That’s Not the International Cinema that I Remember

November 11, 2004 | 116 comments
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There are a lot of interesting things I ought to take the time to blog about, but instead I’d just like to ask our BYU audience a quick question: what’s the story behind this? What kind of changes have there been in the International Cinema program?

The basic story is pretty straightforward, and pretty familiar to those of us with any experience with BYU’s usual approach to public works of art, theater, film, music, and so forth. Those in charge of International Cinema have pulled the Mandarin film Hero, the most recent movie by acclaimed Chinese director Zhang Yimou to be released in the U.S., from their line-up because of “complaints about a questionable sex scene.” For those who haven’t seen the film (which has been rated PG-13 in the U.S.), the Deseret News article describes the scene (during which the principals are completely covered by a bed sheet, for whatever that’s worth) quite well: “[B]ackground sounds during a 20-second portion of the film suggests sexual activity is occurring. [Travis] Anderson [the IC program director] said an Herbal Essence shampoo commercial is probably more graphic, but he didn’t want to risk offending viewers.”

Ok, so again, nothing new here: no official statement one way or another from the administration or Church Office Building, just a regretable but understandable response to various (I’m willing to bet anonymous) complaints. Bureaucracies and organizations the world over all act (or react, as the case may be) in the same way. As Anderson puts it (and you can almost see him shrugging his shoulders as he does), “the administration is hypersensitive about anything to do with sex or nudity,” and that means the program has to “choose films that in their entirety will pass muster… [which is] becoming increasingly difficult, especially at a school that’s as conservative as BYU.”

The thing is, when I was at BYU in the late 80s and early 90s, IC was the one artistic venue on campus which seemed completely immune to that “hypersensitivity,” and the demand that any displayed work of art qualify in its “entirety.” IC showed Manon of the Spring, which featured a half-minute full frontal nude shot of a very attractive woman dancing around a pond. It showed Toto the Hero, which included a scene where a fully nude teen-age boy and girl bathed together at length. More relevantly, it showed such Zhang Yimou films as Ju Duo and Raise the Red Lantern, both of which include scenes of intense and violent sexuality.

So anyway, I guess my question is: can BYU folk today still count on IC to show films which push the typical BYU student’s envelope? Or has whatever (perhaps merely apparent?) power it once had to stand impervious to the vague cultural pressures of the place gone the way of the dodo?

(Incidentally, strictly on artistic grounds, I don’t think the loss of Hero is that big a deal; the film it was replaced by, Shall We Dance?, is a much better movie. While Hero is a good film, I don’t think Zhang Yimou’s style meshes with the martial arts genre as well as some people think; hopefully House of Flying Daggers will be better.)

116 Responses to That’s Not the International Cinema that I Remember

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  4. JH on November 11, 2004 at 9:29 am

    Truely BYU has reached its goal- becoming the Bob Jones University of the West!

  5. Russell Arben Fox on November 11, 2004 at 9:57 am

    JH, I don’t think that’s true, and in any case I hope this post doesn’t inspire another tired retread of BYU complaints. I have a fair amount of admiration and sympathy for BYU (much more than I had at the time I graduated, that’s for sure); my question is specifically about International Cinema, and the niche that–to me at least–it once served.

  6. Rosalynde Welch on November 11, 2004 at 10:29 am

    *suppressed groan*

    Russell, I’m not a BYU basher, either. My experience there was a positive and productive one: the school prepared me well for my graduate training, immersed me in Mormon thought (an exhilarating experience for me), and provided a host of social benefits, as well. It is ironic, though, that the two highlights of my BYU experience were Study Abroad and International Cinema–I couldn’t wait to get out of Provo, I guess. (Though I occasionally miss it intensely now.)

    IC was and is one of the pinnacles of the BYU landscape, and I saw literally hundreds of (free!) films in the SWKT auditorium. IC introduced me to the world of art film, and to countless imagined worlds, and I was a loyal and devoted fan. I cringe when I hear of the encroaching limitations, and I’m not exactly sure why the offense-level among the student body is rising.

    If IC is forced to give up its challenging programming, maybe individual professors and seminars can take its place. In my Honors History of Civ class, taught by Alan Keele and Wilfred Griggs, we watched great foreign (and American) films every Friday afternoon–including the Manon trilogy, Dr. Strangelove, and that classic Nazi propaganda film–what was it called?–the “Triumph” something, I think. Maybe it will be easier to negotiate with students on a smaller scale and with more personal conversations; on the other hand, maybe individual professors won’t be willing to take the risk of an “anonymous” letter of complaint.

  7. Steve Evans on November 11, 2004 at 11:01 am

    Triumph of the Will — Leni Reifenstahl’s classic.

    Russell, I don’t think you can count on artistic or academic freedom anymore at BYU, at all. That’s not to say it doesn’t exist — it clearly exists, and many smart and interesting people thrive at BYU — but the administration has long taken the view that BYU is more about the Church than about learning, to the extent those worlds collide. That’s a tough choice.

    Now, to speak to IC, specifically — I was there in the Golden Age, along with Russell & Rosalynde and the other geniuses here, and it was fantastic. The films broadened my horizons, whether I was ready for them or not, and although I occasionally saw a b-b-b-b-b-b-bbbreast, I don’t feel traumatized. I don’t think it’s the same world anymore, Russell. The administration doesn’t like boobs, and the student body wouldn’t want them, either. If you couple a stringent control mechanism with an apathetic (or antithetic) consumer, that’s what you get.

    p.s. kudos for House of Flying Daggers. I was hoping IC would bring in Hard Boiled or The Killer, but apparently it’s only art when people magically fly and wear lots of nice, pretty silk.

  8. danithew on November 11, 2004 at 11:09 am

    Hero is one of those movies I wanted to see and never got around to it. Thanks for the reminder.

    I used to attend IC occasionally while I was at BYU years ago but none of the movies I saw there surprised me by their suggestiveness. What did kind of surprise me — gave me that “Am I really at BYU?!” feeling was when I went to see a midnight showing of Psycho at their regular movie theater. My recollection is that there is a scene involving an attractive woman wearing a black brassiere talking casually with a man in a hotel room, presumably after an act of consummation. It wasn’t something I was going to go complain about, but I definitely was wondering where the BYU Honor Code and its high level of concern with modesty had suddenly hidden itself.

    My feeling is that Mormons are usually fine with bawdy humor or sexual suggestiveness or violence if it can be somehow placed under a label of “classic” (Shakespeare/Alfred Hitchcock/etc.) or “cultural awareness and fine arts” (international cinema)” or “scripture” (any of the canonical works). One exception is springing to mind right now — I know that some Mormons are proud to staple shut the scriptural book titled Song of Solomon. But with the occasional exception, LDS folks can handle some stuff that legalistically crosses the line if it’s part of the Western Civilization canon or if its filmed in black-and-white. I think sometimes the objections arise because the bawdy humor or sexual suggestiveness arises in a contemporary popular context that is either too familiar or too alien to the viewer.

    For example, my father (bless him) used to complain about the show Cheers because it was set in a bar and involved sexual humor and banter. I’d meanly point out to him that I’d never heard him make similar complains about Falstaff and his buddies in Henry IV Parts I and II.

  9. danithew on November 11, 2004 at 11:12 am

    Bah, I forgot my last line on this little comment. I was simply going to say that whoever went to International Cinema and complained about sexual sounds must not have gotten the memo. IC, after all, is a zone where some of this stuff is supposed to be allowed.

  10. Jack on November 11, 2004 at 11:22 am

    I have no problem with the inevitable limitations that will be imposed because of BYU’s “standards”. I like the fact that BYU will stand by it’s commitment to those things that it considers to be more sacred than (perish the thought) art. No doubt there will be a few unnecessary casualties because of a generalized standard, but IMO those kinds of losses can usually be made up in a private setting. You’ll be suprised at what you can find at the good old Orem library. Of course, watching them on a small screen in your living room is quite a different experience from watching them on the big screen in a theater. But what the heck? You’re not going to get a chance to see everything you’d like at the theater anyway. I’d jump at the chance to see the Seven Samurai on the big screen, but when is likely to come through town on the big-screen in the near future? My living room has been an infinitely better venue than none at all.

  11. D. Fletcher on November 11, 2004 at 11:54 am

    My my, you guys are all SO young.

    The International Cinema at BYU that I remember (1976-1982) edited the movies down to… nothing. I originally saw all the Bergmans there, the Fellinis, the Herzogs and Fassbinders, Truffauts and Kurosawas. So, start with a 16mm scratchy print in a foreign language (with subtitles), add bad projection, and cut out anything objectionable, and I really thought that foreign films were completely incoherent, and that this was their actual style and purpose (to be incoherent).

    It was only later that I realized I’d been missing… a lot of material.

    I now own a lot of these films on DVD, and in many cases, it has been a revelation watching them.

  12. a random John on November 11, 2004 at 11:56 am

    Hero is a worthwhile flick. Beautifully filmed with characteritic colors in each scene, a plot that doesn’t insult you, and impressive martial arts sequences. I wish that Hollywood would look at how action scenes can be done without giving the viewer a headache. No quick edits, zoomed out so you can see what is happening, and well lit. Obviously this tacks some skill on the part of the actors though, which might be what Hollywood is lacking.

    My only complaint was that the soundtrack seemed to be lifted from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but that perception might be due to my own ignorance.

    To be honest I didn’t even remember the sex scene until this post pointed it out. What I remember when I think of that movie are the colors and the story.

  13. Russell Arben Fox on November 11, 2004 at 12:13 pm

    “The International Cinema at BYU that I remember (1976-1982) edited the movies down to… nothing. I originally saw all the Bergmans there, the Fellinis, the Herzogs and Fassbinders, Truffauts and Kurosawas. So, start with a 16mm scratchy print in a foreign language (with subtitles), add bad projection, and cut out anything objectionable, and I really thought that foreign films were completely incoherent, and that this was their actual style and purpose (to be incoherent).”

    Interesting recollection, D. If you’re right, then obviously sometime during the Holland years someone in the IC program got a lot of money, and a lot of freedom too, because when I talked to Don Marshall (who ran it while I was at BYU, 1987-1994) back then, he always proudly insisted that they showed quality prints which were completely uncut. (In fact, I think he said that in an interview with the Daily Universe after a couple of scandalized folks wrote complaining letters to the editor following their showing of Toto the Hero. I wonder if there’s some deeper story here.)

  14. Nate Oman on November 11, 2004 at 12:15 pm

    Not to interrupt the classic bemoaning of the world’s fall from the Golden Age our youths (I too loved IC at BYU, good movies, and a free date that effectively signaled intellectual pretentiousness) but has the IC really experienced a dramatic decline. To be honest, my impression is that often these sorts of things are random and sporadic. Manon of the Spring may well have went through because no one bothered to complain, and Hero may be the victim of a stray puritan who happened to have taken notice of things. In other words, it seems like we need a few more data points be talking about dramatic change at the IC. Without those, the discussion feels suspiciously like an exercise in a peculiar brand of pessemistic nostalgia and little more. (BTW, I have no real dog in this fight. If IC really is in decline, I am happy to weep with the rest, I just am not convinced.)

    I am curious, however, to what extent Russell ascribes great value to elites self-consciously taking it upon themselves to push the envelope of the standards embraced by an admittedly insular but nevertheless authentic community. Indeed, it strikes me that the divide between the IC and the Varsity is little more than a recapitulation of the divide between those who identify with the ubane and sophisticated cultural sensibilities of metropolitan centers regardless of their corrosive effects on community and neighborliness (IC) and those who authentically express the more pedestrian but nevertheless richly interconnected ethos of a more puritanical view of the civitas (Varsity) ;-> (I am sorry; I know that this is a stale and thorougly unfunny kind of philosophical joke, but I can’t help myself.)

  15. D. Fletcher on November 11, 2004 at 12:20 pm

    One thing I should mention: the 70s were a time in cinema when there was a LOT of superfluous nudity in movies… suddenly the filmmakers were filling the movies with breasts at every opportunity. This is the time I was at BYU, and the movies, both international and at the Varsity Cinema, were being edited the most. In the 80s, this plethora of nudity became old hat, so I’m guessing that the movies needed to be edited less. Just a theory…

  16. Russell Arben Fox on November 11, 2004 at 12:29 pm

    Nate, please note that my post never condemns IC or any of its directors for making this decision (I called it “regretable but understandable”), nor does it condemn those who complained. Indeed, I don’t think my post betrays any sort of hostility towards the sort of communal and moral ethos which the BYU administration and the majority of the student body embraces. (Liking community doesn’t mean liking all communities.) If anything, I think I’m showing the Happy Valley civitas a certain respect by attempting to ascertain the current boundaries and properties of those “vague cultural pressures” I referred to. My recollection was (to use a NYC area metaphor), IC was Times Square to BYU’s Brooklyn. If that’s not the case any longer, it’s worth asking how and why it changed.

    You’re surely right that more data points are needed (which makes D.’s comments interesting and relevant). But hey, there was the article, I linked to it, and that’s that.

  17. Scott on November 11, 2004 at 12:36 pm

    Russell,

    You seem to acknowledge that, while you were at BYU, the International Cinema was held to a different standard than the Varsity. I’m inclined to agree with you.

    As I see it, there are a few potential harms that flow from that policy.

    First, IC viewers may be exposed to material that is inappropriate. I realize (from prior discussions on this board) that many will resist the notion that anything (or at least most things) could be somehow *objectively* inappropriate. But what should be less controversial is the claim that some material is inappropriate for some individuals. And at BYU, you have a unique audience–one in which many members have not been exposed to the same type of material (particularly, nudity, sex, violence, and profanity) or in the same quantities that many of their non-Mormon peers have. And, when confronted with certain material, they may react negatively or unpredictably. They may not understand. They may be aroused or horrified, more than the average viewer or not in the way the filmmaker would intend. They may simply be offended. When you have a significant number of audience members situated thus, and if you’re respectful and responsible, you have to take that into account in your programming.

    Second, let’s not kid ourselves…the International Cinema and Varsity had, for the most part, very different audiences. There was a division there. Had both theaters been held to the same content standards, this wouldn’t be particularly troubling. (Some people like artsy films, some like pop cinema fluff. To each his own.) But from what I saw, many IC viewers were attracted to the fact that IC had a different standard. It fed a certain self-image, of being smarter, more mature, better aesthetes. Those kinds of divisions and attitudes arguably have no place at BYU.

    (Tangent: On the aesthetic question, International Cinema was simply what its name suggests–a theater showing foreign films. They weren’t always *good* films. And rarely were they *great* films. But because of the social dynamic, there was a false perception among IC viewers that they were real connoisseurs of the arts. You’d get people talking, with a haughty air, about how much they liked “foreign films,” without recognizing the ludicrousness of the statement.)

    Having two standards sent the message that some individuals (and we know who we are) can operate outside the normal rules that apply to the “herd.” Exceptionalism. That’s an attitude that, once set loose, can be hard to rein in. And it’s morally dangerous. For starters, because it’s just possible, you know, that God’s laws are the same for everyone–even for *eggheads.* (Yes, yes, I know it’s *improbable* that smart, sophisticated, educated people would have to play by the same rules as the plebes. But, in humility, we have to recognize that troubling possibility, however remote.) But, further, it’s dangerous because, even if we’re not violating God’s rules on this or that, attitudes of exceptionalism often lead to pride, condescension, and even oppression. If the university is doing something to eliminate this kind of inequality, more power to them.

    Scott

  18. Frank McIntyre on November 11, 2004 at 12:38 pm

    Between this thread and the education one, it appears that Nate has declared Fox-hunting season on insular national socialism.

    Or maybe the season never closed, and I just started paying attention…

  19. Steve Evans on November 11, 2004 at 12:43 pm

    ” it appears that Nate has declared Fox-hunting season on insular national socialism”

    It’s wabbit season, Frank.

    And Nate, I’m confused as to how you can legitimately argue that the Varsity represents civitas. Both IC and Varsity are puppets of the same master, aren’t they? Admittedly, the Varsity’s tastes run more pedestrian… but that doesn’t somehow put it closer to the hearts of the people.

  20. Bryce I on November 11, 2004 at 12:45 pm

    Some more data points —

    Nate Oman — Manon of the Spring may indeed not have received any complaints, but not for want of viewers. The annual Jean de Florette/Manon of the Spring week at IC when I was at BYU was kind of like Nutcracker season for a ballet company — if you saw one movie (or two) at IC, it was Jean de Florette/Manon of the Spring. I remember one year they added special showing in addition to the many already scheduled to keep up with demand. Perhaps word got out about Emmanuelle Beart’s stunning performance?

    By 1995 or 1996 (my last two years at BYU), things were starting to change already. There was a scene in Indochine that was cut, in which a teenaged girl has her shirt cut off because she has been shot (or something like that) and her breasts are exposed. At least that’s what I’m told by people who have seen the uncut version. A more explicitly sexual scene (or scenes) was cut from Tampopo (one of the best movies I saw at IC).

    Shall We Dance?, oddly enough, seems to me to be potentially more objectionable than Hero (which I have not seen), as the male lead struggles with his relationship with his wife. I haven’t seen Hero, so I can’t comment there (although I have been waiting for two years for it to be released in the US). Of course, Shall We Dance? has a lot of ballroom dancing, which immediately places it the top ten all time movies for the BYU crowd.

  21. Russell Arben Fox on November 11, 2004 at 12:55 pm

    Scott,

    “When you have a significant number of audience members situated thus, and if you’re respectful and responsible, you have to take that into account in your programming.”

    I don’t disagree. Obviously this is turning into a thread about maintaining culturally appropriate forms of entertainment and the costs incured by such maintainence; I don’t object to that topic, as it’s an important and fascinating one. But my original question wasn’t about the validity of taking into account surrounding social mores; it was about the history of IC’s specific accounting. Again, we lack data points. However, if this article does in fact reflect a change in from how IC formally understood itself in relation to BYU’s overaching concern with their average student’s “envelope,” I for one am curious about that change.

    “But from what I saw, many IC viewers were attracted to the fact that IC had a different standard. It fed a certain self-image, of being smarter, more mature, better aesthetes. Those kinds of divisions and attitudes arguably have no place at BYU.”

    A fair point. There was a hell of a lot of posing in those lines over at IC, as Nate suggests. (Of course, there was also a lot of good old fashion Mormon cheapness; even the Varsity charged a few bucks, if I recall correctly, while IC was a free date to those who got in line early enough.) But still, even if you’re correct that leaves unresolved (assuming we have sufficient information to resolve it, which is kind of what my original post was attempting to draw out) the specific goal–if there was one–behind the removal of this movie as opposed to others of an equally questionable nature we remember seeing there way back when. In fact, couldn’t one make the argument that removing Hero is counterproductive in terms eliminating egghead exceptionalism? After all, this was a film released nationwide in regular theaters, and which did pretty good business. It wasn’t just the intelligentsia taking it in on the weekends. So putting it on IC schedule is actually a kind of populist move, don’t you think?

  22. Russell Arben Fox on November 11, 2004 at 12:59 pm

    “I haven’t seen Hero, so I can’t comment there (although I have been waiting for two years for it to be released in the US).”

    Bryce, you may have missed it; we saw Hero in our local theater back in September. It played here for about three weeks. I hope it did well enough for House of Flying Daggers to receive a nationwide release; if not, only folks in New York and L.A. will see it on the big screen.

  23. Rosalynde Welch on November 11, 2004 at 1:02 pm

    Scott, a few rejoinders.

    On your first point, I think most participants will agree: some films are clearly inappropriate for a BYU audience. “The Last Tango in Paris” will never screen at IC, nor should it. The question remains: is the place of IC in the BYU community changing–and narrowing–over time? Authentic community does not require utter homogeneity; surely we can agree that there’s a place for the knitting club, for Honors Student Council, for intermural sports–all programs which serve only a portion of the student body.

    On your second point, I think you’re misrepresenting the nature of IC. International Cinema was an entirely self-selecting, utterly open activity–made even more so by the fact that it was free. There was no reason why any BYU student couldn’t attend, if he or she so chose. Any putative superiority ethos (which, by the way, I did not experience) was in no way supported or encouraged by the structure of the program itself. And it seems intensely unfair to condemn the intellectual excitement of young minds encountering stimulating art for the first time as mere posturing.

  24. Nate Oman on November 11, 2004 at 1:05 pm

    “Admittedly, the Varsity’s tastes run more pedestrian… but that doesn’t somehow put it closer to the hearts of the people”

    It might. Of course, Steve, my post was more an exercise in purile intellectual needling of Russell than legitimate argument ;->

    Nate Oman, Proud Former Dating Cheapskate and IC Poseur ;->

  25. Nate Oman on November 11, 2004 at 1:10 pm

    “And it seems intensely unfair to condemn the intellectual excitement of young minds encountering stimulating art for the first time as mere posturing.”

    Rosalynde: this seems like a fair point, but I see no necessary exclusivity between genuine intellectual excitment and pretentious intellectual posturing. For my own part, I think that this almost perfectly describes my own attitude as an undergraduate philosophy major, as Jim can attest (if he has any memories of me as an undergrad). While I think that you are right that we should dismiss the excitement as mere posturing, I also don’t see why the genuine excitment should shield the posturing from criticism. Self-criticism, after all, is part of what the intellectual excitement of education is supposed to achieve.

  26. Steve Evans on November 11, 2004 at 1:10 pm

    Nate, I read you loud and clear about needling Russell, and I encourage more of the same.

    Agreed also that IC is a great cheap date, in a valley full of cheap dates. Wait…I sense a blog post coming on…

  27. Keith on November 11, 2004 at 1:13 pm

    “But from what I saw, many IC viewers were attracted to the fact that IC had a different standard. It fed a certain self-image, of being smarter, more mature, better aesthetes. Those kinds of divisions and attitudes arguably have no place at BYU.”

    I agree that fostering an attitude of arrogance is a problem. I disagree that fostering a situation where one can bring more seriousness, more careful thought and deliberately higher and more educated conversation is a bad thing. In part something like IC allows those who want to see film as something more than entertainment, who want to bring a certain intelligence to it, who have learned or are learning to “read” film to have a venue to do this. And lets be honest, the majority of students at BYU are not interested in things of the mind (as Nibley puts it). As with the Honors courses, IC allowed a serious, aesthetic, intelligent approach, and did so unapoligetically. (It may also be true that some of the films that arrive at IC are not great ones, but some of the very best things around show up there, and there was a real effort to get genuinely good films.)

    Could there be lots of postering and pride associated with this? Sure. But that’s a problem with virtually anything. We’d have to get rid of the whole university if we wanted to eliminate any situation that has a potential for fostering pride.

    Russel: I remember distinctly that some films _were_ edited in the late eighties and early nineties (“My life as a Dog” for instance–and others). So I was surprised at Marshall’s statement. I thought it became a problem when the industry heard of the Varsity’s editing of movies and threatened legal action (which always amazes me because they will allow editing for airline films) and this had implications for IC.

  28. danithew on November 11, 2004 at 1:23 pm

    As far as IC being a free date, I swear I recall a period of time where they were charging a dollar for admission. If you were really cheap (or somewhat indifferent to showing up on time) you could get in free because the person charging at the door would get up and leave after the movie had started. If I was bored on an evening, on campus and had nothing particular to do I’d sometimes drop in mid-film just to kind of see what was going on.

  29. Frank McIntyre on November 11, 2004 at 1:25 pm

    I am happy to report that Hero hits the $ theater in Provo as of tomorrow. Thus there is really no need for International Cinema to take heat for showing it, because the market hath provided. IC can instead concentrate on providing commerically unviable films, which has always been its special niche in life. Movies 8 lacks the poseur atmosphere, but surely the intellectual stimulation remains. If I were of a more literary bent, I would provide here a short haiku poem to the beauties of market economies.

    By the way, IC has come up more than once at T&S, maybe Jim should drag Travis in for a 12 Questions forum to keep us honest.

  30. Russell Arben Fox on November 11, 2004 at 1:28 pm

    “I remember distinctly that some films _were_ edited in the late eighties and early nineties (My Life as a Dog for instance–and others). So I was surprised at Marshall’s statement.”

    I may be misremembering what Marshall said; he may not have said that. But I seem to have a distinct memory of him insisting that IC wouldn’t show a movie at all if it couldn’t show it uncut. Maybe I’m wrong.

  31. Rosalynde Welch on November 11, 2004 at 1:30 pm

    Danithew, you had to pay a dollar if you didn’t have an IC card. However, it was possible to get an IC card from any Honors class or directly from the Honors office.

    Nate, point taken.

  32. Wilfried on November 11, 2004 at 1:34 pm

    Cultural perceptions, traditions and background greatly influence the way one perceives the moral acceptance of a film. “Killing” is widespread in movies — how many Indians and desperado’s killed in classic Westerns, for all audiences, or any other action film for that matter? As long as the killing is “clean” enough, no problem. How many die in Hero? A love scene, even subdued, is unacceptable. Is this not a strange twist of moral perception?

  33. danithew on November 11, 2004 at 1:41 pm

    Rosalynde,

    I remembered that there was a card but couldn’t remember how it fit in the picture. Now it’s coming back to me. Many semesters a teacher would say to us something like, “I can get you cards but just wait a few days …” and then we’d all forget about it until it was Friday evening and there was nothing better to do.

    [Of course my schedule was chock-full of honors classes … how dare anyone insinuate otherwise] :)

  34. Kaimi on November 11, 2004 at 1:45 pm

    Agreed, Wilfried. This is something that always makes me wonder. Sex is normal. Killing is not. And yet killing is depicted and no one blinks an eye, but when sex is depicted, it’s the end of the world.

    I realize that this may come as a shock (until one thinks about the fact that I have children), but I have myself (gasp!) _had sex_. In fact, I suspect that a number of the other bloggers around here, and commenters, have done so as well. Shocking, I know.

    I have not ever killed anyone, or indeed engaged in any kind of severe violence. I’ve been in a few mild fistfights, mostly in junior high school.

    Considering the actual harm involved, it seems clear to me that a movie in which killing is portrayed — “High Noon,” for example, or “Seven Samurai”, or any other of a number of movies — should be considered as offensive as a movie in which sex is portrayed. After all, killing is the greater sin. And it is the one that most people are less likely to experience anyway. Sex is normal, killing is not. Sex is the lesser sin. And sex is apparently more offensive. Makes no sense.

  35. D. Fletcher on November 11, 2004 at 1:49 pm

    A little off topic, but a subject worth exploring. Why is it a movie in a foreign language is somehow more artistic or intellectual, and therefore immune to morality judgments? I find it fascinating that anybody would agree to edit out the sex scenes from American commercial movies for BYU consumption, but then rally the troops to protest the same treatment of a foreign film like Hero. Don’t visible breasts of foreign girls have the same effect on audiences as those of American girls?

    And this goes beyond BYU’s censorship policies. There are PLENTY of bad foreign movies, even famous ones. Here’s an example: Europa, Europa, directed by Agnieska Holland, I believe, is a very bad movie, poorly written and acted, and not justified in its praise (it won a bunch of awards, including an Oscar). This is my own opinion, of course, but I’m always amused when otherwise discerning people who seem to understand such things allow foreign drivel to achieve the status of art.

  36. danithew on November 11, 2004 at 1:55 pm

    Actually it might make more sense if we think about it a little bit. I’ve seen this point made before on T&S (or at least one of the bloggernacker blogs) and it made sense to me. But I’ll say it again in my own way.

    Film violence is faked. The actors involved usually stand up after the scenes have been shot and wipe the ketchup off. But when film is being shot of two people engaging in sexual activity, they really are having a sexual experience — especially if its an explicit sex scene. Also, I’m not sure if watching violence leads people to commit violence as much (or as directly) as watching sex leads people to commit, um, sinful sexual activities.

  37. Nate Oman on November 11, 2004 at 1:59 pm

    It may be that the depiction of sex is more performative than the depiction of violence. Sex is tied up in the process of arousal, climax and release. Through film it is possible to get a third of the way through the process (at least for men, I understand things work differently for women). On the other hand, the evil of killing consists in the actual death inflicted. Hence, the depiction of killing is in no way performative. If this is correct, then the difference of perception may lie in the nature of the expeirence of viewing something rather than in the nature of what is viewed.

  38. Russell Arben Fox on November 11, 2004 at 2:01 pm

    “Europa, Europa, directed by Agnieska Holland, I believe, is a very bad movie”

    It’s not good, that’s for sure. But hey, it had that so-icky-you-couldn’t-look-away shot of the Jewish boy’s penis, which he had, uh, altered so that it looked like he hadn’t been circumcised. How can you not reward a movie that provides such entertainment?

  39. D. Fletcher on November 11, 2004 at 2:02 pm

    Dan, in most movies, the sex is faked. In many cases, close-ups of people in bed have to be shot separately (in other words, they’re not in bed together for the closeup). And scenes where actors must literally lie on top of one another, often their genitals are taped up or obscured, somehow.

    It really is done very similarly to violence.

  40. danithew on November 11, 2004 at 2:05 pm

    D. Fletcher,

    Ouch.

  41. Steve Evans on November 11, 2004 at 2:07 pm

    “often their genitals are taped up or obscured, somehow”

    How is that different than the real thing? Someone please explain.

  42. D. Fletcher on November 11, 2004 at 2:10 pm

    You and Sumer do a lot of… taping, Steve?

  43. Nate Oman on November 11, 2004 at 2:12 pm

    Please, please, please tell me that D. and Steve’s exchange is not going any farther…

  44. D. Fletcher on November 11, 2004 at 2:16 pm

    LOL, sorry to have started THAT.

    But really, I think our chaste idea about movies (and art) is misplaced. I think art that very innocuously promotes an innappropriate lifestyle is far more insidious, and ought to be carefully considered before showing to children and teenagers.

    I’ve used this example before: “Friends” is really all about the very carefree sex lives of 6 friends. The sex isn’t shown, there is no violence, or nudity, and it appears for free on tv stations across the land, at all parts of the day.

  45. Kaimi on November 11, 2004 at 2:19 pm

    I agree. If people are watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, they might think that they can fight vampires with wooden stakes. And if they watch Spongebob Squarepants, they might think that they too can live in a pineapple under the sea.

    I want a show called “Jimmy cleans up his room, and then does the dishes” to show my kids.

  46. D. Fletcher on November 11, 2004 at 2:24 pm

    Yes, I see that you agree Kaimi. NOT!

    But the examples you used are fantasies. Friends is presented as a possible reality, a very nice one.

    Trust me, I’m not a prude, and I don’t think anything is particularly wrong with Friends. But I do see a contradiction when people say, my kids can watch Friends, but not Requiem for a Dream. Friends might make kids see no problem in a promiscuous lifestyle. But Requiem is going to make them think twice about the coolness of hard drugs.

  47. Steve Evans on November 11, 2004 at 2:29 pm

    Nate, you prude, if we’re not talking about ‘ethical tropes’ or intellectual bankruptcy of apologetics, you clam right up.

  48. Bryce I on November 11, 2004 at 2:30 pm

    Scott said;

    On the aesthetic question, International Cinema was simply what its name suggests–a theater showing foreign films. They weren’t always *good* films. And rarely were they *great* films. But because of the social dynamic, there was a false perception among IC viewers that they were real connoisseurs of the arts. You’d get people talking, with a haughty air, about how much they liked “foreign films,� without recognizing the ludicrousness of the statement.

    While this point (and D. Fletcher’s in 32) has merit, there is a sense in which foreign films are “better” than domestic ones, namely, because the barriers in this country to distribution of foreign films, a film must pass through a separate filtering process to make it from overseas (or Canada or Mexico). This doesn’t necessarily mean that all foreign films distributed in the US are better than domestic films, but on average, I think they are (Europa, Europa notwithstanding).

  49. Kaimi on November 11, 2004 at 2:32 pm

    D.,

    Sorry about the sarcasm. I largely agree with you. However, I’ve been looking at a lot of documents this morning at work, and for some reason my mindless work put me in a sarcastic mood.

  50. Nate Oman on November 11, 2004 at 2:54 pm

    Steve: “Nate, you prude”

    Apparently I give off this vibe. My wife was convinced while we were dating that I was a prude. One evening she asked me, “So what do you think about sex?”

    My response: “I am in favor of it.”

  51. danithew on November 11, 2004 at 2:59 pm

    Nate, if you ever run for president, you’ve got my vote.

  52. CB on November 11, 2004 at 2:59 pm

    Nate, please get your mind out of the gutter. Your wife was just trying to get your opinion on the various sects in Christianity. :-D

  53. Robert C. on November 11, 2004 at 3:25 pm

    Didn’t the Varsity theater shut down? (Sorry if someone addressed this already, I only skimmed many of the above comments.) I think it did, and it has dramatically changed the culture at IC so there are a lot more pedestrian cheapskates, esp. freshmen without cars. So it’s no surprise to me that they’re facing the same challenges the Varsity theater did….

  54. mike on November 11, 2004 at 3:44 pm

    it’s stories like this that keep me from cancelling my email subscription to the daily universe. oh yeah, and the letters to the editor and police beat. there’s never a shortage of fodder when it comes to making fun of the byu-mentality.

  55. Wilfried on November 11, 2004 at 3:54 pm

    Nate commented: “It may be that the depiction of sex is more performative than the depiction of violence. Sex is tied up in the process of arousal, climax and release. (…) On the other hand, the evil of killing consists in the actual death inflicted. Hence, the depiction of killing is in no way performative. If this is correct, then the difference of perception may lie in the nature of the expeirence of viewing something rather than in the nature of what is viewed.”

    I would say yes, I understand the remark. But two aspects to be taken into account in the comparison of “killing” versus “love”:

    – Killing is always killing. “Making love” takes on a lot of varied forms in movies, from subdued suggestions to more explicit ones, from love between a married couple to non-married, from short to long scenes, etc. It certainly makes a difference on the criterium of being performative.

    – It’s not only about sex and arousal. Films are forbidden because there is some nudity. Also here cultural perceptions play their role. Some time ago an American Mormon friend told me how shocked he was by the nudity on summer beaches in Europe. He was not talking about reserved naturist beaches where people enjoy sun, sand and water totally naked (what would he be doing there anyway?), but about the regular family beaches where kids under three run around naked and where topless sunbathing is fairly common. I answered that I could understand his feelings, though I personally never viewed that situation as a problem. Then I told him how uneasy I feel, as a European, to be confronted with full nudity, of adult males, at… BYU. His eyes widened. At BYU? Yes, in the men’s locker room of the sport facilities. They undress fully, in front of others, then shower, next to each other, totally naked. My friend shrugged and said: “Yes, but that’s different.”

    The way we perceive certain things, even things with a moral dimension, is greatly influenced by our upbringing, our daily habits and our cultural traditions.

    My point was that it is strange that a film would be forbidden because it shows a subdued love scene or a child in a bathtub (Toto) or a naked woman at a distance in a beautiful natural scenery (Manon), while killings do not raise an eyebrow. The point is that we have seen these film-killings since childhood. We got used to them as normal.

  56. Adam Greenwood on November 11, 2004 at 4:53 pm

    “can BYU folk today still count on IC to show films which push the typical BYU student’s envelope?”

    This is pretty far down on my list of goods. I was prepared to get in a dudgeon and argue the point, but now that I’ve read the comments I’m just confused. Russell Fox, if you didn’t mean that BYU students’ *need* to watch a little artistic nudity, than what did you mean?

  57. Russell Arben Fox on November 11, 2004 at 5:37 pm

    “I was prepared to get in a dudgeon and argue the point, but now that I’ve read the comments I’m just confused. Russell Fox, if you didn’t mean that BYU students’ *need* to watch a little artistic nudity, than what did you mean?”

    I meant, simply, that when I was at BYU, the IC regularly showed films that included a little artistic nudity, which clearly pushes the “envelope”–that is, the accustomed artistic boundaries that most American Mormons who gain admission to BYU will probably have in place. According to the news article, IC is declining to show a movie of a sort that, in my experience, it once did. My original post didn’t praise IC, didn’t condemn it, didn’t praise the folks who complained about the movie, didn’t condemn them. I was asking a question about the current ecology, as it were, of the BYU moral community: when I was a BYU student IC, as best I recall, was, and was known to be, a mildly transgressive place. (As I wrote in an earlier comment, a Times Square to BYU’s Brooklyn.) Is that still the case, or not?

    As I also wrote in an earlier comment, liking community doesn’t mean you like all communities, or everything about all communities. I, in retrospect, childishly whined about a lot while I was at BYU; I have much more sympathy and admiration for the place now that I’ve been away for more than a decade. Still, I confess that there remains certain things about the BYU community I didn’t care for, one of which was how easy it was for the perfectly legitimate cultural and moral envelopes of particular members of the BYU community–any one of which might or might not be pushed by whatever films they may or may not have chosen to see at IC–to become conflated with the mission of the university as a whole, and thus be taken as an expression of the supposedly single censorious will of the BYU population in general. Whatever the flaws of IC in terms of its impact upon BYU culture (whether it was intellectually divisive, introduced a false and/or condescending aesthetic into our midst, etc.), the fact remains that it, through performing its education mission (i.e., showing foreign language films), challenged that process of conflation by introducing, as Rosalynde wrote earlier, a degree of heterogeneity into the campus atmosphere; and as any honest student of community will acknowledge, the existence of plurality does not in itself make the establishment of common standards impossible.

  58. Greg Call on November 11, 2004 at 6:05 pm

    Russell: “[IC is] a Times Square to BYU’s Brooklyn.”
    I get your point here, Russell, but you may want to update your metaphors. Times Square is a land of Olive Gardens, Total Request Live, and a crush of tourists trying to get tickets to Billy Joel’s Movin’ Out. Brooklyn (especially places like Williamsburg, Fort Greene, and Red Hook) thinks of itself as the diverse, artistic, cultural vanguard (though we soulless yuppies are taking over there, too ;) ).

  59. clark on November 11, 2004 at 7:30 pm

    Just a comment – I think the BYU movie theatre was removed as much as anything because there were so many theatres in town and video tapes were available. I think International Cinema is a bit of an anachronism now because so many video stores in town have excellent selections of foreign films. Further you have services like NetFlix that offer even more choices. So why still have it?

    BTW – the one film I always wondered about was Blue. That has a rather important scene with two women having an extended discussion with a male “private” part in the background. When Blue was shown, was that whole scene cut out? If so, I suspect the movie would be very confusing to many people.

  60. Kingsley on November 11, 2004 at 7:41 pm

    I wish these hypervirgins were required to post their name and picture somewhere, so that I could pelt them with mud and abuse.

  61. Keith on November 11, 2004 at 7:52 pm

    “I think International Cinema is a bit of an anachronism now because so many video stores in town have excellent selections of foreign films. Further you have services like NetFlix that offer even more choices. So why still have it?”

    Some films just have to be seen on a big screen.

  62. D. Fletcher on November 11, 2004 at 7:56 pm

    Clark is right, though. Most movies work perfectly well on a video monitor, and particularly foreign films with subtitles.

    In fact, I’ve almost given up going to the movies altogether.

    I do have a 50″ plasma TV.

  63. Chris Brown on November 11, 2004 at 9:41 pm

    The Varsity Theater did, in fact, shut down. The International Cinema movies are now shown in its former location, inside the Wilkinson Center.

  64. Jim F. on November 11, 2004 at 11:47 pm

    I come to this thread quite late, having been over my head in other duties for several weeks. But I couldn’t resist joining in. Steve Evans (comment #4) said: “the administration has long taken the view that BYU is more about the Church than about learning, to the extent those worlds collide.”

    I like Steve and I think he’s very smart. I like Somer even better than I like Steve. I even like Steve’s politics. But he’s wrong about this one. The university has long taken the view that BYU is not only about learning, but also about the Church. That’s quite different than Steve’s characterization. Besides, this problem with IC, a genuine problem, has everything to do with political pressures of various kinds and little to do with how learning and faith relate to each other at BYU.

    In comment #26, Frank suggested that we might ask Travis Anderson, the director
    of IC, to answer 12 questions. I doubt that Travis is interested in saying publicly anything more than he’s already said.

  65. Russell Arben Fox on November 12, 2004 at 12:24 am

    At last, an answer to my original query: what’s going on with International Cinema? According to Jim, the “problem with IC, a genuine problem, has everything to do with political pressures of various kinds.” So it’s not my imagination; there is a story here. Unfortunately, I guess we won’t learn any more about the story than that. Bummer. (But probably a wise move on Travis’s part.)

  66. Jack on November 12, 2004 at 12:38 am

    I agree with Nate on the debate over sex and violence. We know that violence is fictionalized, whereas sex to some degree not to be fictionalized. If two people who happen to be in the buff are all over each other like sea otters (regardless of whether or not their genitals are covered), there is what we can obviously deduce as some degree of sexual contact or “relations” between the two. (unless you happen to be the greatest actor in the world who, like Don Lockwood, would rather kiss a tarantula. However, because there is no emotion on the part of the actors doesn’t mean that they’re not susceptible to sexual arousal) The fiction is broken.

    No doubt, violence has it’s own moral problems, but even so, there is a difference between the two.

  67. Rob Briggs on November 12, 2004 at 12:59 am

    Around 1972 I saw “Black Orpheus” on campus. What a fascinating, beautiful film. I still love it.

  68. a random John on November 12, 2004 at 1:09 am

    Jim F.,

    Maybe I am missing something, but if learning and faith didn’t intersect in their own unique way at BYU then there would be no “political” pressure to have Hero removed from the schedule. This interaction of learning and (vs?) faith and various individuals’ approaches to it is what causes these political pressures which don’t occur at secular institutions.

  69. Jim F. on November 12, 2004 at 3:07 am

    A random John: Of course you are right that the political pressures that occur at BYU are different than those at other institutions precisely because BYU is an LDS institution. And I agree with what I think is implicit in your post: political pressures are not necessarily wrong.

    But decisions in response to political pressures are not always the decisions that administrators would prefer to make, even in an LDS institution. Vocal minorities can have political power incommensurate with their size and incommensurate with the broader goals of the university and the Church.

    I don’t know the particulars of this situation with IC, so I am not making a comment on it. I’m guessing based on almost 30 years of experience and quite a few years of administrative experience.

    Here is a hypothetical that illustrates the problem, one that occurs not only at BYU, but in the Church generally. And in spite of the use of a topic that seems to describe an actual past event, this is hypothetical. I have no inside information about the cancellation of the Rodin exhibition. But the topic of nude art is such an obvious example that it begs to be used. So I insist that my example not be interpreted as my surreptitious way of trying to talk about that incident. I couldn’t talk about the Rodin case because I don’t know anything more than anyone else who read the newspaper.

    Given that caveat, suppose that BYU’s museum decides to have a display that includes some nudes. (I know, by the way, that the director of the museum at the time of the Rodin exhibition was not the director when the exhibition was scheduled. One more reason to believe that this really is a hypothetical case.) The director of the museum has the right to decide what will be displayed in the museum, without going to someone else for review. But suppose that he is concerned about public reaction to those nudes. He doesn’t have a problem with them. He doesn’t have a problem with displaying them at BYU, though he has a long record of Church service, including tenure as a stake president. However, he is unsure what will happen if he does display them. Will the Tribune run a front page article, “BYU Museum Shows R-Rated Art”? Will some local group get a bee in their bonnet, attacking him in public and harrassing him in private (ominous phone calls, that sort of thing)? Will a potential large donor back out because of the uproar, though the donor also doesn’t have a problem with the exhibition? If there is trouble, will his superiors back his decision? Given what the director knows about some in his audience, he has reason to be concerned, so he decides to ask his dean. His dean understands the problem, but thinks he also should get some advice. So he asks the president of the university–who happens to be a general authority.

    The president is in a bind. It is possible, in this hypothetical case, that he doesn’t mind the exhibition being put on by the museum. But if he approves it, then he is in an awkward position when those who don’t like it complain–or when those who do like it use his approval as a kind of authorization for their preferences. He cannot win if he approves the exhibition, in spite of the fact that he might want to see it put on. He knows that saying “no” will cause an uproar, but he also knows that uproar will be easier to deal with than the uproar that approval will bring. So, he disapproves.

    If the museum director or the dean hadn’t asked, the exhibition could be presented and the flack dealt with. And, in our hypothetical but possible case, no one in the unversity administration would have faulted either the director or the dean.

    In the abstract world, we wouldn’t make decisions in these ways, but in the real world we can’t avoid doing so.

  70. Eric on November 12, 2004 at 3:20 am

    Jim F. said everything I was going to say as I was typing it.

    I’ll just say that one BYU professor, son of a GA, explained to us in class once that BYU is fearful of offending its donors, whose children attend BYU. Obviously, BYU isn’t run by the donors, but it certainly caters to them, especially when it comes to issues such as these. BYU will do absolutely anything to avoid another Rodin incident. If it were not for student complaints (I’m guessing probably two in this case), BYU would have no problem showing the film.

  71. Weston C on November 12, 2004 at 5:06 am

    “. After all, killing is the greater sin. And it is the one that most people are less likely to experience anyway. Sex is normal, killing is not. Sex is the lesser sin. And sex is apparently more offensive. Makes no sense.”

    One thing I’ve often thought might be related here is which genie is harder to put back in the bottle. The urge to kill is more thoroughly checked by common humanity than, I think, the urge to participate in sex.

    Can we also talk about how student newspapers at BYU are bit more repressed since the death of the Student Review?

  72. Russell Arben Fox on November 12, 2004 at 8:31 am

    Jim and Eric–your comments are well taken. As I wrote originally, the reaction to these kind of pressures (or the concern about such) is hardly unique to BYU, though they have their own particular ways of playing out there.

    Casting this into terms of organizational and bureaucratic politics (again, hypothetically of course), the concern I voiced about changes in the sort of “boundaries-arrangement” which I remember existing in regards to IC might be put this way. The BYU museum is a relatively young institution; its patrons are arguably less self-selected (school groups visit the museum, etc.); its content is more “visible” (i.e., the “costs” in terms of time and opportunity of determining what, if anything, might be objectionable in its displays are lower than those involved in watching a foreign film at IC). Thus, one might assume that the museum, anticipating potential pressures, would tend to situate itself at one point in relation to the (perhaps merely perceived) cultural/moral “envelope” of BYU, while IC would be able (perhaps even be expected, by at least a few members of the BYU community) to situate itself at another, more transgressive, point. Maybe that’s not an actual description of what actually ever was the case at BYU. But I, at least, had the impression it was.

  73. Kaimi on November 12, 2004 at 8:39 am

    Jack writes:

    “I agree with Nate on the debate over sex and violence. We know that violence is fictionalized, whereas sex to some degree not to be fictionalized. If two people who happen to be in the buff are all over each other like sea otters (regardless of whether or not their genitals are covered), there is what we can obviously deduce as some degree of sexual contact or “relationsâ€? between the two. (unless you happen to be the greatest actor in the world who, like Don Lockwood, would rather kiss a tarantula. However, because there is no emotion on the part of the actors doesn’t mean that they’re not susceptible to sexual arousal) The fiction is broken. ”

    Jack, that’s a reasonable argument, but I don’t think it’s supported by the evidence. After all:

    (1) Isn’t your argument equally applicable to non-nude, sexy scenes? Of course, in this instance at this theater, such a scene led to censorship — but generally, they do not.

    (2) Your argument doesn’t apply to non-touching nudity. For example, the well-known Titanic scene (“paint me nude”). Yet I don’t think that those are viewed any more favorably than a sexy-contact nude scene. In fact, in most movies that I’ve scene that have nudity, there’s often very little touching or contact during scenes where there is nudity.

    (3) I’m no expert on the topic, but I’ve been told by actor friends that sex scenes are the most unsexy thing to film. The general report is: just you and another great looking person, in your underwear, kissing . . . and a director, and a camera guy trying to get the right angles and telling you to move your arm here or hold your head like so (like the school photographer saying “look natural”), a bunch of bright lights in your face, microphones and sound issues to worry about, makeup to worry about (“don’t touch her face”), sometimes a funky environment (it’s freezing cold, for example). And you certainly don’t _want_ to get physically aroused — at any moment, the director might say “cut” and start again or from a different angle or whatnot, and you don’t exactly want to be visibly aroused when you have to untangle and start over. And maybe you’ve barely met the person you’re kissing, and maybe she’s gay. And if they think there’s any chance of improper behavior (or even not), many actors load up with garlic and onions prior to the kiss — just to make sure it all stays tame.

    I recall reading prior to “Fight Club” that the sex scene took something like 12 hours to film, because the director was doing all sorts of unusual things with the camera. And so the actors, partially naked, had to strike a pose and hold it for long stretches of time as they did their camera work. There was a great, sarcastic comment from Helena Bonham Carter afterwards — something to the effect of “How awful is that — I was hanging out naked for twelve hours, in contact with Brad Pitt, but we never actually did anything.”

  74. Russell Arben Fox on November 12, 2004 at 8:46 am

    “Can we also talk about how student newspapers at BYU are bit more repressed since the death of the Student Review?”

    I don’t know if there is any possible cause-and-effect which can be associated with the decline and collapse of Student Review, which was a long, drawn-out, mildly embarrassing affair, characterized by mismanagement and misunderstanding as well as the occasional burst of administrative interference and suppression. I’m sure hardly anyone at BYU today remembers Student Review, and consequently I doubt you could measure any kind of “chilling effect” which its death has on possible student activities.

    If by “student newspapers” you’re talking about changes in the quality and nature of the Daily Universe, I’d look to the firing of its revered editor John Gholdston, rather than anything related to Student Review, for an explanation. If you’re asking why no other student publication has risen to take the place of Student Review since (the way SR rose to take the place of The Seventh East Press, which folded back in the early 80s), again I think you have to look beyond SR’s actual sorry history–like to the interests and priorities of the majority of students admitted to BYU today–for an explanation.

  75. Ivan Wolfe on November 12, 2004 at 8:51 am

    Weston –

    Hmm – I was never impressed by the Student Review. I found it rather facile and juvenile. Of courst, the Daily Universe was hard to read because of the many, many typos and often incomprehensible prose.

    The best student newspaper (while I was at BYU) was one put out every two weeks by the College of Humanities (I can’t recall the name at the moment – the subtitle was “BYU’s academic fortnightly”). It was everything the Student Review should have been – independent, controversial and generally well-written.

  76. Ethesis (Stephen M) on November 12, 2004 at 9:04 am

    The Varsity Theater did, in fact, shut down. The International Cinema movies are now shown in its former location, inside the Wilkinson Center.

    I think that explains a lot. When I went to the IC to see _The Battle for Agiers_ it did not have the feeling of being front and center as the Wilkinson Center does. That can make an important difference. BYU is filled with nooks and crannies and those have all sorts of things going on in them. But, what goes on in the social center of the University takes on a different caste.

    Not to mention, some movies are more “mass market” (e.g. Hero) which somewhat distorts the IC. If you’ve got a movie that ten thousand kids are going to want to see at the IC price … I’m not sure it is an appropriate movie for the IC, especially if it was just running downtown shortly.

    Nice points about BYU. BYU is an educational institution, but the reason it is still supported by the Church is that it provides a core LDS cultural experience to people who would otherwise not have one. That is an extremely important Church function. So, it is important from an institutional standpoint that BYU have a very distinctly LDS culture to it.

  77. D. Fletcher on November 12, 2004 at 9:46 am

    Interesting, Jim,that in your example, you chose to use the SL Tribune as the liberal expositor of conservative shenanigans. I’m sure that’s probably true, generally, but one of the more intriguing aspects of this particular case as originally laid down by Russell is that the story came from the Deseret News.

  78. Steve Evans on November 12, 2004 at 9:56 am

    Jim F. responds? To my comment? Get your plastic sheeting and duct tape ready, folks.

    In any event: “BYU is not only about learning, but also about the Church” is an interesting way of putting it. In a general sense, of course you’re right. But framing it that way makes it sound like you have two nicely co-existing completely free fields, and that’s just not so. At least, it wasn’t so in the English dept. when I was there, though I am loathe to dredge up scandals to prove my case. My personal experience shows that at the margins, when learning confronts the Church at BYU, the Church wins. Now, that’s a rarity, and it may not be applicable to IC (which, as you noted, may have primarily cultural reasons), but I think your description isn’t quite as fullsome as it needs to be.

    You like Sumer more than me??

  79. Nate Oman on November 12, 2004 at 11:34 am

    Jack: I am affraid that I mistated my argument, so you are misunderstanding me. My point was not that those producing sexual scenes in movies were somehow performative of sin in a way that those producing violence scenes were not. This may be true, but as near as I can tell from E! etc. all most actors seem to be moral degenerates for whom a bit of questionable skin contact on screen is the least of their worries. These are people who held fund raisers for Kerry, for crying out loud! They have graver sins to answer for ;->

    Rather, my point was that VIEWING sexual scenes is performative for the VIEWERS in a way that VIEWING violent scenes is not performative for the VIEWERS. A person who views a sexual scene in a sense has a sexual experience through arousal in a way that a person who views a killing scene will never participate in killing.

    Now, I am — contrary to Steve’s verdict — not such a prude that I see arousal as some sort of evil per se to be avoided at all costs. However, it does form the opening of any sexual experience in a way that at least renders it morally substantive.

    Consider this analogy: Imagine if every time you watched a scene in which a person was shot and killed you took out a gun, cocked it, and pointed it at someone’s head. The actions with the gun are not killing per se, but they are the beginnings of that process, and accordingly they are something about which we ought to have some level of serious moral concern. Of course, watching violence is not like this. We don’t cock guns and point them.

    Watching sex, however, is arguably just like this to the extent that the experience of viewing results in arousal, which after all IS the initiation of sexual experience.

  80. Steve Evans on November 12, 2004 at 11:40 am

    Nate, I still think you’re a prude, but I agree with your analysis re: performative consequences.

  81. Jack on November 12, 2004 at 12:38 pm

    Nate, I whole heartedly agree with you. My comment was meant to convey the idea that the audience is more in peril of participating in the emotional revelry of sex than violence while seated in the theater precisely because there is a “real-time” quality about sex on the screen.

    We know that the murderer is not really plunging the knife into the chest of the victim. (though like I said earlier, violence has it’s own moral problems and is, in someways, more difficult for me to deal with than sex) However, actors are really engaging in physical contact and though they may have taken measures to insulate themselves from arousal (as Kaimi pointed out), it is perceived as just that – two people really touching each other. It therefore breaks the boundries of fiction and impacts the audience in the real world for what it really is.

    Kaimi brings up the important question of “non-touching nudity”. He uses the example of the “portrait” scene from “Titanic”. Frankly, I thought that scene was extremely erotic. Again, what the audience has in front of it’s eyes is a real-time experience with eroticism, and eroticism is sinful in and of itself unlike violence where the *portrayal* if the sin is sinful.

    This brings me around full circle. For the reasons mentioned above, as one who has done some (amateur) acting, I would be more uncomfortable touching a woman’s body than committing a violent act on the stage or screen. For me, this is a strong indication that the two cannot be classified as the same kind of experience.

  82. a random John on November 12, 2004 at 12:51 pm

    Jim F.,

    I appreciate your response. I am unaware of the Tribune going after BYU for erring on the side being too liberal. Usually they go after BYU because of censorship, a football player raping someone, or knee-jerk reactions to things by students or administraotrs. I would be shocked to see a Tribune article going after the Y for showing Hero. I wouldn’t be shocked to see one about BYU students complaining that Hero was shown. In any case while I agree that the Trib likes to stir things up, I don’t think that applies in your hypothetical. Perhaps I am misunderstanding things, see my response to Eric below and tell me if I am missing something.

    Eric,

    Similarly, I am confused by your statment that, “BYU will do absolutely anything to avoid another Rodin incident.” My undertanding is that the uproar was that some of the statues were not being shown, not that “offensive” statues might be shown. If that is the case, then by suddenly cutting Hero they are causing another Rodin incident. Maybe my perspecitve is skewed, having gone to college where all of those “offensive” statues are on permanent display 24 hours a day, outdoors. Also, I was in Salt Lake at the time of the controversy and Provo dwellers might have had a different take on it.

    Everyone should go watch the episode of The Simpsons where after leading the campaign against Itchy and Scratchy, Marge is asked to help protect the town from The David.

  83. D. Fletcher on November 12, 2004 at 12:54 pm

    Guys, I think this idea of “participating in the emotional revelry of sex” is pretty…wrong-headed. I can get aroused watching cartoons, or walking down the street.

  84. Wilfried on November 12, 2004 at 1:03 pm

    Interesting exchanges.

    Nate mentioned: “VIEWING violent scenes is not performative for the VIEWERS. A person who views a sexual scene in a sense has a sexual experience through arousal in a way that a person who views a killing scene will never participate in killing.”

    Jack mentioned: “For the reasons mentioned above, as one who has done some (amateur) acting, I would be more uncomfortable touching a woman’s body than committing a violent act on the stage or screen. For me, this is a strong indication that the two cannot be classified as the same kind of experience.”

    I can agree to a certain extent. However, one may wonder if viewing a killing and “enjoying it” is (for some) not a form of subliminal participation in the act of killing. How deep are the genes responding? Children replay the act of killing with barbaric pleasure. Does it not waken in them primitive behavior? What about computergames where killing the enemy is the number one enjoyment? To what extent does it contribute to attitudes where terrorists are able to do what they do?

    Second, the matter remains that killing is one of the most grievous sins. So why do people tolerate the depiction of such a sin, but are “shocked and outraged” when they see some nudity or a love scene? Is there not some fundamental hypocrisy in our culture?

  85. Russell Arben Fox on November 12, 2004 at 1:04 pm

    “eroticism is sinful in and of itself ”

    No, it’s not.

  86. Nate Oman on November 12, 2004 at 1:20 pm

    A couple of points:

    1. I disagree with Jack and agree with Russell that eroticism is not in and of itself sinful. However, eroticism is more than simply the depiction of an activity. It is participation in an activity. Furthermore, while I don’t think that it is per se sinful, I think that it presents serious moral questions, questions that cannot be resolved with a glib “We are just looking at pictures that are fictional, what is the big deal?”

    2. D. I am not sure that I understand your argument. It seems that you could be claiming that because one can get aroused in situations other than than the movies that arousal in the movies is not of moral concern. Alternatively, you could be claiming that because you can get aroused in situations other than the movies that arousal is not of moral concern. The first position is simply incoherent. It is analogous to the claim that because I can murder people with lots of impliments other than murdering them with knives that murdering with knives presents no moral issue. The second position is not incoherent, but I do think that it is wrong. One needn’t believe adopt some puritanical or ascetic position about the inherent evil of sex to believe that arousal raises moral concerns. “Raising concerns” is not the same thing as “always immoral.” It does suggest, however, that there is nothing “wrong-headed” in the belief that one ought to think about the morality of arousal.

    3. Winfried: Perhaps you are correct. There may be something participatory about viewing violence. Here I am at a disadvantage. I have had sex but I have never killed anyone. I am certainly sympathetic to arguments about how desensitization to violence through frequent exposure to violent images leads to violence. (Although as I understand it the social science evidence for this proposition is not especially compelling.) On the other hand, this seems like a different argument. It is not necessarily that viewing the violence is performative, but rather that it is likely to have negative effects on future behavior.

  87. Kaimi on November 12, 2004 at 1:27 pm

    Nate,

    Let’s tease out some of your assumptions here.

    Were the coliseum spectators — lustily cheering as gladiators fought each other, or fought with lions etc. for their lives — engaged in a wrongful act?

    Is it equally harmful (or unharmful) to watch a fictional movie like Die Hard, versus a real “snuff film” in which people are actually killed? Why (or why not)?

  88. D. Fletcher on November 12, 2004 at 1:30 pm

    What I find wrong-headed is the notion that because something induces arousal it is morally wrong. I can’t avert my eyes from life as I walk through it. My own arousal and what I do about it is my own concern, and shouldn’t be the concern of the filmmakers. The filmmakers are trying to energize me with their story, and part of that energy may be sexual. I don’t think it’s immoral.

    But more importantly, it isn’t participatory any more than anything in life is participatory. By talking about these things, these sexual things, might there be someone who could get aroused? Then by all means, let’s not talk about them.

    “The first position is simply incoherent. It is analogous to the claim that because I can murder people with lots of impliments other than murdering them with knives that murdering with knives presents no moral issue.”

    Sorry, Nate, but this is incoherent.

  89. Nate Oman on November 12, 2004 at 1:43 pm

    D.: Not it isn’t. The question that I had was whether the existence of arousal in other circumstances meant that arousal itself was not of concern or whether it meant that arousal in the movies was not of concern. My point was that if we believe that X is of concern, the fact that X occurs in context A,B,C in no way undermines the the fact that X is of concern in in context P. E.g. murder (X) is of concern. It can be done with a gun (A), a car (B), or poison (C). This fact, however, does not provide us with any reason to suppose that murder done with a knife (P) is not of concern.

    However, as you have elaborated you are clearly arguing that arousal per se is not immoral. I am actually inclined to agree with you. It is not clear from your comments why you don’t think it is immoral, but from your examples I am guess that it is because it is involuntary. I frankly don’t think that this is such a good argument, since once still has some control via one’s control over one’s enviroment. Furthermore, the concept of voluntariness is extremely difficult and in this context is best thought of as a continuim, so I think that there are no doubt instances of arousal that are voluntary. Hence, I don’t think that voluntariness is really all of the useful in thinking about when arousal should be of moral concern.

    I suppose that what I need is some account of why I think certain forms of arousal are morally troubling and why I think that other forms of arousal are just fine. Sorry, I don’t have a theory there yet ;->

    I do think, however, that watching sex is more participatory than say watching election returns. It seems to me that the primary particpatory part of elections is voting, not watching the vote. On the other hand, a significant portion of sexual experience is the process of arousal, climax, and release. In a sense, arousal is a third of the way there (obviously this is an exageration). More importantly, it seems to me of the same class of experiences in a way that watching election returns is not in the same class of experiences as voting.

    However, I do agree with you that in the main life is participatory ;->

  90. Mark B on November 12, 2004 at 1:46 pm

    Jack said: If two people who happen to be in the buff are all over each other like sea otters . . .

    This just makes me wonder: What does Jack know about sea otters that we don’t? Is there something that sea otters can teach us? Where can you get sea otter skin flicks, or do you have to go see them “live”?

  91. D. Fletcher on November 12, 2004 at 1:55 pm

    I made the point that porn is specifically designed to arouse, and when watches porn one is aware of some kind of participation with the filmmakers.

    But a sex scene in a regular movie may have many important points to make, other than arousal of the audience, points about the characters in the story. In “The Good Girl” with Jennifer Aniston, she is shown having sex with her husband’s friend, who is blackmailing her, and while having sex, there is a closeup of her crying. It’s an important character point, but I suppose it was Jennifer Aniston, so somebody might have a fantasy of being with Jennifer, and they got aroused during a scene that was otherwise quite poignant and important to the story.

    In 1968, there was a big hoopla at BYU over a shot of Leonard Whiting’s naked butt in the movie “Romeo and Juliet.” Mothers in Provo (not even students) requested that the MOVIE not be shown (and BYU complied). It’s ridiculous, even if that shot was designed to arouse some people.

  92. Jack on November 12, 2004 at 1:55 pm

    Mark B. Sorry if my superior knowledge of sea otters makes you feel inferior.

  93. Nate Oman on November 12, 2004 at 2:05 pm

    D.: I don’t disagree with you. I am simply trying to get at the reasons underlying the widespread intuition that portrayals of sex are different than portrayals of violence. I am not arguing that all portrayals of sex are wrong or that there is nothing objectionable in portrayals of violence.

  94. D. Fletcher on November 12, 2004 at 2:20 pm

    “Rather, my point was that VIEWING sexual scenes is performative for the VIEWERS in a way that VIEWING violent scenes is not performative for the VIEWERS. A person who views a sexual scene in a sense has a sexual experience through arousal in a way that a person who views a killing scene will never participate in killing.”

    Nate, I think this post of yours contradicts your last post. IMO, a person viewing a sex scene and getting aroused, is participating EXACTLY the same way as someone viewing a violent scene and being energized by it. In neither case is the audience/viewer actually participating. The viewer isn’t going to have an orgasm right there in the theater, nor is he stabbing or shooting anyone. In both cases, it is a psychological participation (if at all).

    And if you don’t think people are energized by watching violence, think again: anybody who enjoyed Braveheart or Gladiator gets a passive thrill from violence.

  95. MDS on November 12, 2004 at 2:42 pm

    “The viewer isn’t going to have an orgasm right there in the theater…”

    Pee Wee Herman may differ with you on that.

  96. Weston C on November 12, 2004 at 3:06 pm

    “If you’re asking why no other student publication has risen to take the place of Student Review since (the way SR rose to take the place of The Seventh East Press, which folded back in the early 80s), again I think you have to look beyond SR’s actual sorry history–like to the interests and priorities of the majority of students admitted to BYU today–for an explanation.”

    Actually, I was throwing a bit of mockery into the thread. :) And having been a BYU student for far longer than I should have been, I’ve noticed that there have, in fact, been several papers that tried (Conservative Edge, which tried to be a SR for the more conservative set, Cougar Pulp, for which I wrote a series of very silly pieces, and the more recent paper I *think* is titled the College Review which has actually printed some very, very fine stuff). All of these (except CR, which I believe is still going) have folded, and I think you’re right about the interests and priorities of the majority of today’s BYU students, among which a non-University-guided press isn’t particularly important.

    Ivan:

    I was never impressed by the Student Review. I found it rather facile and juvenile. Of courst, the Daily Universe was hard to read because of the many, many typos and often incomprehensible prose. The best student newspaper (while I was at BYU) was one put out every two weeks by the College of Humanities (I can’t recall the name at the moment – the subtitle was “BYU’s academic fortnightly”). It was everything the Student Review should have been – independent, controversial and generally well-written.

    I think you’re talking about what I’ve referred to as the College Review, and I agree, it’s good. I also agree that the Student Review as it existed in much of the time I believe you were at BYU was frivolous… but I also remember SR from 1990-1991 and 1993-1994 or so producing work on par with what you saw in CR, if sometimes a bit more edge. By the time SR was sporadically produced in 1999, it was much like Cougar Pulp — a series of humor and student lifestyle pieces with some arts/entertainment reviews thrown in.

  97. Rob Briggs on November 12, 2004 at 3:07 pm

    There is one aspect of the current silliness over Hero that is noteworthy, the tone of the pieces in the Deseret News & the University.

    IMO, the tone of each piece suggests opposition to, or at least skepticism of, the censors & sympathy for those who favor showing the film. Each gives considerable & favorable coverage to Anderson & his defense of openness (at least as applied to this film) and to students who regret that the film will not be show. Each comments favorably about the film itself & the reception (i.e., awards) it’s received. They also comment favorably on the foreign film program. By quoting Anderson’s comment that an Herbal Essence commercial is more offensive than the 20 questionable seconds in Hero, the Deseret News shows the silliness of the censors. The Universe noted that the opponents of the film were a “small but vocal minority.� By concluding with the student opining that a lot more people would have enjoyed the film than been offended by it, the News gave the last word to the majoritarian position.

    A silver lining? I’d like to think it’s a sea change. At least the News & the Universe writers & their editors should be congratulated for one small, subtle blow against the Pharisees. Because that’s what causes this: the Phariseeism alive & well in our midst.

  98. Nate Oman on November 12, 2004 at 3:26 pm

    D.: I suppose that it depends on how one coceptualizes the two acts. I tend to think that the evil of killing is death simpliciter. However, I don’t think that the evil of fornication consists in orgasm simpliciter. Hence, somone who gets the bloodlust from Braveheart has not yet killed anyone or even begun killing anyone. He has not begun or entered into the experience of homocide. On the other hand, a person who is aroused has begun the experience of sex.

    Let me just reiterate again — I am not making an argument about ultimately whether sex in the movies is bad or good or whether violence in the movies is bad or good. My personal opinion is that some of the time they are good and some of the time they are bad. Hence, I don’t have much sympathy with those eager to ban every bared butt or breast on film or those who insist that there is nothing wrong with shoot-em-up violence flicks. However, I do have some sympathy with the notion that they present different sorts of issues that ought to be approached in different ways. (Note: different DOESN’T mean more or less important.) My interest is in the analytic question of how we think about things rather than in the particular conclusions that folks reach.

    Think of it this way. Any image presents two possible routes to moral difficulty. The first route is that the picture will somehow increase the liklihood of some future behavior that is morally wrong. Hence, watching the violence in Braveheart may lead to murder and mayhem and watching the sex in Braveheart may lead to fornication or adultery. (We can have lots of debates about how strong these effects are and whether or not sexual images or violent images have a greater liklihood to bring about the forbidden conduct. These are empirical rather than analytical questions)

    The second route to more difficulty is the act of viewing the image itself. Here too, I suppose, there is probably some symetry between violence and sex. Violence may arouse feelings of aggression, etc. that are themselves morally troubling. My point, however, is that I believe that the phenomenon of sexual arousal is more salient because I think that it is nearer if you will to the core evil (again subject to the provisio about how I don’t think that sex is evil per se).

    As I said in response to Winfried, I am at a disadvantage here because the fact that I have had sex gives me a pretty good idea of the relationship of image induced arousal to the the actual completion of a sexual act. I am not saying that it is necessarily extremely close, but I think it is closer than Braveheart induced bloodlust is to actual murder. The problem here, of course, is that I have never murdered anyone. If I do, however, and it causes me to reconsider my analysis here, I promise to blog about it ;->

  99. ed on November 12, 2004 at 3:51 pm

    Everyone seems to be ignoring the fact that the vast majority of people have never killed anyone and have no desire to do so. On the other hand, the majority of people have had sex, and even those who have not have a great desire to do so.

    One view of restrictions on sexual behavior is that we need to avoid the bad consequences of extra-marital sex (e.g. pregnancy). In this view, erotic entertainment is bad only to the degree it increases the level of extra-marital sex.

    However, Christ taught that lusting after a woman is itself a sin. Therefore erotic material may be sinful in itself in that it arouses desires that are in themselves sinful. We might think that watching violence would be a sin for Hannibal Lechter, for the same reason watching an erotic film might be a sin for me. But why is it sinful for me to watch violence, if I’m not like Hannibal Lechter? Would it be sinful for me to watch gay p0rn, if it doesn’t do anything for me? (Ignoring the issue of providing financial support for the gay p0rn industry?)

  100. Ivan Wolfe on November 12, 2004 at 6:03 pm

    Weston –

    Yes, College Review was the name I was searching for. Thanks.

    And, yeah I was at BYU as Student Review was dying out. I’ve never read the early issues, so I’ll take your word for it that the early issues were better than the latter ones.

    Oen thing I found funny was that I read an interview in Sunstone with the editor of the Student Review (at the time) and I recall this odd comment (paraphrased from memory): “We’d have more conservative articles, but its hard to find well written conservative pieces.”

    Make of that what you will.

  101. D. Fletcher on November 12, 2004 at 7:10 pm

    Sorry, Nate, to push you, but following your own logic, I still say there is no difference between viewing sexual activity in a movie and viewing violence in a movie. If the body starts down the path towards sexual activity, meaning there’s some kind of physiological change that happens, it still is up to the viewer to decide to fulfill that desire or not, to go home and make love, for instance, or go home and not make love. Similarly, I think there might be a physiological change which occurs when watching violence — some are excited by it, others repelled — and this physiological change is precisely the same as one would experience when one is about to commit violence. But since violence is suppressed by us and our society, the natural recourse is to do nothing.

    As we become more and more inured to watching violence, perhaps the physiological change is lessened, just as it would be if we were actually participating in violence. Similarly, as we become more and more inured to watching sexual activity, there probably is less arousal, or the need for something new to provide the arousal.

    In any case, I can’t see the logic in processing the immorality of a viewer. I can see some validity in suggesting that the performers in a sex scene are closer to sinful activity than the performers in a violent scene, because the performers in a sex scene are usually unclothed and touching body parts. Sex is LESS faked than violence, though most of what we see in regular movies is pretty fake. So perhaps the immorality of a viewer is tied into insisting that others sin for him, or others commit violent acts for him.

    This came up at my party, when I suggested that my apartment might be a perfect “studio” for an online sex site, and I could make a huge amount of money without actually sinning myself.

    :)

  102. Jim F on November 12, 2004 at 7:43 pm

    Steve (comment #75): My personal experience shows that at the margins, when learning confronts the Church at BYU, the Church wins. Now, that’s a rarity, and it may not be applicable to IC (which, as you noted, may have primarily cultural reasons), but I think your description isn’t quite as fullsome [sic :)] as it needs to be.

    Me: You’re right both that the Church wins when learning and the Church are in conflict (which is at it should be) and that those occasions are rare. I think I’m familiar with the English-department scandals you have in mind, and in at least one of those cases, a rather notorious one, I think the situation was considerably more complicated than it appeared to be. It wasn’t only about learning confronting the Church. It may not have been about that at all. It was more about one culture confronting another. So I stand by my statement (comment #61): “BYU is not only about learning, but also about the Church.”

    Steve: You like Sumer more than me??

    Me: You really have to ask?

  103. Kaimi on November 12, 2004 at 7:49 pm

    A few random thoughts:

    1. Violence in movies isn’t always entirely faked either. See, e.g., http://imdb.com/news/wenn/2004-11-10#celeb4 . Granted, it’s a lot less than killing.

    2. If violence isn’t transferable, then why do people fret about violent video games? For that matter, why fret about violence in movies at all?

    3. Perhaps the violence doesn’t manifest as killing, but shows up in other insiduous ways, such as spousal abuse.

  104. Melissa on November 12, 2004 at 8:12 pm

    Nate writes:
    “Hence, somone who gets the bloodlust from Braveheart has not yet killed anyone or even begun killing anyone. He has not begun or entered into the experience of homocide. On the other hand, a person who is aroused has begun the experience of sex.”

    Nate, can you elaborate here. At what point would we say that someone had “entered into the experience of homocide?” How much anger, aggression or violence would be required to “enter into the experience of homocide” in your thinking? If one is angry and aggressive, or violent on occasion but has no pre-meditated intentions to harm or even kill perhaps that person is not “entering the experience of homocide” but what if someone does have pre-meditated intentions to harm or even kill, and acts with anger, aggression or violence on occasion would you really argue that the person had not “entered into the experience of homocide?”

    I’m also interested in your language choice here. You call sexual sin “the core evil”. Although you offer a caveat indicating that you understand sex per se is not evil, this is still confusing. Are just trying to say that viewing sex is is closer to participating in the illicit kind of sex than viewing violence is to participating in violence? If so, I’m not sure I agree.

    I don’t know offhand of studies that correlate the rise in teenage violence with the increasing violence of television and computer games, but imitative behavior is surely not uncommon. We live in a world full of anger and aggression—teenage homicide, domestic violence, hate crimes, even road rage are rampant in contemporary life. Certainly the steady dose of violence people ingest from the media is connected to these growing trends. I am convinced that repeated exposure to representations of violence can have a powerful negative influence.

    I have not had a television for lo these many years but I am always surprised when I’m at the gym and someone is watching Law and Order or some other such program that there is no reaction—-postively no reaction by others to the often brutal and gruesome scene with which the episode begins. I cannot bear these scenes. I literally cannot bear to watch them—-they make me physically ill. I have an extremely low threshold for viewing any kind of violence and I think that is partly because I have almost no exposure to them. (never played a video game in my life except PacMan :))

    I agree that one’s anger might not be aroused watching a violent movie in the same way that one’s sexual desire might be aroused watching a sex scene but the affects of violent images may be longer-range and in some ways more dangerous.

  105. Adam Greenwood on November 12, 2004 at 8:45 pm

    The ways in which violence and sex are right and wrong differ, and perhaps that makes for a difference in the dangers of viewing them, too. I’ll have to think about it.

    It seems to me that sex is wrong when it is taken out of a relationship of love and commitment. So the rightness and wrongness of sex depends on the person who it is with.

    The rightness and wrongness of violence, however, flows from entirely different sources and for different reasons. The person you’re using violence on is largely irrelevant.

  106. Jack on November 12, 2004 at 10:12 pm

    Jack: “eroticism is sinful in and of itself �

    Russell: “No, it’s not.” (a link to Russell’s fine post on sexual healing)

    Russell, I know that I’m the king of vagueness, but can we agree to agree to agree that we’re talking about what is going on with in the context of the THEATER?!

    Eroticism on the screen is calculated to be so, and therefore IMO will always be an abuse of sex. This IMO constitutes sin, though (I agree!) sex in and of itself is not sinful.

  107. Jack on November 12, 2004 at 10:37 pm

    Since the general consensus seems to be that violence is every bit as bad as sex (and I agree, though I think it’s influence is measured differently) if not worse, than maybe the best solution would be to raise the level of censorship on violence so that it equals the level of censorship on sex.

    Yes! Thank goodness for those darling international Barney episodes. It’s nice to know that *something* out there will pass muster.

  108. a random John on November 13, 2004 at 6:55 pm

    Kaimi,

    Sometimes people do die during the filming of Hollywood violence. The example that springs to mind is that of Bruce Lee’s son Brandom, who died while filming The Crow:
    http://imdb.com/name/nm0000488/bio

  109. greg.org on November 13, 2004 at 11:40 pm

    Yow. This is what happens when you don’t check T&S for a couple of days.

    I worked at IC as student manager in 1988-90, under Dr. Marshall. I’ve written about censoring (and on rare occasions, as an act of immature I-know-everything-now-that-I’m-in-college rebellion, not censoring films pre-emptively. [Have fun. There’s even a tiny naked still of Emmanuelle Beart there, plenty safe for work, maybe even church.]

    http://greg.org/archive/2003/04/25/nude_scenes_at_byu.html

    It’s funny to read IC described as the elite intelligentsia, etc. compared to the Varsity, if only because it didn’t feel that way at all on the ground. IC’s exceptionalism was because it was integrated into–and run as part of–the College of Humanities curriculum: language classes, hum, art, film, etc. Varsity was a commercial entertainment venture, completely different animals. IC assumed a greater sense of maturity and seriousness of its audience precisely because it was firstly part of the curriculum/coursework. And engaging in study of the cultural output of the world sometimes meant seeing an image of a naked person, whether it was kouros boy, Manet’s Olympia, or Andrei Rublev.

    It was in the mid-late 90’s when IC was targeted (along with the film dept) by a single zealot, purporting to represent the community at large, who demanded that censoring and programming decisions be given to him/them. It was also around that time that the Church took a more active role in leading BYU (e.g., a GA as President), and there was a fairly widespread re-eval of curriculum to hew more closely to Church/Gospel standards. [When the prev. poster said “upsetting BYU’s donors,” this is the donor–The Big One–that comes to mind.]

    You can argue the benefits of teaching every subject through the lens of Church standards. But for the study of a great many fields of creative/cultural practice, excluding a large number of canonical works would put a serious dent in an institution’s credibility, at least when viewed from the world, not just from the campus. BYU can teach French just fine without its students seeing Manon. But can they teach French Lit without teaching Madame Bovary?

  110. Jim F. on November 14, 2004 at 12:48 am

    Greg, though I agree with most of what you’ve said, I don’t agree that there was any widespread “re-eval of the curriculum to hew more closely to Church/Gospel standards” when President Bateman was appointed, and I was heavily involved in curricular matters, including some re-evaluations of curricula.

    We had problems created by a couple of notorious continuing-status (tenure) decisions in English. The person you speak of, if it was a “he,” was joined by a “her” in doing everything possible to bring down IC. There are probably other, similar situations (including, for some, the demise of College Bowl). However, as vexing as those situations were, it is important not to assume that they indicate the general state of things at BYU then or, especially, now.

    Madame Bovary continues to be taught. In fact, Angels in America is taught. So are philosophers like Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Derrida.

  111. Russell Arben Fox on November 14, 2004 at 8:56 am

    Greg writes: “It was in the mid-late 90’s when IC was targeted (along with the film dept) by a single zealot, purporting to represent the community at large, who demanded that censoring and programming decisions be given to him/them.”

    Jim responds: “We had problems created by a couple of notorious continuing-status (tenure) decisions in English. The person you speak of, if it was a “he,â€? was joined by a “herâ€? in doing everything possible to bring down IC.”

    As interesting as the discussion of sex and violence in film is, I’m glad the original topic remains alive. The story is slowly taking shape; it’s almost to the point where I can put together the pieces on my own, despite the fact that I was gone by 1994. So, pressure was brought on IC (pressure that either hadn’t existed or at least wasn’t as strong before) by certain individuals to bring the films it showed into “alignment” with rest of BYU’s cultural norms and/or presumed cultural mission, and that pressure emerged primarily in the wake of the controversial Cecilia Farr and Gail Houston firings (or, more accurately, non-renewals). Makes sense; those conflicts forced a lot of people (though certainly not all) to choose sides, and probably radicalized more than few. And radicals naturally have an expansive view of their mission (“not only has the English department gone to hell, but have you seen what movies they’re showing on campus these days?!”).

    I doubt that the appointment of a general authority to the BYU presidency is entirely irrelevant to these conflicts, if that’s what you’re implying Jim. Not all GAs are the same, of course. But as your own hypothetical about the Rodin exhibit suggests, a GA president has the additional burden of knowing that every decision or action taken on campus can potentially be used, through his presence as a figurehead, to justify people who wish to claim that “the church” approves this or that, since otherwise the resident GA would have put a stop to it, right? (This is one of the several reasons why I wish there were unofficial Mormon universities out there, so that the constant and in many ways necessary discussion about what is or isn’t appropriate for Mormons wouldn’t rest so often and so heavily on a single set of shoulders.)

  112. Jim F. on November 14, 2004 at 5:17 pm

    I don’t think that the appointment of President Bateman, followed by President Samuelson, was irrelevant, and I didn’t mean to imply that it was. But I am quite sure it didn’t have very much directly to do with what happened to IC. I doubt that it or related things has ever risen to the level of the president. I would guess that it hasn’t gone much higher than a dean or two.

    I agree completely with your last point, that we need more unofficial Mormon universities, both for the reason you give and for a lot of other reasons. Among the other reasons is that I think we ought, as a community, to feel more responsibility for higher education than we do. As it stands, we often have the attitude that either the state or the Church will take care of that for us.

  113. Travis Anderson on November 18, 2004 at 3:23 pm

    I just discovered your site while trying to stay abreast of responses to our program. Go ahead and ask your “12” questions. It might take me a day or two to answer, and I might opt not to answer some questions since I’m disinclined to provide fodder for those of you who seem wont to speculate far beyond where you have grounds or good reasons for doing so, but in the interest of clearing what has obviously become very murky air, I’ll give it my best shot. By the way, it’s nice to touch base with some of you again–even if only electronically.

  114. Soren on December 3, 2004 at 6:58 pm

    Current BYU student (and former IC fan) chiming in here:

    There’s one factor which nobody seems to have accounted for yet, having gone back-and-forth about BYU’s tendency to bowdlerize all media, which should come as no suprise to anybody. The current generation of Y students has much greater access to movies than did the previous (my parents). Many students have cars, and go to the movies at the Provo Town Center, Riverwoods, or the dollar theaters. I live off-campus, and I don’t know of a single house that doesn’t have a TV and VCR or DVD player; even on campus, many students have a TV in their room, or at least a computer with a DVD player. The Blockbuster and Hollywood videos (all six of them) near campus always do a continuous stream of business. For those of us with more haute couture tastes, the Orem Library has a large, eclectic, and first-rate movie collection.

    So IC and the Varsity just don’t fill the niche they once did. Now, the majority of the patrons are freshmen who live on campus and don’t have access to cars. It’s rare for an off-campus student to attend a movie there. And as for the “international” fare, if the IC can get it, it’s almost certainly on DVD, and most likely the Orem Library has it. All in all, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the IC and the Varisty were completely dead within a decade.

  115. sandy hall on December 16, 2004 at 3:15 pm

    I noticed you referenced a scene in Toto the Hero where a teenaged boy and girl were bathing together nude. By the way you described the scene, I can only surmise that you have never seen the film. The boy Toto is in fact around 12 years old give or take a year, and the girl (his sister) is about the same age. Children often bathe together in European countries. I don’t see where there is a criticism here. They are not yet teenagers as you led the reader to believe, and at no time are any body parts other than head, arms, legs pulled up to the chest and feel shown. There is more nudity in American television shows (Hill Street Blues, Sex in the City, and others) than in this whole film. I take offense that you have taken out of context (as most critics do) a moment that portrays a common everyday practice in some countries.

  116. Jason Johnson on January 11, 2005 at 3:05 am

    Kaimi brings up an interesting point :

    “Is it equally harmful (or unharmful) to watch a fictional movie like Die Hard, versus a real “snuff filmâ€? in which people are actually killed? Why (or why not)? ”

    Like most (Men at least) posting to this thread I often find the (presumably simulated) sex on screen arousing. I presume that my recaction to actual p0rn would be the same.

    Acted violence, unless it is extremely graphic, does not have the same effect on me. (Though I am less and less tolerant of it). I did, in fact, see an actual snuff film a few years ago – a video clip of a very scared looking Russian soldier getting his head sawed off by an Islamic militant (This was some years before the invasion of Iraq and the ubiquity of such videos). I had to stop just about the time that steel touched flesh, and could not go on. Nothing I have seen out of hollywood prepared me or desensitized me for that. I didn’t actually see the young man get killed, but I regret seeing as much as I did.

    The reaction was a physical one – just as the reaction to sex scenes is physical no matter how enlightened, intellectual, or educated I may think that I am. This, of course, brings one direclty to the voyeuristic nature of watching eroticism depicted on the screen.

    Perhaps the so-called golden age of IC at the Y WAS too permissive in what it screened. (I can’t comment directly on that as I attended the eminently superior institution of higher learning in Logan)