My Story

I am deeply interested in religion, politics, current events, history, musical theater and books! I left the LDS church a couple years ago and have spent a lot of time since then thinking and considering various religious influences in my life and in the lives of those around me. For more information on why I left the LDS church, look here. I also love to sing, act, dance (tap preferably) and perform on stage whenever possible.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

What do Oscar Hammerstein and Carl Bloch have in common?

I recently attended a fairly professional version of the iconic South Pacific by Rodgers and Hammerstein in the very Mormon town of Centerville, Utah. The sets were gorgeous, the singers were excellent and the actors did a great job of making me care about their characters. However, I had to pick my jaw up off the floor when the sailors sang "Bloody Mary is the girl I love, now ain't that too darn bad?" Darn? Really? How am I supposed to believe these are really sailors when they say "Darn" instead of "Damn"?! Then that gem was followed with Bloody Mary calling Lieutenant Cable a "Stingy Bugger" instead of a "Stingy Bastard" when he refused to marry Liat because of her color and heritage. Unfortunately, the substituted words in no way carried the same weight as the original text. Not to mention, a sailor that won't say "Damn" is hardly a sailor at all. (add to that their missionary like stance when they said "Be thankful for the things they've [dames] got!" I was left wondering..."What things?" Their special personality?)

When art is censored through the changing of words the meaning is also changed. Most Mormons I know can handle "Damn" and they even realize that non-mormons say "Damn" all the damn time! Obviously the theater feels it is necessary to Sunday School every little offensive word (while leaving in themes of murder, fornication, hate and racism) for their audience. The audience must be demanding these changes (or threatening to never come back) and there MUST be enough of these people to actually force the theater to make these changes. What would cause a vastly Mormon population to insist on this seemingly extreme censorship?

Perhaps it's due to the example that is being set by their leaders. The "avoid the very appearance of evil" sentiment. The "change anything that you can that doesn't fit into our view of the world" sentiment. The "everyone should be like us" teachings. The articles and lessons expressing these sentiments in talks in church, FHE, primary, homemaking, priesthood meetings, neighborhood lunches, and church magazines like the Ensign.

Which brings me to the danish painter Carl Bloch (May 23, 1834 – February 22, 1890) who painted the fairly well known work The Resurrection. In the December 2011 Ensign a version of this piece was printed with the accompanying article The Condescension of Jesus Christ (pg. 54) and used with permission by the National Historic Museum of Fredericksborg. However, the piece used was not the original work. If you compare the two versions by downloading the PDF of the article, you see that the angel's wings have been clipped, their shoulders covered up and any "nakedness" shown under the arms filled in. The piece has been censored to fit into the church's view of doctrine and modesty and in the process the meaning and original intent of the painting has been changed.

Censoring art and presenting it as the "original" work is misleading at best and outright lying at worst. Regimes of the past have used censorship of art to control people and the sharing of ideas. Fictional works have used the idea of changing words, art and other forms of expression as a way of controlling people and forcing them to think a certain way.

If a religion (or any person or organization) has a problem with a certain piece of art in whatever form, they have the option to simply not use it (or view it). Changing it to fit their needs does a disservice to the original artist and to those who view the work as well as stymies the sharing of ideas through artistic expression.

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