ANGELS (AND MORMONS) IN AMERICA

November 20, 2003 | 2 comments
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Andrew Sullivan has a take down here of recent crooning at the New York Times about HBOs forthcoming production of Tony Kurshner’s Angels in America. Angles is a play that chronicles the AIDS epedemic in the 1980s, and won a Pulitzer Prize in the 1990s.

What is interesting to me is that the play has a Mormon character (to be played on HBO by Patrick Wilson) — a closet homosexual — who in one scene appears on stage in a homosexual encounter wearing temple garments. Kurchner clearly doesn’t really know anything about Mormons or at least about temple garments. (Although he may have known how offensive Mormons would find such a staging.) His Mormon character utters some strange gibberish about the meaning of the garment that is suppose to sound very, uh, Mormon. For example he refers to the garment as “a second skin,” an image that to my knowledge no Mormon has ever used in discussing the garment. Thus, Angels‘ Mormon is not a real Mormon, but a sort of stand-in stereotype for repressed religiously conservative sexuality. Mormons are kind of straight straight guy, if you will, and Angels plays off of this image by making its Mormon homosexual.

I don’t know if HBO is planning on having the garment scene in their production. (I hope not.) However, it is interesting to see that Mormon stereotypes have come full circle. We started out in the 19th century as the ultimate boogey men of Victorian sexuality. By the close of the 20th century we are once again the sexual boogey men, although admittedly for a different kind of sexuality.

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2 Responses to ANGELS (AND MORMONS) IN AMERICA

  1. Aaron on May 9, 2004 at 1:20 am

    I really didnt like Angels in America and how Krusners way of show how the Mormon faith works. He obviously doesnt knw the true meaning of certain Mormon aspects like garments and to top it of the Mormon in the show is gay. Im an not saying that it doesnt happen but it is not a very prenounced thing because it defies what the Mormon religion is all about. They are very big on family which i believe is one of their best qualites and if your gay you cant have a family which is somewhat an oximoron. I think that if Krusner is going to have Mormons in his film/play he should potray them correctly of how they really are which they are wonderfull caring people who always get treated badly and have many bias agianst them and Angels in America just add to the pill.

  2. aDIFFERENTjoe on January 3, 2005 at 5:53 am

    The stereotypical Mormon was sad… and showing the garments was offensive. But the Mormon-Jewish vehicle was so apropos: each with a unique claim of being God’s people, each more a culture and lifestyle than merely a religion — and probably the two most guilt-ridden peoples in the world.

    Despite the personal dislikes, the piece was powerful piece on many levels: the conflict and resolution of so many yin-yang opposites, all in an almost complete resolution. Joe’s absence in the ending was central to the whole movie, and it made me try to think of a reason. There HAD to be a reason — for a character so central to be omitted is big.

    I’m left to think that Joe wasn’t in the “happy ending,” because the Joe character will never be resolved. I think he encompasses the final, ultimate conflict. Joe is still trying to find who he is, and find that internal reconciliation. The enormity of the other conflicts in the movie (love/hate, life/death, the demands of heaven vs. life on earth) pale in comparison to that simple internal conflict. Everything else was resolved: but Joe’s still lost.

    I’ll be thinking about the Joe character and why he was omitted… but despite the portrayal of LDS in a rather negative light, Angels in America in itself was great.