Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Importance of Being Prudish

By Keith Fisher

In November I wrote a blog about the Christmas season. I was thinking I would hurry and get a plug in for Jesus and get back to writing my normal subjects. Since then there have been so many wonderful blogs about Christmas I realized I am in the presence of great writers who are in touch with the true meanings of Christmas. Read on, dear reader and enjoy. Since today is the eve of Christmas Eve, I hope all of you will take a long moment and remember Jesus. Share a little joy and tell someone you love him/her.


Shortly after my mission and before we got married, my wife and I attended a movie. We were on a date and we went to see a popular movie of the time. It wasn’t rated R but it should have been. It was a good movie directed by John Houston but about halfway through the movie there was a scene with nudity in it.

In my defense I will say, I was shocked. Several people got up and walked out. I was proud of them. We were sitting next to the wall in a packed theatre so I didn’t leave. I chickened out and I still wish I had joined them. The movie had a good theme and a life’s message that everyone should learn. But was it necessary to tell it in a crude way?

I’ve heard people called prudes because they didn’t like an art exhibit that displayed paintings of nude people. I have heard people make fun of Utah County, Utah for their moral laws. I have heard the complaints of producers, directors, and actors about the need to protect their work from those who would cut objectionable material from a movie.

The other day, I bought a recently published used book, written by a very prominent author. It was a suspense mystery. I’ve never read anything by this author before. I wanted to read it because I’m leaning toward writing in the genre and wanted to learn something.

(If you know the Identity of this author, please keep it to yourself because I don’t want to give him/her publicity).

Anyway the book had a great start. In the prologue, the author in first person, told about a man being poisoned from the point of view of the victim. Then the book went down hill. In the next chapter, I was getting into the story learning information about the characters, and the author threw in a (not very graphic) sex scene.

When I realized what I was reading, I was shocked. I have been reading a lot of LDS fiction lately and I felt violated. I felt cheated, I was pulled from my "spiritual plane" then I remembered the book was written for the national market and the author didn’t know any better.

Or did he/she? I began to wonder if he/she put the scene into the front of the book in order to persuade the reader to read further. "What a cheap trick," I thought.

A few years ago, there was a big fuss over an effort to cut a questionable scene from a popular movie. I was able to watch that movie because my wife had the remote control and she knew where the scene was. Unlike the movie, I don’t know if the book is good without the scene, because I’m a little afraid to read it. It only cost two bucks so I’m not out much. Maybe I’ll give it back and let them sell it again.

Now the question I’m left with, and I ask you, is this a good thing? Is sticking my proverbial head in the sand a bad thing? I believe that we as writers tend to write about the things that influence us the most. So how can we influence others for good, if we don’t try to avoid questionable materials?

It’s hard to keep our balance if we straddle the fence too long, but if we don’t straddle the fence how can we avoid the complaint that LDS fiction is too preachy? The statement was, "We must be IN the world-but NOT of the world."

What do you think? Post your comments and we can have a discussion.

2 comments:

Tristi Pinkston said...

I'm waxing philosophical here, and we all know that when I do that I don't make a whole lot of sense, so bear with me.

We absolutely must not sit on the fence when it comes to what we believe, what we stand for, and the morals we portray. Of course this goes for Latter-day Saints but it goes for all people as well. If you are an Atheist, you should be the best Atheist you can be. If you're Catholic, you should be the best Catholic you can be. Living up to your own personal code is the mark of true integrity. The Lord told us He would rather have us hot or cold than lukewarm, and if we're lukewarm, He'll spew us out of His mouth. Truly sterling people do not sit on the fence. They know who they are, what they are, and what they stand for, no waffling. (Yet another thing to add to my New Year's Resolutions . . . )

But to continue.

There is, however, a bit of a difference when we discuss being prudish. When we think of someone who is a prude, we generally think of someone who is offended by everything and throws up their hands with a gasp at the mere suggestion of immorality. This, to me, is not an accurate picture of someone who truly wants to live righteously and is trying to keep their surroundings conducive to the Spirit -- it's more the picture of a person who wants to get attention for their high moral character and so they make a broadway production out of it.

I believe it is completely possible to tell a story without anything objectionable in it at all. There is much good in life that can be explored and celebrated. However, sometimes we must dig into things that aren't quite so pleasant, and it's then where we really get tested -- how much to tell before we've gone too far? A good measure of this is:

1. Is everything in this scene necessary for the understanding of the reader, or can I take some of it out or allude to it instead?

2. Is this information crucial to the story?

3. Have I given out this information with the intent of eventually uplifting my reader, or am I looking for a cheap thrill out of my reader?

Any time you include something graphic for the purpose of merely inticing your reader and with no redeeming quality to it to back up why you've included it, it's gratuitious and should not be included.

It is possible to write a little more on the gritty side and still be a prude. Just ask my sisters --they think I'm one of the largest living prudes ever to walk down Main Street. But you've got to keep it in balance in such a way that you feel good about yourself when you're done, and you can look in the mirror and take some satisfaction with a job well done. Otherwise, it isn't worth it.

I'll shut up now.

Keith Fisher said...

Thank you for including your feelings.


Does Anyone else have something to say? anyone? Okay lets move on to the next part of our lesson . . . Oh. I thought I was teaching Sunday school . . .