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Contrite Tom Hanks to anti-gay bigots: "let's respectfully disagree"

vastleft's picture

When power speaks back to truth:

“Last week, I labeled members of the Mormon church who supported California's Proposition 8 as "un-American." I believe Proposition 8 is counter to the promise of our Constitution; it is codified discrimination. But everyone has a right to vote their conscience — nothing could be more American. To say members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints who contributed to Proposition 8 are "un-American" creates more division when the time calls for respectful disagreement. No one should use "un- American" lightly or in haste. I did. I should not have. Sincerely, Tom Hanks”

That's the beauty part of religious-based bigotry. It deserves so much goddamned respect.

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Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

Last week, the star, who is an executive producer for HBO's controversial series “Big Love” about a group of polygamist Mormons, spoke out about the religious group's involvement in passing the California law, which bans same-sex marriage.

He's not walking this back out of respect for the Mormon Church. He's walking it back for fear of a ratings cut for the series (which IMNVHO should never be on the air at all because it glamorizes the practices of this ... misogynistic cult.)

I never expected Hanks to sell out, and it makes me sad that he sold out this cheaply.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Hanks isn't some hard-core Lefty campaigner for freedom and liberty and justice for all - he just plays one. He's a businessman, who sells a carefully crafted persona. His little tirade against the Mormons cracked that image, and as you correctly point out he had to apologize and patch things over to protect his business interests. A buck is a buck; right and wrong, not so easily definable.

It isn't just income from Big Love he's concerned with. Utah is a film market way out of proportion to its population. Mormons there and elsewhere go to the movies and rent them far more frequently than other Americans. When you can't smoke or drink or in general associate with people who do, movies are one of the few public social outlets that have church approval. And Hanks' characters, clean-cut and honest and hard-working and always rewarded in the end with moral if not monetary success, are just their cup of Postum.

I was shocked when he went after them. I am not shocked he's walking it back.

Oh and, Sarah: We can't always agree, can we? That we often do makes some of the natives restless; here’s a bone for them.

One of the reasons I like Big Love is that it shows the humanity involved, the struggle these people have between their own increasingly modern, secularized and rational sense of right-and-wrong and the warped values with which they were raised. I certainly don't see it as an endorsement of the FLDS or any of the polygamist groups whose horrible behaviors we have both condemned.

On the other hand, I don't much care one way or another about polygamy per se. What consenting adults do with each other in terms of defining their relationships or pooling their resources is none of my business, and certainly I don't want to know about their sex lives. Big Love celebrates that freedom, while reasonable accurately addressing the inherent psychological complications that (ahem) in my experience appear to be uniformly hugely challenging if not entirely insurmountable in pluralist emotionally and sexually intimate relationships.

What I don't like about the polyg churches is the authoritarianism, the abusiveness, the exploitation of minors and the gullible, and the systematic embrace of criminality justified by belief that some self-selected Higher Power gives them the right to defy civil law. Big Love is - astoundingly so, I think - very open about that darkness. There has been no sentimentality that I've seen about the polyg churches and what steaming cesspools of corruption they truly are.

Within Big Love, the only real targets of approbation are the hard-core adherents of the various polyg churches. Everyone else is viewed through the complex lens of our common humanity, warts and all. I think it is quite clever, well written, thoughtful and complex in a way that is far too seldom seen on television, and should be rewarded rather than condemned.

Plus Jeanne Tripplehorn, who I would gladly watch for an hour if she did nothing but wander about aimlessly and occasionally smile into the camera. So there's that.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

yeah ... I remember Bosom Buddies too. The other guy was funnier, IMNVHO, but obviously it's Tom Hanks who parlayed his role there into a foothold in major money and power circles in the Entertainment Industry.
My problem with Big Love is ... the focus on the approbation for those hardcore adherents.
Of course, I don't have your experience in the heart of the Mormon Southwest to go by; I just have the gut-level revulsion the FLDS practices here in Texas engenders.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

I was snarking at him with that title, not you. Slap him silly, please; he needs it.

Do you not agree that Big Love has been very honest about the corruption within the polyg churches and how destructive that is for the members? Lots of lines of dynamic tension in the plot but that is one of the basic elements, that unstable balancing act the members have to maintain in the face of screaming reality, the lengths they will go to to try and resolve the unresolvable, how warped the values are they've had pounded into them from childhood.

It is I think especially good that viewers get to see Bill and his brother struggle with love and rejection, the damage done by throwing children away unprepared into a world they cannot understand, and warping the ones who are kept into servile automatons working the will of a select few at the top of the heirarchy.

We tend to focus exclusively on how badly the women and girls are exploited, and I am the first to say that they are and it is horrible and it must stop. What gets ignored IMHO too much is that the boys and most of the men are exploited and battered and horrifically ruined by the same system. Being men, the contemporary American social convention is that they should just suck it up and soldier on. All that does is breed a new generation of dysfunctionality and rage-based behavior, to no one's benefit, so I am very glad to see it as part of the discussion in Big Love along with women's issues.

No quarter from me for the heirarchy of the FLDS. I don't see any mercy coming from the Big Love writers either.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

Tom Hanks' walkback gives the lie to much of his own earlier work, and that makes me sad, because I really thought he was one of the good guys.

Confession time: over the years I've never "needed" HBO. Movies can be watched at the $2 show down the block or the $5 drive-in if I want to see them before I can get them on TV (free TV, increasingly, has no bars to the full effects of vulgarity, mayhem and bawd) at home, where I can yell back at the asinine behavior of the protagonist (WHY do they always go down the dark path into the apparently-abandoned woods or cellar or poolhouse, as though they've never seen somebody do this in the movies or on TV and get knocked in the head?).

So any boycott or other protest I might make, Tom Hanks probably won't notice. It's just a shame more people aren't willing to tell him, "You were right the first time, and you shouldn't back down for the money."

Submitted by jawbone on

Especially since it's often, but not exclusively!, the female characters who do the dumb stuff.

WHY do they always go down the dark path into the apparently-abandoned woods or cellar or poolhouse, as though they've never seen somebody do this in the movies or on TV and get knocked in the head?

Indeed, why, you lazy writers?

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

I'll bet Joe Mannix got clocked on the head on his porch about 40 times. You'd think he'd look around when he was coming and going.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Maybe never. Lord knows, Hanks is better than most but still, feet of clay and for him show business is business; he needs to protect it for, as I'm sure he rationalizes things, preserving the opportunity to do films like Philadelphia, to spread the word. Meanwhile, he isn't about to work for free, without taking his own cut, ya know what I'm sayin'? Show business is about business first, for nearly everyone in it whose name you would recognize. Those who do it for love of the craft are in summer stock productions.

Confessions, gotta love 'em. I don't have HBO or any premium packages either, just basic cable, and neither do most of my friends in Utah who are completely enraptured by Big Love. My eldest daughter is a TV freak (what can you do?) and she has it all including a DVR and something called "On Demand" that lets you call up older programs. Every so often I go over for an orgy of catching up, usually in return for some chore or babysitting the grandson; seems fair.

The friends in Utah have turned Big Love into a reason to party. Mostly agnostic, they have found a way to worship on Sunday through their Big Love devotional, including some fair amount of communial imbibing of wine and oh maybe some herbal therapy. A half dozen to a dozen of them arrive at the home of one of the few that have HBO in time for potluck dinner, with the hosts expected to do none of the preparation or cleanup.

Then it is all around the teebee to hoot and holler and mock and rejoice when the baddies get theirs, along with playing Spot the Location. Many of the exteriors are filmed right in Utah, in the Salt Lake Valley and elsewhere, so we like to try and identify just which corner the camera was placed to get a particular shot. I lived for several years in Sandy, where the Henrikson family is supposed to live, and have crawled all over the state; it is fun to see bits of the old town, and some of the country.

So no need to subscribe to premium cable to get these shows; mooch, that's what I do.

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

People who believe that there are special books of divine revelation about American exceptionalism -- you don't get that in most countries.

I'd agree with Hanks on voting your conscience, and I worry about the battles over what's "un-American". But Hanks nailed the problem originally:

The truth is a lot of Mormons gave a lot of money to the church to make Prop-8 happen," Hanks said at the show's premiere in Los Angeles last Wednesday. "There are a lot of people who feel that is un-American, and I am one of them."

Using a church as a money conduit to effect legislation is un-American in breaching the separation of church and state. Why hasn't the Mormon church lost its tax-exempt status over this?

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

You rarely see public denunciations of gasbags like William Kristol. And heck, it's almost taboo to talk about the Bush Administration's possible war crimes. That has little to do with religion.

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

In my whole life, I've only met 3 Mormons -- 2 were total *ssholes and one was a woman who had left the church and had nothing good to say about it. That is not counting the young men who used to hang around my bus stop missionizing, or proselytizing, or whatever they call it.

So I really knew very little about LDS until I read Jon Krakauer's book, Under the Banner of Heaven. I certainly didn't understand that there was a difference between 'fundamentalist' Mormonism and the more 'mainstream' kind (I thought they were all just fundamentalist, in the same way that I tend to brush all the religious crazies with the same 'fundie' label -- lazy, yes, but convenient, often).

The problem I have with Big Love is that, as I understand it, most of the polygamy-practicing sects within the LDS are the scary, fundamentalist, exploitative type, and precious few feature a likeable Bill Paxton-like patriarch (subpatriarch?) with his suprisingly not-enslaved, not-beaten-down wives. So that while Big Love does present a lot of the more difficult questions attached to the ugly side of polygamist practices within the LDS, it is still giving quite a lop-sided impression. And, not having watched BL (but having sat through 87 million ads for it), it doesn't seem as if it's really plumbing just how hideous and horrible the exploitation is.

Polygamy on its own doesn't bother me at all as a concept, it's just that it almost never seems, in RL, to occur or be sustained without the association of the subservience of women, the sexual exploitation of girls and women, and deeply creepy patriarchal practices.

Here's bit of the blurb for Krakauer's book:

Krakauer takes readers inside isolated communities in the American West, Canada, and Mexico, where some forty-thousand Mormon Fundamentalists believe the mainstream Mormon Church went unforgivably astray when it renounced polygamy. Defying both civil authorities and the Mormon establishment in Salt Lake City, the leaders of these outlaw sects are zealots who answer only to God. Marrying prodigiously and with virtual impunity (the leader of the largest fundamentalist church took seventy-five "plural wives," several of whom were wed to him when they were fourteen or fifteen and he was in his eighties), fundamentalist prophets exercise absolute control over the lives of their followers, and preach that any day now the world will be swept clean in a hurricane of fire, sparing only their most obedient adherents.

I rather enjoyed it because although the 'core' of the book tells the story of a group of 4 brothers who murdered one of the brother's wives when she wouldn't go along with their decision to go polygamous, it is really not so much a 'true crime' story as an examination of the practices and effects of polygamy within fundamentalist LDS communities.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

I married a Mormon, lived for seven years in and around Salt Lake City, attended a Ward long enough to adopt a couple of children, and studied Mormon history extensively including the various offshoots. I've written scholarly as well as popular articles on arcana of Mormon theology and history, campaigned extensively against the FLDS specifically and worked for a time with a halfway house that helped orient male children cast out of the FLDS into a world for which they were ill equipped and that filled them with dread. I know quite a lot about Mormons, Mormonism and the FLDS.

Also I've watched every episode of Big Love, and discussed the series with a great many equally knowledgeable Mormon skeptics in excruciating detail. We are a bit of a fetish group, I suppose, but everyone needs a hobby.

In addition, for two years I was co-leader of a Colorado commune and involved in a rather complicated multi-partner relationship; when Bill Henrickson has troubles at home, I can identify entirely.

Writing a script about the Hendrikson family, a construct of artifice to be clear, is a highly complex undertaking. Trying to live any sort of an unconventional life is difficult; what Bill and his wives are doing is exponentially difficult, in tension with and under disapproval from both their origins and the community in which they actually live. The story is told within the confines of Mormon polygamy, but it could be any of a number of unconventional lifestyles and intimate relationships. The script does present a stylized version of the reality of plural marriages, but it is hardly Ozzie and Harriet.

I think Big Love is well done, balanced, honest and fair - an opinion based, to be sure, on my knowledge and experience. YM, of course, MV, but you may not be in a position to discuss either Mormons, not knowing very many, or Big Love not having seen it, or have any basis to judge how accurately it depicts the formal FLDS. Certainly, basing opinions about the entire series on what you've seen in advertisements is, well, bold.