Values: To Each Their Own?

The following is a paragraph from a Salt Lake Tribune article entitled “The fake uproar over Harry Potter’s ‘nude’ scene

And why would parents be upset now over a 3-second bit of sensuality (which, in context, is integral to the story and to the development of Ron’s character) when they weren’t upset about the PG-13 bloodshed and violence that has already been seen in two of the previous six movies? Particularly when the MPAA is notorious for being much harsher in its ratings regarding sexual content than regarding violence?

After reading this article, I told my wife to not worry about all the hoopla and we took our older kids to go see Harry Potter.

But there was something about this article and it’s tone that bothers me and I wish to express it.

First, it uses what we might call a ‘standard defense of sexuality.’ The idea is that violence is universally worse than sex so anyone that is more worried about sex (of any kind, apparently, since this argument never mentions level of gratuitousness of either sex or violence) is therefore a hypocrite.

This argument, even if it wasn’t as worn out as it is, is really very offensive. The heart of this argument is that there is no room whatsoever for differing personal and family values.

Isn’t there room in this author’s mind for parents making choices for their children? Is he really better qualified to decide for my family (and apparently every family) what is or isn’t the most age appropriate for our kids?

Might not one family be more worried about sex than certain levels of violence precisely because we live in a culture where violence in movies rarely turns into violence in real life, but sex outside of marriage is increasingly common? Why can’t the author make room for this cultural point of view? Why the need to launch into claims of hypocrisy just because you happen to have differing values than him? Shouldn’t we be looking out for each other on this and, at a minimum, celebrating diversity? 

Or what about the fact that one might be worried about ‘the ‘gratuitous nature’ of the violence vs. the sex? You probably couldn’t have the story of Harry Potter without the violence (non-gory as it is) in tact. (By the way, we have to edit out parts of some of the movies for our kids and tell the what happened.) But despite what this reviewer says, the ‘scene’ in question was just outright gratuitous since it’s not even in the original source material.

I’m not trying to suggest that there is anything wrong with taking yours kids to this movie. I am trying to suggest that this article is offensive because it basically says that if you don’t hold to his point of view about the right sex to violence level for your kids than there is something wrong with you.

Oh, and by the way, it’s a lot longer than a 3-seconds bit, and my wife is still upset that I talked her into taking the kids. And you know what, for my family at this age, she happens to be right. 

35 thoughts on “Values: To Each Their Own?

  1. Bruce, you’re right that the default position in all discussions like this (even among supposedly faithful Mormons) is: you are such a prude and a hypocrite if you have concerns about your kids seeing XXX. Uh, isn’t it the job of parents to try to raise your kids correctly? And of course the people who say these things are the first to trumpet their own “tolerance” on other issues. They are intolerant about being tolerant.

    Now having said that, I don’t remember having a problem with that scene in Harry Potter. I saw the movie with my teenage girls. I have probably become numb to that kind of stuff and need a re-set.

  2. Its amazing how quickly we become desensitized to things. When I went on my mission there wasn’t any movie watching. When I came home and started watching movies again, the slightest cuss word made me cringe. Years later and milder forms of cussing on TV only get my notice because I know they shouldn’t be used by me.

    Although the author has a point that we watch too much violence while avoiding nudity, there still isn’t an equivalency. Violence such as in movies is still generally infrequent unless you live in drug infested high crime areas. Even then you probably aren’t actually touched by violence to the degree of movies except the news about war torn areas of the world. Sexuality, on the other hand, is part of every day life for almost everyone. Worse, in today’s society you can’t get away from it unless cloistered away in a house with the curtains drawn, television turned off, and computer non-existent. Blood and violence on screen is fake, and most intelligent people understand that. Nude is still nude no matter how fake the situation.

    watching violence over time might contribute to a more violent personality and response. That should be taken into consideration. However, one exposure to nudity or sexually provocative material is all it takes for the hormones to kick in. That goes for the young and mature. They are not the same no matter how much critics try to claim otherwise.

  3. Sorry to hear this about the Potter movie. One assumption in the cliche above is that people concerned about sex in movies are indifferent about violence. Plenty were upset, though, that the last Star Wars movie shifted from cartoon cowboy violence and light martial arts to mutilation and immolation. My children have never seen the scenes of legless, crawling Annakin catching on fire.

  4. I suspect an important reason why our culture is more accepting of violence in movies than sexuality is one of realism. Acts of violence are mostly done by trained stunt performers, or are special effects in more or less controlled situations. For the vast majority of what we see on screen, nobody was hurt or at much risk of injury at all, and people who know a few things about filmmaking understand that to some extent. But when we see nudity or acts of a sexual nature on screen, the actors really are nude, and they really are doing the things we’re seeing–even if it’s a body double instead of the star.

  5. Excellent points, Bruce, regarding respect toward those who hold differing values.

    This “sex vs. violence” thing is really situational, in my opinion. A couple years ago, I had a conversation with my young daughter. She reported that her mother was allowing her to go see “Batman Forever,” but not “Mamma Mia.” Her mother didn’t want her to see “Mamma Mia,” because the storyline involved a woman who had sex with three different men some 20 years ago, resulting in the conception of a daughter who’s exact paternity was uncertain. In that situation, I couldn’t help but point out that it was apparently “okay” to see a movie in which a psycopath killed literally hundreds of people, but not “okay” to see a movie where we’re told (not shown) that someone had premarital sex 20 years prior to the first scene in the film. I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out which of these is truly worse for a child to view.

  6. Two issues which I see as being worth mentioning:

    First, violence is, by definition, the depiction of somebody being harmed whereas sex doesn’t always or even usually have a victim. This is why the former is consider worse than the latter.

    Second, there is a difference between values and preferences. You can pick and choose your own preferences with regards to yourself and your family to your hearts content, but values, by definition, are social phenomena: “we” accept or prohibit X!

  7. Of course, it bears mentioning that the Book of Mormon itself is guilty of this. We have plenty of violence, some of it explicit like Nephi and Laban, Ammon, Amalekiah swearing to drink the blood of Moroni, and Coriantumr beheading Shiz. There are several more examples I could use. In contrast, it mentions the sexual sins of the Nephites and others implicit non-gratuitous ways. We don’t even know exactly what Corianton did with Isabel or just how the Daughter of Jared ‘danced’ for Akish. (probably not the polka, or square-dance)

    I can see violence and not feel anger or contention, but I have a difficult time seeing sensual things without feeling carnal myself.

  8. Interesting post. I’m with you that in the end, parents get to choose. I suppose what baffles the self-righteous reviewer is that some parents would be concerned about the suggestive scene in question.

    As for the difference between the sex and violence and (other) disturbing images in films — that’s a parent’s job to sort all that out as you say. And different families will have different standards. I think the incidious problem is that so often (not always), sex seems to have no consequences; violence sometimes does. (and sometimes violence IS the consequence, as in “justice” for an evil doer — a particularly troubling message depending on the age of the kids.

  9. I find it interesting that Western Europe has a more permissive attitude towards sex in movies, which is reflected in their attitude towards sex in real life.

    On the other hand, they have a less permissive attitude towards violence in movies. I wonder if it’s just coincidence that their violent crime rate is much lower than ours.

  10. Jeff G,

    I agree with you on your first point.

    Your second point seems more questionable. To me it seems that you are trying to make a specialized definition for the word ‘preference’ mean something diffrent than the regular definition for ‘value’ based on whether it’s personal or a group in question. But this doesn’t work obviously there is no such thing as ‘the group’ but rather ‘many groups.’

    Based on what you are saying we’d have family values (of course!), community values, etc. So your point seems entirely arbitrary now. To say nothing of the fact that personal values have just been word policed out of existence despite being a real thing.

    However, I must say that even if I were to assume there was some sort of difference between a ‘preference’ and a ‘value’ that ultimately this works against our reviewer, who, by his own admission, says:

    Particularly when the MPAA is notorious for being much harsher in its ratings regarding sexual content than regarding violence

    Here our review is, if we stick with your definitions, asserting his ‘preference’ against the (in his mind) societal value that sexual content is judged harsher. He accepts this is how our society sees it (i.e. it’s a value the way you are word policing thigns) but he feels his personal ‘preference’ should be the standard instead and for everyone. So now his point of view is doubly offensive.

  11. Nick,

    I can’t remember which one is “Batman Forever” but I admit I see your point.

    However, I suppose your child’s mother does have to work out her values for herself on this and make her own decisions concerning when she is making judgment calls with the children. I can’t really agree that there is a universal way to do this even in a case like this.

    But, Nick, I do see your point entirely. I haven’t seen Mama Mia (and no very little about it except that it has Abba songs), but I don’t think we’re talking about anything particularly gratuitous, are we? Whereas Batman often is gratuitous in violence and even sometimes in sexuality. The last Batman movie I won’t let me kids go see and I’m not sure I should have seen it. :)

    Still, don’t expect me to be critical of anyone’s decisions on this. It’s always a personal call based on personal values and the specific child and situation.

  12. “I wonder if it’s just coincidence that their violent crime rate is much lower than ours.”

    Nah, it’s just because they have gun control.

    *ducks for cover.*

    (And I was kidding…)

  13. “I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out which of these is truly worse for a child to view.”

    considering the cartoonish nature of “Batman Forever,” violence, I am not sure what a rocket scientist has to do with anything. On the other hand, having sex with several different men and not discussing what is wrong with that is what is wrong with “Mamma Mia” for children. Still, there are some more than suggestive sexual moments in “Batman Forever” that are not for younger viewers aside from the violence. In other words, its a tossup and I don’t think either of them are good for children.

  14. Actually, depending on what country you are talking about and what crimes, the crime rate in Europe is no longer lower than US. Details to come later tonight or tomorrow.

  15. Note I specified violent crimes. And that’s in countries such as Germany, Great Britain, France, etc. I imagine violent crime is probably higher in Eastern Europe.

    But even then, I would be surprised if the violent crime rate is higher than it is in the U.S. I live in the Midwest. A friend’s brother got shot in the head a few months ago; I visited a less active member a couple of months ago who lost a granddaughter to murder within the past year or two; I’m a big guy, but I’m smart enough to stay out of certain areas of town, including the neighborhood surrounding where I attend school, between the hours of 9 p.m. and 4 a.m. (People routinely get a gun or knife pulled on them in that area–and by routinely, I mean several times a week). Germany has some seedy areas, but in my two years there, I don’t recall any areas as dangerous as that.

  16. Bruce,

    “This argument, even if it wasn’t as worn out as it is, is really very offensive. The heart of this argument is that there is no room whatsoever for differing personal and family values.”

    To be honest, I’m not sure whether or to what extent we disagree with each other. When I use the word “value”, I mean “moral values”, rules which are common knowledge to a relevant community and to which people within that relevant community are bound.

    I don’t think that personal values exist for the same reason that private languages don’t exist.

    If we define the relevant community to be a particular family, then of course they can enforce whatever moral code they want. There is no reason, however, why anybody outside of that family should pay any attention to such a code.

    Now when a person publishes something in a newspaper, those family values hold no sway whatsoever, for the relevant community is now the audience to which the article happens to be addressed. In such a context, the author you are responding to is right, there is no room in the debate for differing family values. But this is not to say that the author isn’t allowing for families to make up and live by their own family values.

    In other words, I think his statement is most defensible if seen as a rebuke to those who would attempt to apply their own family values to those outside of the relevant community. In other words, I see him as taking on those people who expect public consequences for the movie which does not adhere to their private morality. I think the author is on safe ground here.

    I see you as arguing that he is actually going beyond that and saying that families are not allowed to have their own particular moral codes, but I don’t see any reason to believe this.

  17. Why are comparisons always being made between the United States and Europe as if Asia, South America, and Africa were populated by a different species on a different planet?

  18. I make comparisons between the two because I know the U.S. and Europe (I’ve spent four years in Europe). I’ve never been to other continents, so I’m not in much of a position to comment on their levels of sex and violence.

  19. “In such a context, the author you are responding to is right, there is no room in the debate for differing family values.”

    I would think that the Constitution of the United States should argue against this assumption. Family values ARE community values for they are part of what makes up the community. Where do you think those “community values” come from? Newspaper op-eds? I am the community, Bruce is the community, you Jeff G. are the community. The Salt Lake Tribune writer is part of the community, but that individual or newspaper isn’t THE community or even represent the community as a whole.

    That is why I dislike reporters, even if I like reporting. They act as if because they have a bully pit that it makes their opinions more important than any other person’s opinions. Sadly, too many people actually believe this and therefore don’t speak their minds like they should. Every day I am thankful for the Internet where the “paper for birdcages” writers are no longer the only ones that can present opinions to the public.

    John,

    The assumption is that Europe is the economic and social equivalence of the United States while the rest of the world is supposed to be in poverty and under absolute dictatorship. Doesn’t that presuppose, so far as the arguments made here, that poverty and political unrest and not violent movies are the source of violence? I tend to believe this myself actually. How many murders are done because the perpetrators watched violent movies? Now, how many acts of perversion happened because the perp. watched movies with nudity?

  20. How many murders are done because the perpetrators watched violent movies? Now, how many acts of perversion happened because the perp. watched movies with nudity?

    Way to stack the deck. It would seem that any nebulously defined perversion will do to demonstrate the moral depravity of nudity (I can only assume you are talking about pornography since even the BYU tolerates some displays of nudity, cf. the legendary 1998 Rodin exhibit) but in order for violent motion pictures to be deemed reprobate they must be a direct cause of murder!

  21. And of course the people who say these things are the first to trumpet their own “tolerance” on other issues. They are intolerant about being tolerant.

    This frustrates me to no end because it’s absolutely true. Many people are so focused on political correctness that they assume that it’s the only valid viewpoint for all people, at all ages, in all situations, and it’s simply not the case. Children do not spring full-grown from their parents’ heads with a perfect understanding of everything in the world. Their understanding changes day by day, and it is absolutely the parents’ responsibility to determine what is appropriate for them.

    Here’s a real life example. Please be kind and remember that it is much easier to make snap decisions and judgments when you are not in the situation.

    My father in law, almost exactly one year ago, began living his life as a transgendered woman. We knew it was coming, but the difference between growing your hair out and wearing a dress to work is still rather jarring. The fact that s/he was formerly a high priest and was one of the priesthood witnesses for our temple sealing makes it even more jarring. Fortunately, we live a state away and only see him/her twice a year, so we have the luxury of time to process everything.

    If it were just my husband and I, I know that we could navigate the situation with a minimum of drama. It’s a huge, volatile change, but we’re not going to disown him/her as a result. The problem, though, is that it’s not just us – we have 3 kids, aged 5, 5, and 2. Our 5 year olds are a bit developmentally delayed, and have really just started to figure out gender this year. I kid you not – within the last month, they’ve asked me if both Santa Claus and Rapunzel were boys or girls. I think they’re at a point that they’re just asking me to reassure themselves of the answer they already know, but the fact that they’re even asking indicates to me that they’re still processing this whole gender thing.

    So, after a lot of discussion, a lot of prayer, conversations with a marriage & family therapist and an early childhood educator, we made the difficult decision that our kids would not visit with him until they were older. We felt that if they were asking the gender of people for whom it was totally obvious, it would be inappropriate to present them with a situation where the answer is ambiguous – especially since the twins definitely have memories of grandpa as being a man. Would we have made the same decision if they were older? Younger? Living in the same town as grandpa? I have no idea. I just know that we made what we felt was the right decision for our family at this point in life.

    And then the firestorm began. From August (when we told father-in-law our decision) to December we got multiple loud, angry phone calls from both my husband’s father and mother, calling us bigoted and prejudiced for our decision. My husband’s sister, who has similarly-aged children, made the same decision and has been ostracized from family events. It’s been infuriating and frustrating and heartbreaking. I just can’t understand how these people can be so attached to their positions that they won’t even consider what is best for the children, and how they can treat us with such hatred when we’re simply trying to do what’s best for our family.

    I wish that everyone could understand that being tolerant doesn’t mean forcing the most liberal idea of political correctness on everyone you meet, but genuinely listening to and trying to understand the position of someone you disagree with. Unfortunately, as this take time and effort, real tolerance is not something I see becoming prevalent in American society.

  22. Jettboy,

    “The Salt Lake Tribune writer is part of the community, but that individual or newspaper isn’t THE community or even represent the community as a whole.”

    I don’t see any reason for supposing that the author thinks this about himself. You make it sound like nobody has the right or ability to speak for what public morality does or doesn’t consist in. We all can and do have the right, but let’s not think this includes the right to overextend our own family values to others. It’s a fact that in our public morality violence is less tolerated than sex. You may have different family values. You may even have different preferences regarding public morality which you more than free to express. But neither of these change that fact.

  23. Haven’t read all the comments–

    Bruce, another thing these critics fail to reckon with is the fact that sex on the screen has a real time value to it. You are seeing the full measure of the “evil” being shown. In other words you can’t fictionalize p0rn– no matter how “tame” it may be.

    Violence, on the other hand, may be fictionalized — though the very “fiction” itself may be harsh in it’s own right and, therefore, morally unacceptable in many cases. But even so, with violence there is, at least, a fictional barrier between the audience and the material. We know that guy who just got his head blown off is still going to be alive and well in the real world.

  24. I see two strands in this tread which I am not sure are compatible with each other.

    Strand A wants to argue that sexuality in movie really is just as bad, if not worse than violence.
    Strand B wants to argue that the author (who clearly disagrees with strand A) is being intolerant.

    In order to show the tension between the two positions, let me follow Richard Shweder in dividing morality into three dimensions: autonomy (harm and freedom), community (loyalty and obedience) and divinity (purity).

    Now let’s break down Strand A. The only way one can really make a compelling case for this claim is by an appeal to an ethic of divinity since sexuality clearly does not compare to violence in terms of autonomy and community. From my perspective, as especially seen within this thread, all attempts at justifying Strand A in terms of autonomy and community come off as somewhat insecure and wonting.

    The problem with this, however, is that the morality of divinity has largely been sidelined in our society due in large part to our emphasis on freedom of religion. Consequently, you can think whatever action you want is impure, but don’t think it’s going to carry muster in the public sphere, for such an attempt to overextend our particular ethic of purity would be intolerant.

    The same does not go, however, for the other two dimensions of morality, the dimensions to which the author of the article constrains himself. In other words, I see him as arguing that people need to keep their personal ethics of purity where they belong, to themselves. In this I fully support him.

    Furthermore, I don’t think any argument can be marshaled to the effect that he is being inappropriately intolerant. Sure, he doesn’t want people to throw their private moralities into the public arena, but this is as it should be so as to tolerate religious differences.

    Nowhere does he suggest that people cannot have their own views about what is or isn’t appropriate for themselves or their own families. The only evidence OP provides for such a claim is a series of rhetorical questions and a kind of righteous indignation.

    The people who are pushing Strand B are so concerned about others being tolerant of them that they have lost sight of what they must and must not do to be tolerant of others. Some acts which are intolerant and infringe upon the freedoms and rights of others simply cannot be tolerated. How else can freedom and tolerance possibly be defended if not by intolerance of some kind? An attempt to push Strand A in the public sphere is just such an intolerable act.

  25. “You make it sound like nobody has the right or ability to speak for what public morality does or doesn’t consist in.”

    That is what I sound like? How about that is what I believe.

    “let’s not think this includes the right to overextend our own family values to others.”

    If there is one thing the 60s prove its that if enough individuals want to overextend their values then the “community standards” no longer apply. It makes me sick that conservatives haven’t yet learned this lesson. They are continually told and act as if they can’t speak for what values are worthy of the community. They can and they should!

  26. Jeff G,

    I don’t see anything wrong with a family — or in this case a whole local community (state of Utah) — deciding to not see a movie that doesn’t match their values and warning others of that community. I am not clear in what sense this could ever been seen as “expect[ing] public consequences for the movie which does not adhere to their private morality” outside of the obvious: some properly informed people may stay home.

    But if this is what you are referring to, then I find your position rather offensive because you are saying that people within the local community should not warn each other because that is a case of ‘expecting public consequence.’ If that is what you are saying, then I say “Hogwash.”

    Worse yet, the reviewer is even admitting that this is a general problem (in his view) of the greater American values where they are too worried about sexuality compared to violence. (He forgets to mention that this is only true for non-gory violence. But this is a well known thing for American audiences because it’s a well known American value.):

    Particularly when the MPAA is notorious for being much harsher in its ratings regarding sexual content…

    The author of the article is dictating what values everyone else should hold and rebuking any person or community that disagrees with him. It doesn’t matter if he’s talking to a family about how to raise their children, to the state of Utah and it’s local Mormon culture which values sexuality only inside of marriage, or the entire nation’s choice to be harsher on sexuality then non-gory violence in rating movies. He freely attempts to enforce his own personal values on all three of those communities. You are wrong to defend him on this.

    And I do believe ‘personal values’ has real meaning. Word policing like this only causes you to misunderstand what other people are getting at. People speak of ‘personal values’ all the time, so it’s up to you to make the effort to understand what they mean by that phrase with in the context of what they are speaking of.

    I can easily imagine a scenario like this which would serve as a direct analogy. Imagine someone that has a personal values of not eating meat because they don’t think it’s right to hurt animals. Now I personally do eat meat, so this is clearly not a personal values for me. But I respect their personal values nonetheless and I’m glad they stand up for what they believe in.

    Now how would I view it if someone that was a vegetarian and warned other vegetarians to not go to a certain restaurant because it only served dishes with meat in them?

    There would be no cause whatsoever to have someone else either right a newspaper article rebuking the whole vegetarian community for caring about ‘a little bit of meat in the salad.’ That would be entirely offensive and equivalent to what our reviewer did.

    Nor would there be cause to show up on a vegetarian blog and try to argue that vegetarians shouldn’t be ‘expecting public consequences for this restaurant not following their personal values.’ This would be equally ridiculous because nothing of the sort took place except in the commenters own mind.

    Now if the vegetarians were out picketing the restaurant and trying to make it difficult for non-vegetarians to go there, I guess I’d see your point. (Though I’d still respect their right to spend their political capital in any way they please.) So if this reviewer was writing against a planned Mormon protest of Harry Potter, that would be something else, I guess. And I’d be able to see your point. But there isn’t even a hint of this.

    And even then, I say let them shoot themselves in the foot like this. I’d still go see it myself just to see what all the hoopla is all about over a PG rated movie. (As I’m sure you know, protests often backfire — as did happen when Evangelicals protested Harry Potter in years past.)

  27. Just to be clear. Jeff G says,

    Nowhere does he suggest that people cannot have their own views about what is or isn’t appropriate for themselves or their own families.

    But in fact that’s exactly what he tries to do:

    And why would parents be upset now over a 3-second bit of sensuality… when they weren’t upset about the PG-13 bloodshed and violence that has already been seen in two of the previous six movies?

    How else does one read this but as a rebuke over parents personal choices with their children?

  28. Duerma,

    You faced a difficult situation. I do wish people would be more tolerant of each other’s choices going both ways. Unfortunately tolerance is generally used as a weapon of intolerance.

    The key to true tolerance is how you behave when you fully whole heartedly disagree and maybe even dislike someone elses views — not how you behave towards your political allies and friends. There is no virtue at all in ‘tolerance’ towards your friends. (Because you have no need of tolerance towards your friends.)

  29. Jettboy,

    I think you misunderstood what I was trying to say. I wasn’t trying to say that any single person has the right to prescribe what public morality entails. Rather, I was pointing out the obvious fact that each of us has the right and ability to describe what public morality entails.

    Also, I’m not saying that if enough people prefer one set of values over the status quo in a community they can’t change that community’s value. Such a thing clearly can and does happen. What I’m saying is that I would be way out of line in holding people outside of my family morally culpable for not living up to the values which I happen to have within my own family unit. I hope that’s a clearer description of what I mean by “overextending one’s values.”

    With this distinction in mind, we can bring two distinct interpretations to bare on what the author was engaged in (whether he knew it or not). The debate between the author and those parent who he is addressing could be descriptive or prescriptive in nature. If it is descriptive, then those parents are being taken by him to be overextending their family values in trying to hold people morally culpable for not abiding by their own particular and personal moral codes. This is what I have been assuming was the issue, for such an interpretation allows for a legitimate argument to be had, and argument in which I side with the author.

    If the debate between the author and those parents is prescriptive in nature, then I simply do not see much argument to be had at all. The parents are expressing their preferences for what they want public morality to entail and the author is expressing his preference for what he wants (or doesn’t want) public morality to entail. This is like saying that one person like chocolate while the other likes strawberry; nice to know, but I don’t see any argument here worth having.

  30. Bruce,

    “I don’t see anything wrong with a family — or in this case a whole local community (state of Utah) — deciding to not see a movie that doesn’t match their values and warning others of that community.”

    I completely agree with this, but I think the butthurt of those parents goes much deeper than that. When they write in complaints to studios or theaters they are certainly doing much more than merely warning others of similar values and danger lurks in certain quarters. They are trying to hold people accountable for having transgressed a particular morality. If all that was happening was people simply writing on their blogs, into newspapers and talking about it at church, they would be well justified under any interpretation of public morality. Of course, even then the author would be well within his rights to express his distaste for and warn others about those parent’s moral system, right?

    If however, there is to be some kind of face off between the two moralities out in the public, then it will be the morality which closely matches public morality which will necessarily trump the other, regardless of what the particular issue happens to be.

    “The author of the article is dictating what values everyone else should hold and rebuking any person or community that disagrees with him.”

    Where does he do this? More importantly, where does he do this in a manner of which the parents are not themselves guilty as well? That reference to his interpretation of MPAA rating hardly serves as a smoking gun here.

    “He freely attempts to enforce his own personal values on all three of those communities.”

    How is he attempting to “enforce” anything? He’s not demanding for the parents to do anything at all. Can the same be said for the parents in question?

    “There would be no cause whatsoever to have someone else either right a newspaper article rebuking the whole vegetarian community for caring about ‘a little bit of meat in the salad.’ That would be entirely offensive and equivalent to what our reviewer did.”

    Poppycock. Let’s put a few more details in your vegetarian story. Suppose that such vegetarians started writing letter to stores, demanding that they stop selling meat. Suppose further that every time they spoke of meat eaters they took on a particular condemnatory tone. Now let us suppose that someone wrote into the newspaper and called such vegetarians out on this malarky. Now how offensive does this author come off?

    Here is the basic jist of it as I see it. You want to argue in favor of “to each his own” and take issue with the author for infringing on this doctrine. However, I think it entirely reasonable and charitable to view this as the exact same argument that the author is making against those parents. They are the ones infringing upon the “to each his own” doctrine and he is taking issue with it. Under such an interpretation, your argument becomes self defeating. You cannot argue against what the author is doing without also arguing against yourself. Similarly, you cannot endorse the motive behind your argument without also endorsing what the author was doing.

  31. Jeff,

    The analogy I used with vegetarians was a good analogy of the current situation. The analogy you came up with wasn’t.

    Where in the original article does the author point out that parents in Utah shouldn’t take a condemnatory tone to those outside the community claiming everyone should adopt Utah values? Does he even mention that it happened? Now that would have made sense if it had happened and if he had concentrated his attack on that rather than on trying to tell parents how to raise their children. But this wasn’t mentioned in the article and doesn’t seem to be at all an issue for him. (Presumably because it didn’t happen.)

    Where does he take issues with them writing to studios and demanding change? Not that there is anything wrong with expressing yourself… but then a public counter expression on that point would have made sense. But that didn’t happen either.

    Where does he point out that Utah parents have been demanding that Harry Potter’s not be made any more because of the new sexual content? That didn’t happen either.

    If you can show me these, then I’ll agree you have a point. If not, you are just engaging in argument by bad analogy.

    Yeah, if you want to switch the analogy to be something not like unto what actually happened, sure, you can ‘prove’ any point you want through such a soddy argument. But if you are going to do that, count me out of further discussion.

  32. There is one other point (to no one in particular) that probably should be pointed out. Mr. Means pulls a bait and switch in his article.

    The concern expressed by parents on the news were concerned over what Mr. Means admits was a false report of outright nudity in Harry Potter. This was a false rumor, just like he points out.

    But then he uses the concern these parents express, not yet knowing the truth, as the basis for the quote I put in my post.

    In other words, he takes publicly expressed parental concern on the news (when asked for their personal reaction) over a false rumor and then pretends as if it was over the “3-second bit of sensuality” (which is actually much longer than that, but that’s what he said.) that was actually in the movie. He then launches from there into his prescription of how all parents should raise their children.

    If Jeff G had been right that he was reacting to a push from these parents to try to say ‘everyone should raise their children like I raise mine’ than his reaction would have been more appropriate. I’d have then seen it not as an act of outright intolerance on Mr. Means part towards other people’s values but as a ‘returning fire’ at the intolerance of others. This still may not be the best policy since there are no winners in a war of intolerance, but it’s certainly understandable at that point.

    In any case, the tolerant way to express himself would have been to say “parents need to make these decisions for themselves and for their own children. I personally wouldn’t worry about a 15-second bit of sensuality and implied nudity when I’ve already taken my kids to two other PG-13 rated Harry Potters, but at least parents are now properly informed and can make their own decisions.”

    There would have been nothing offensive about that plus it would have had the benefit of actually being an accurate reporting of the news.

    And in any case, the point of this post is that there is no easy comparison in this regard. Different things are going to be of different levels of concern to different families based on a lot of different things. We should not look for each other, especially when our values are not in conflict, as in this case.

    We need to learn not to let our biases see simple parental concern over a nude scene be re-framed into something it isn’t. This was not a case of people trying to change public morals (at least not in Mr. Means article). I’d guess that the vast vast majority of parents in the US would have been concerned over taking their children to a Harry Potter that had a full nude scene.

  33. There really is an interesting tension between not imposing your values on someone else, and having a voice that shape community values. I think Elder Oaks recent Chapman talk and other talks about religious values having a voice in the public square suggest that there are times we should impose our values on society, at least in having our voices be heard in the larger discussions of how things ‘should’ be.

    I guess my thought is the same issues you take w/ the Trib article can be turned around if and when we ever take a stand on what is moral or ‘right’ in the public square. I’m not sure where and how to draw that line, but I think that tension is real and not easy to grapple with.

  34. Bruce,

    I keep rereading that article and I still don’t see what you are so upset about. He’s clearly not telling parents what to do or how to raise their kids. He asks the question (perhaps rhetorically) why the mild sex is so much worse than the violence. I think that’s a fair question and a REALLY tough one to answer if one limits him or herself to appeals to public morality. Of course, parents shouldn’t have to limit themselves to public morality when deciding what will and will not happen under their own roof, but I don’t see any reason to suspect that the author wouldn’t agree with such a position.

    The only advice he has for parents is to chill out a bit, if only because the rumors were so far blown out of proportion. You might think that he could cool it a bit with his rhetoric, but I don’t think posts like yours help very much in this regard. After all, all he did was write up an article for a newspaper just like you wrote up a post for your blog. So what?

    I’m with the author in thinking that everyone just needs to chill out. Stop pretending to be so butthurt over every little thing. We rightly make fun of liberals for being like that. Of all the lessons I think the right can take from the left, thin skin in pretty low on the list.

  35. Jeff G,

    If I read “And why would parents be upset… when they weren’t upset about…” not as a statement of what parents should or shouldn’t do with their children, but instead a high level rhetorical question meant to focus an abstract discussion about public morality, I’d agree with you.

    Let’s consider this the point of disagreement and let’s agree to disagree over this.

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