarridge. He’s a fairly egotistical but clearly bright man who spent years in the Clandestine Services at the CIA. He spends a fair amount of the book commenting on other people’s careers, strengths, and ineptitudes–which is both fascinating and makes me grit my teeth in annoyance. Eventually he got to a Mormon (who’s name was changed to protect his identity). [Read more…]

Am I my Co-Blogger’s Keeper?

Do I have any moral responsibility for what goes on in the ‘nacle? Should we all be blamed for what others write? Let’s examine the opposite concept first, should we get credit for the bloggernacle as a whole because we are participants? This is of course a loaded concept in Mormonism, but I’m proud to be part of this community. I learn from you all, I find comfort from your words, I laugh with you even though I don’t know most of you. There is something surprising and fresh and real about our community, and I’m proud of it. Does pride connote ownership and responsibility? [Read more…]

Confessions of a Less Active Lurker

There are two consequences of dropping off the face of the ‘nacle and lurking for several months. The first is that you are harassed by your co-bloggers because of your lack of participation. Kind of a snarky and blog-worthy home teaching equivalent. Although, I have to say I couldn’t tell if they were “hey, we’d really like you to come back to full fellowship” kind of messages, or if they were “hey, wouldn’t you like to remove yourself from the rolls of the ‘nacle before we go to the bother of ex-ing you” kind of messages. Maybe I’ll lie low a little longer, find out, and let you know… [Read more…]

I Unabashadly Wish You a Happy Halloween!

I love Halloween.  I love dressing up, I love seeing little munchies dressed up, I love scary movies, I love the silliness of it, and I love–love–copious amounts of the bewitching substance known as chocolate.  Love it love it love it.

But I’m a Mormon, so should I feel guilty?  Is loving Halloween one more arrow in my quiver of badness and unorthodoxy?  Is this holiday just too pagan for the saints?

[Read more…]

Blogging vs. Snogging

Blogging vs. Snogging [FN1].  Compare and contrast [FN2] and then you decide.

[Read more…]

(Wo)men are that they might have sleep.

That’s what I wish it said.  I’m all in favor of joy–but right now, the most joyful sight I could think of would be the back of my own eyelids.  I’m tired.  I’m achy-joint, scratchy eye-lid, fuzzy-brain chronically tired.  Some nights I’m too tired to sleep, and I wake up every hour looking at the clock.  Every day I wake up to my annoyingly loud alarm buzzing (the only effective setting I’m sorry to say) wondering if I’m going to make it.  Somethin’s gotta change…but nothin’s gonna change.  This is my life until the first week of June.  Come on June….   

[Read more…]

Theory and Doctrine, and our Horrible and Beautiful Lives

I’ve had a very expensive education.  The older I get, the more I’m finding that the only thing it is really good for is to sound witty and erudite at cocktail parties.  The irony is that I don’t drink and hate cocktail parties.  Instead of learning my lesson, a make it on your own bootstraps and grit kind of lesson, I’m going back to school.  Again.  For another very expensive degree.  One could draw the conclusion that education does not make you smarter.

[Read more…]

Help Me Teach With Inspiration

You knew it was inevitable.  Within weeks of joining a family ward, I was assigned to corrupt the youth.  Okay, not actually assigned–apparently I "volunteered" to teach early morning Seminary, and let’s just say that no one has actually prescribed corruption.  We’ll see what happens. 

[Read more…]

Keep Sweet

Last night I was watching PrimeTime Live’s report on a woman from Colorado City who had escaped a polygamous marriage with her five children and returned to confront her abusive father and husband.  It was uncomfortable for me to watch–the kind of story that makes me wonder about my polygamous ancestors, and what kind of ownership I have over the current cult problem because of distantly shared religious ideas.

One idea that won’t leave me is the focus the reporter put on the phrase “Keep Sweet.”  Apparently it is something of a mantra repeated to young girls to remind them of their place–their submissive role in marriage.  Disturbingly, this notion of submissiveness is somehow fixed to a notion of femininity–a package presented to these girls, tied up with religious guilt and obligation, that they must accept, whether willingly, guiltily, or painfully.  Why femininity?  Is it simply an effective weapon used against these girls, or is there some spiritual merit to femininity that we can either responsibly harness or warp in an effort to gain unrighteous dominion?

[Read more…]

The Nature of Family

I just returned from a rather lengthy trip to Utah.  Not under the time constraints that usually keep my visits with my family short, I was able to spend a lot of time with family and friends, and have come up with a few conclusions, and of course a few questions. 

[Read more…]

Stop Making Assumptions About Me

There seems to be a growing undercurrent in church culture of treating single women with careers with a certain amount of suspicion.  I’ve noticed the following, or been part of the following conversations in the last six months or so.  1) Someone in the Bloggernacle linked to a letter to the editor to the Daily Universe by a male student’s mother.  She lamented the number of women who seemed uninterested in having families, and instead were pursuing their careers.  She suggested that the women spend more time pursuing an MRS. degree at BYU.  2)  I was having a conversation with a  favorite cousin of mine in Utah.  He wants to get  married and was looking for girls to date.  I asked him what he was looking for and he said "Well, you know, not the Hillary Clinton type."  Intrigued and amused, I pressed him.  "You know, women who don’t care about their families."  3)  The very helpful talk by the local bishop at the annual Duck Beach phenomenon for singles in North Carolina.  Basically, "I know your single life is so fun, but you really should want to get married."  4) The apparently controversial cover article in the Ensign this month mentioned this same observation.  Overall I liked the article, but bristled a little at the suggestion that staying single and having a career was "glamorous. "  Perhaps assuming that the glamour was outweighing the desire to get married and have children,  women were choosing to turn their backs on having families.

[Read more…]

Soliciting Letters to the Editor(s)

Why do you blog?  What are you getting out of blogging?  What would you like to get out of blogging?  What interests you about BCC?  What ticks you off about BCC?  What features would you like to see?  What is your favorite blog?  Why?  Here’s your chance to sound off and tell your humble (or not) perma-bloggers exactly what you think.  Lurking a lot?  Here’s your chance to chime in.

Our Own Little Diaspora: Oh The Drama!

I feel that one of my functions at BCC is to be the voice of the single community within the church.  Not that you all need to know the details of my dating life, which although at times entertaining, are not blog worthy.  But once in a while something so momentous happens that I feel I need to blog about it.  Last time, the momentous occasion was me noticing that dating in a singles ward is like being on a crappy reality t.v. show.  That was marginally big.  This time I’m serious, it’s BIG!  Here’s the news:  I’m old.  I’ve been banished.  I’m on my way to being a cheap Sheri Dew imitation.  The drama and angst is perhaps too much to handle…forgive me while I wipe my tears and daintily blow my nose….

[Read more…]

General Conference

Reactions to General Conference?  Comments?  Questions?  Epiphanies?  Post Below.

International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day! One of my favorite holidays that no one in America celebrates…which is a shame.  I think that International Women’s Day has such potential–it’s a celebration of women without the guilt and angst associated with Mother’s day.  Plus, in my mind, because I discovered it while living in Russia, it has slightly vague socialist overtones…celebrate the women, heroes of our great progressive culture. 

So, BCC readers, as celebration of this great heroic day of progressivist good is basically a blank slate here in America, I solicit your suggestions.  How should we celebrate International Women’s Day?  (Can’t think of anything buy flowers for the women you love…Russia still does some things right…)

Charity Seeketh Not Her Own

I’ve been reading the famous charity passages in both 1 Corinthians 13, and Moroni 7.  I’m fascinated by these passages.  They are clearly important in the world of Mormon doctrine.  Like the Sermon on the Mount and some Isaiah passages, the Moroni incarnation of the charity doctrine is in part a repetition from the Bible.  Also, the phrase "charity never faileth", found in both books of scripture, is the motto chosen for the Relief Society, and one of the first scriptural exhortations that most people memorize just by sheer repetition in church and visual media.   The Book of Mormon clarification that "charity is the pure love of Christ" is the basis of our doctrine linking the spiritual gift of charity to the outward manifestations of good works.  This is important, basic doctrine, rightly emphasized, and always inspiring.

[Read more…]

Book of Mormon on the Red Carpet

So I was reading the news (read: eonline.com) this afternoon, and came across the following item in the live blog from the Golden Globes last night:

7:22 p.m.: Arrested Development‘s David Cross walks the red carpet accompanied by…the Book of Mormon. He’s overheard telling an interviewer that he brought along the tome as emergency reading material because "these things get boring."

Huh?  Was that outright funny?  (religious comedy props–the new wave of humor…)  Ironically funny?  (Perhaps an homage to Mark Twain’s famous "ether in print" comment…)  Endearing?  Surrealist Art?  Sincere?

I invite you all to come up with theories.  Author of best theory will be crowned BCC queen of the day (regardless of your actual gender.)

My Foray into the Theatah

Well, that’s a bit of a high brow title to describe my community theater experience last month, but it was an experience to be celebrated, and what better way to celebrate than with a fake British accent.  (Just ask Madonna…or Esther).  Sometime in November, my roommate, who teaches children’s music classes at the local community center, was asked to be the pianist for the community theater’s production of  "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever."   She was already singing in another production, but after being assured that it just involved playing some hymns during the pageant, she suggested that they contact me.  I was a bit skeptical, because I’m more than a bit stage shy when it comes to playing the piano (more on that later), but I figured it was just a couple of hymns, and I really could use the money….so voila.  I got the job.

[Read more…]

Oh Glorious Bronzed Hornsman–How long we have awaited thy arrival!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen…the folks at WalMart are recognizing the buying power of Mormons, and are filling that with a glorious bronzed hornsman…complete with a tennis visor.

Behold!

So how do you all feel about marketing efforts towards church members? Off shoot of church’s marketing plan as suggested by Deseret News? Tacky? Priestcraft? Necessary and welcome? Will you be buying a bronzed hornsman for your relatives this Christmas?

Thankful to be an Authentic Mormon

I’m planning Thanksgiving this week which got me thinking about previous Thanksgivings. They fall into pretty much two categories. Category One: Long plane rides home for a too short weekend with my family, consisting of doing lots of dishes while hoping that no one in my extended family is fighting. One memorable Thanksgiving red eye plane ride in law school found me sitting next to a very smelly little man who tended to cuddle after he fell asleep. Category Two: being a stray taken in by charitable people whose sense of duty probably outstripped their affection for me. Another memorable Thanksgiving found me in an apartment in Boston with a hostess with strep throat, who felt well enough only to bake a turkey. There was another Mormon girl there with me, who was so overwhelmed to be surrounded by Harvard Law Students that she had a “drunk Mormon episode” fueled by adrenaline rather than wine. She karaoked the entire Rent soundtrack at the top of her lungs while the authentically drunk law students sat around staring at her with mouths gaping open. On the way home some guy with a southie accent called me and my friend lesbians. A day forever emblazened on my memory.

This year will be different. This year, I’m cooking dinner with my urban Singleton family. (huzzah for Bridget Jones!) As I found out last year, Singleton dinners are wonderful. No family fights, no green bean casserole, and no football. And once I figured out I could cook a turkey without burning down the house, my enjoyment only increased. This year, riding on last years’ success, we’re doing it again. And possibly taking in some strays–only we will not play the Rent soundtrack.

So, here’s the thing I’ve realized while planning Thanksgiving for my urban Singleton family. They really are family. We take care of each other. Together we’ve gone through major surgery, job loss, illness, grief over (traditional) family tragedies, hookups, and breakups. Armed by our cell phones, we all know that help is one chain of kindly gossip away. Our families know it too. My friend’s sister called one of us the day of that friend’s emergency surgery. A quick phone conference to decide who could take work off, and we had someone at the hospital in 30 minutes. My roommates’ moms call, and talk to me about my job woes before they talk to their own daughters. My parents praise my friends more than they praise me. (Or at least my insecure self thinks they do.) We have some important things in common. We’re all committed to living gospel-oriented lives, and we check up on each other. There is safety in confessing both doubts and triumphs to an unconditionally caring ear.

I think I’ve always subconsciously bought into the idea that my gratitude was for the opportunity to simulate an authentic Mormon life in an unconventional environment while I waited for my chance to have a family of my own. But as I’ve been planning Thanksgiving for my favorite Singletons, I realized we’re all living authentic Mormon lives. We are taking the admonitions of prophets and scriptures and structuring our lives to fit them. We are committed “gospel livers” and not “gospel waiters.” We live in a world so centered around family that we forget that the perfect family doesn’t exist. All committed members living gospel lives inside or outside a traditional family are authentic Mormons, because we are all taking gospel principles and trying to apply it to whatever craziness life is throwing at us. And let’s face it. Life tends to throw the crazy right about this time of year. May all your holidays be filled with minimal craziness assuaged by your authentic Mormon convictions. And may you avoid both smelly traveling companions and the Rent soundtrack.

Thank You, 31 Years Later

This past month I celebrated my thirty-first birthday, and in addition to very much enjoying my friend-sponsored surprise party (where my lovely friends contributed to my much needed mental tidy by burning things that upset me in a big big bonfire), I enjoyed some free introspection time. This year, I spent quite a bit of time thinking about my birth mother. Usually, a few days after my birthday, I remember that she is out there somewhere, and surmise that she was probably trying to deal with a very difficult day. This year, however, I thought about her quite a bit on my birthday and thought that although I have no strong desire to actually try to find her (as I’m a fiercely devoted member of the quirky but loving Hall family) I did want to say thank you. So here is my thank you note:

Dear Birth Mother,

I don’t remember meeting you, although I’m sure that I made quite an impression on you 31 years ago. I know it must have been hard to make the decision to put me up for adoption. But I wanted you to know that I consider it to be the most admirable selfless act that I can imagine. My parents are amazing, supportive, loving people, and they raised me in a stable, spiritual home, along with my older brother. They aren’t rich, but they had the financial stability to support me and encourage my education. They also are happy, well-adjusted people, who raised me to be practical and strong–but still call me princess. I am so grateful that I was raised in that home, and I know that you made it possible. I imagine that you were pretty young when I was born, and I also imagine you realized you couldn’t give me everything you wanted to yourself, so you shared me with people who could. I like to think that you passed on to me the ability to make mature selfless decisions, because that is something that I admire about you, and am striving to develop myself.

I also want to thank you for not having an abortion. I always thought it was ironic that I was born exactly nine months after the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. I know that you legally had the choice to terminate your pregnancy, but you chose not to. I hope you don’t regret that decision. I feel so fortunate to be alive. I love my life. I love what I’ve done with it, and I cherish the fact that I’ve been so blessed.

Please don’t worry about me. I know that there are still people who are wary of adoption. I remember reading billboards for mental hospitals in Utah that specialized in “drug and alcohol addiction, eating disorders, and adopted children.” I always thought that was pretty ridiculous, and being the spunky girl I am, make fun of those signs and attitudes regularly. Please don’t spend time anguishing over whether or not you did the right thing. I know you were inspired to allow my parents to adopt me, and I’m so grateful that you followed that inspiration. I really hope that you have found peace with your decision, and I want you to know that I wish you all the best in life. You certainly deserve to experience the same kind of happiness you’ve given me.

With much respect,

Karen

Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going?

Not content to wait until actual mid-life to have a mid-life crisis, I’ve decided to over-achieve in this area and have them every 10 years. If it’s good enough for the U.S. census, it’s good enough for me.

Let me sum up me in a few stark words: went to law school, worked in a law firm, worked at an international organization, went back to law firm, hated said work with a fiery passion–usually reserved for sin and injustice, am now unemployed, am now looking for jobs for which I am apparently not qualified, self-doubt and crazy schemes are hatching simultaneously. (Well, that first part was more descriptive, and the last part more mid-life crisis-ish.)

Here’s the thing. I think I’m going back to school. I, already over-educated and debt-laden, am seriously considering returning to get a Master’s degree in International Affairs/Security Studies, with the goal of an eventual Ph.d. nascently forming. Now, I’m not so crazy that I’m going to go to school full time. This will be strictly a night thing that will hopefully correspond to and complement the fascinating day job that I plan to have in the very near future–please God, the very near future…

So here are the existential questions: Who am I? Am I the gal who will not be happy with my career until I’m doing exactly the kind of work that fascinates me, and moreover will not be happy unless I can link my job directly to being socially beneficial? (Not in a “I’m helping the economy kind of way” but in a “I want to actually be writing the foreign policy” kind of way.) In law school I didn’t think that those things mattered to me, now I know they are essential. Is that selfish? Millions of people simply exist by doing jobs that they don’t necessarily like, but that pay the bills. Why should I be different? Because I have the luxury to do so? I’m not married, I’m not supporting children, therefore my happiness is paramount? Or should I be looking at this more in a law of consecration kind of way? I should develop whatever meager talents I’ve been given to the highest degree possible as a way of benefitting others.

Where did I come from? Well, educationally, and most recently, law school. My inspiration to “go for it” and get an ivy league education was much stronger than my inspiration to serve a mission. I knew that I should go to law school, mostly for that “law of consecration” reason mentioned above…yet, it turns out that was more of a stepping stone rather than an end. Am I turning my back on that inspiration? Rejecting it? Or is this new career plan, complete with the resulting financial and time cost, a refining of my original trajectory–a honing, rather than a correction? Further, I love being in school. Again, am I being selfish because I’m having a difficult time right now, and want the same kind of happiness that I remember from undergrad and law school? Partly, yes. I miss that kind of structured learning. I miss the atmosphere.

Where am I going? (Besides to the temple…for some serious introspection…) Apparently, back to school. Apparently to a place where I’m over-educated and under-financed. (Incidentally, very attractive traits to the single Mormon male population…) But also, apparently to a place where I’m happier, apparently to a place where I’m more qualified for jobs that I actually want (government and eventually teaching), and apparently a place where I’m finally satisfied with my career choices–in a great big existential sleep-at-night-and-look-at-myself-in-the-mirror-in-the-morning kind of way.

Etiquette of Conference Viewing

So, apparently my friend thought it was rude when I tested the length of the scarf I was crocheting during the closing prayer in conference today. Which made me wonder, really, what proper t.v. prayer behavior is, which started me questioning all of my little conference rituals. So, in the style of the Mormon Miss Manners, I present to you: Conference Etiquette.

1. T.V. prayers are real prayers, but require less rigid behavior. Do keep your eyes open and move, but only while sitting down. Do not get up to get a snack. Do not talk. Do not mute the prayer and fight with your family. Do not make other people laugh by pulling faces. Do check your scarf length.

2. Do not sing along with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Do make fun of the one poor black man that they keep focusing on, and do give the camera men suggestions on whom to focus. Preferrably the man who is yawning, or the woman who forgot the words.

3. Do sing loudly during the rest hymn. Do ignore the looks of people around you–because your enthusiasm outstrips your talent. Do laugh at the primary children when they sing “gird up your loins” during Come Come Ye Saints.

4. Do enthusiastically raise your hand to sustain the general authorities. Do make wildly speculative comments about why certain people were released.

5. Do not say rude things about the general authorities. But do make affectionate comments like “oh he’s so cute” and “he looks better a little chunky.”

6. Do not fall asleep during morning conference. It is permissible to fall asleep during afternoon conference, but only accidentally. Do not snore.

7. Do work on handiwork during conference. Do vocally admire your friends’ handiwork. Do secretly think that yours is better. Do ignore talks about pride.

8. Do not ignore the other talks. Do feel guilty. Do start REGULAR scripture study for at least a week, and do go buy a journal with every intention of writing in it. Do dust it occasionally.

I Broke an Unwritten Mormon Rule….Credibility Possibly Shot Forever

I have to say, I’m approaching the Sabbath with a bitter- sweet kind of feeling. Tomorrow I’m getting released from being the gospel doctrine teacher. I always pictured myself as the “smile and agree to serve” kind of gal….no matter if it was nursery, homemaking, or ward librarian. But when I got called into chat with the first counselor a couple of weeks ago, he told me that they had another calling in mind for me and what did I think about being released from teaching gospel doctrine. I started crying. Yep. Right there in the coat closet we were meeting in. I sort of plastered on a fake smile and said “I’m happy to serve wherever I’m needed” and made a beeline for the bathroom where the sobbing started in earnest. Let’s just say I’m embarrassed. About the whole crying in the bathroom thing….oh and crying in the car in the parking lot, oh, and the choking up when talking with the person who I’m now replacing in my new calling. I’m even more embarrassed that this episode has resulted in the entire bishopric looking at me with soft, kind eyes and patting my arm whenever we talk.

So I needed to figure out why I was being such a big baby–because clearly this behavior cannot continue. And I have thought of a few reasons, but the ultimate one is that I love teaching gospel doctrine. It is the most spiritually fulfilling calling I’ve ever had. I love being the one that waits for the inspiration to pick out the topics that need to be discussed. I love presenting ideas in an unusual way and seeing people get excited in Sunday School. I love being forced to systematically study the scriptures. I love that I’ve taught for long enough that themes have started to emerge. Like every once in a while we have a “symbolism is fun” lesson, or a “scriptures as literature” lesson, and the class really digs it. I love that even though I’m naturally shy, I’ve been forced to get to know large numbers of people in my calling. Mostly, I love that I’ve had a spiritual renaissance that tracks with my teaching gospel doctrine ever since I graduated from law school. (A particularly tumultuous few years for me spiritually…) Finally, I’m currently going through some of the most seriously difficult few months I’ve ever faced in my life, and I love having the familiarity of a calling that I am comfortable and confident in.

Which is probably why I’m being released–comfort and confidence are not necessarily the adjectives related to spiritual growth. Apparently, I’ve had this calling longer than anyone else in the ward has had his/her calling, including the bishop. I don’t think we get passes from necessary change just because we’re happy where we are, or just because we think we need continuity, or just because we cry in front of people in power. So tomorrow will be bitter, because I’m being released, then teaching my last lesson. But also tomorrow will be sweet, because I’m being trusted to do something else. And sweet because I’m taking with me all my spiritual growth from the past few years. And sweet, because I’m not leaving the gospel behind, I’m just reapplying it. Kind of like mascara after a good cry…

I thought it was Dynamite!

So I went to Napoleon Dynamite with a friend last night. For the uninitiated, it’s an independent film made by several BYU grads. They entered it into Sundance, where it was apparently wildly popular. A movie studio bought it, and now it is being slowly rolled out on the limited release model. It’s been in D.C. for a couple of months now, and is still gaining momentum. (Full house Saturday night.)

The plot you ask? Well, imagine your most misanthropic stage of adolescence–add in a red ‘fro, a permanent slack-jawed look, moon-boots, living in Preston Idaho, a dysfunctional family, and a strange love of tater-tots, and voila, our protaganist Napoleon. I didn’t really explain the plot, because there isn’t much of one. It’s mainly a series of vignettes, all leading up to a school election and the funniest dance scene you’ve ever seen in the movies….really. There are no overt Mormon references, but lots of markers: asking your date to the dance through elaborate passive schemes, modest prom dresses, boondoggle at scout camp, your mother forcing you to date the loser kid, future farmers of America, really big bangs way after they went out of style, and the fabulously colorful substitute swearing–gooooosh! frickin’! iiidiot!

I’ve seen the movie twice. The first time, a month or so ago, I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard in a movie. This time I took a friend who grew up in the Northeast. I had admittedly talked up the movie a little too much, and the audience was full of teenagers, who had obviously seen the movie several times, and were laughing in advance of the jokes. But really, my friend didn’t get it. This is a person with a highly developed, and wonderfully subversive sense of humor. She thought that perhaps the humor was from the clever manipulation of cultural references that she wasn’t familiar with. Ultimately, we figured out that she just found the movie depressing, and it seemed mean to laugh at the characters–dampening the humor of it.

Which makes me wonder, is “stereotyping” humor only funny if you are skewering your own culture, and is the audience then limited to members of that culture? Am I cold-hearted and unChristian for howling with laughter at the rural Mormons? Am I really cold-hearted and unChristian because I needed someone else to point out to me that it was kinda sad? The thing is, I still think the film is brilliant, but in true Mormon fashion, wonder if I should feel guilty about it…..