*I* liked it
A few years ago, I was talking with a friend about a classic 20th century novel. He’d read it, but I never had, even though it was vaguely on my mental list of “books I ought to read someday.” I asked, “Is it good?” He paused and said, “I liked it,” with a definite stress on the first person implying “but I don’t guarantee that you will.”
After I read it, I could see why he’d phrased the recommendation in just that way, since some people might have been uncomfortable with the violence, language, and sexual references in the book. Or maybe wouldn’t have cared for the somewhat disjointed writing style. (The book was Slaughterhouse-Five, if you’re wondering.)
As it turned out, though, I loved it, and ended up reading a dozen more Kurt Vonnegut books over the next couple of years.
A recent conversation with Melyngoch about R-rated movies, as well as her latest post at Zelophehad’s Daughters, has got me thinking again about media and Mormon standards again.
To be fair, there are good reasons for not watching R-rated movies. If my goal is to encourage critical thinking and good judgment, making a blanket statement that everyone has to watch something is as bad making a blanket statement that says nobody should watch it.
Along those lines, I feel like I’m pretty willing to “enter into someone else’s world,” so to speak. I’m comfortable hanging out with people who drink or are living their significant other or who are staunch atheists. I get that they’re making choices I wouldn’t make, but I feel that the sum total of a person goes beyond that and I’ve found that they’re often willing to meet me halfway, as well.
But when I’m hanging out with more conservative Mormons (or “average” Mormons, but we’ll get to whether or not they’re actually average in a minute), I feel like I'm the one who has to make all of the social compromises, for fear of doing irreparable damage to their tender little psyches if they (to quote Melyngoch) discover “I’m not the Mormon [they] thought I was” and “react as if betrayed.” (If you think that’s an overstatement, allow me to direct you to Board Question #23236.)
It’s a vicious circle, of course. The more quiet I am about my actual feelings and interests, the more I let people assume that the “Deseret Book Mormon” is the only kind of faithful Mormon that exists. (For all I know, the Church is full of kindred spirits, only we keep missing each other because we don’t speak up.)
So, I feel that I should be able to say “Pan’s Labyrinth is an amazing film.” Period. “The Backslider is one of the most faith-affirming books I've ever read.” Period. No asterisks, no qualifiers, no apologies.
It’s not that I’m out to deceive anyone by tricking them into watching or reading something they’d rather not. If someone asked me, straight up, whether there was anything potentially objectionable in the film or book, I’d be happy to give them an honest evaluation. But I don’t think I should have to add a warning statement to all of my recommendation unless specifically asked for one.
See, I’m a big fan of research. The way I look at it, If I go to the trouble of reading reviews and checking detailed ratings to decide if I want to see a movie or not, you can do it, too. Of course, talking to friends and family members who’ve seen the movie is another part of doing research, and when I talk to them, it’s sort of understood that they’re not just recommending a movie or book, they’re recommending it to me, and I’d be pretty annoyed if they failed to mention something in it that I might find hugely upsetting or problematic. Which is quite possibly what my more conservative friends expect of me, as well.
So maybe I should just learn to say “I liked it . . .”