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Author Topic: Saturday's Warrior - AAARRRGH!!!
Libbie
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Last night, I discovered that my cable package includes BYUTV. It was 8:00 on the nose, and new programs had just started. Flipping through the cable guide, the title "Saturday's Warrior" caught my eye. Wait...was that...the musical I had to watch like a billion times at Church parties?

Yes. Yes, it was. And is. I couldn't change the channel or turn it off. I was transfixed. My husband didn't know what to make of it. I tried to explain that I was experiencing a nostalgic blast from my past, but I don't think he (OR I) understood just how much a part of my past Saturday's Warrior apparently is until I started SINGING ALONG. Yes, after probably sixteen years, I KNEW THE WORDS TO THE SONGS. Almost all of them.

I watched it all the way through. I couldn't stop. It was an incredible spectacle of 80's hair and smoke machines. Now I have some of the songs running through my head.

Anyway, I thought some of you could sympathize - or at least that you would be amused.

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BlackBlade
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Oh believe me I saw that program on my TV guide channel and I tuned in for old times sake. I couldnt stop laughing because of how over the top the acting was. Some of their expressions are just priceless.

A guy in my MTC district dated the little girl from the musical,

"Dont forget your promise!!!"

yes no lie THAT girl, he showed us a picture, definately the same girl.

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ketchupqueen
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Never saw it. Never want to.
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Orson Scott Card
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I remember seeing the world premier of SW at BYU, soon after my mission. Up to then, my own Stone Tables had been the most successful (held over, sold out) LDS musical play at BYU. So I couldn't say anything critical about SW without it sounding like sour grapes.

and there was much to praise about it - it was definitely "inside," like road songs are to truck drivers, and even if the lyrics were ... well, the music was quite good. There were logical flaws that I found appalling, however: Are their spirits who remain forever little children? Aren't all preexistent, unborn spirits the same age? So why do I have to put up with the cheap stage trick of having a LITTLE GIRL (was she, like, a RETARDED spirit?) crying and saying, Jimmy, you promised, remember? Anyway, it resonated with the Mormon audience and became a hit musical. After that, there really WAS an audience for Mormon theater - something I hadn't been able to accomplish, and not for lack of trying! But nobody else tapped into the formula - not to the same depth, anyway. Now I don't know if it even exists - the money that would go into staging a musical could just as easily make a DVD that would have a much wider reach.

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Libbie
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I just about died laughing at "RETARDED spirit."

Yeah, I wondered about that, too. Also, why was the older lady who zapped people down to Earth older? Shouldn't she have been in her prime?

Maybe spirits just age VERY, VERY SLOWLY.

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Kit the Odd
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One of my mission companions was a brother of "Jimmy". He was really cool.

Also, my mission president said he disliked it because it has so many things that aren't true doctrine, like the spirit kids. He especially disliked the idea that there is "one true love, promised from before you were born".

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pooka
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I always wondered that about the Littlest Angel. And heaven being peopled mainly by old, grouchy people.

Fortunately for me, I missed Saturday's Warrior pretty much altogether. I can hardly remember any of the live production I saw as a child, and I was too cool to see it in the 80's. Except as I was passing through the room where it was being watched, that Rastafarian guy said something funny that really tickled me. It reminded me of when Superman comes out of the phone booth and a guy on the street says "Man, that is one BAD outfit!"

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JennaDean
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I loved the music growing up in the 80's. I had a tape of the old one with the original cast, Lex & Julie de Azevedo, et al.

I never saw the musical until I was an adult ... it doesn't live up to the music (which I still sing along with, too). And the false doctrine annoys me. But like Libbie, I can't look away ... and as annoying as some of it is, I still cry every time when Jimmy comes home at the funeral.

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docmagik
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Alright. Buckle up for way more analysis of this play than you're probably interested in.

I think calling anything in this play "false doctrine" goes a little far. A better term might be "speculation." Because while a good deal of the details aren't doctrinal, I don't think there's five seconds of this movie that isn't fundamentally Mormon to the core.

I've got my problems with it, but there's no denying that this movie did what no other play or movie has really done since--it struck a resonant chord with the vast majority of the church.

It hit all the major Mormon themes--familiy, missionary work, ties between our current life and our pre-mortal life, conversion and (what's the word? Deconversion?), dealing with huge ideologies that challenge our core beliefs--and it did it in a way that spoke right to the audience.

It's something I don't think a lot of the other work has managed to accomplish. I think other movies resonate here and there with individual members--for me, the final scene in Brigham City was the most powerful emotional experience I've ever had in a theatre, but I know it's not like that for everybody--but this one found the broad appeal.

But nobody's really learned the lesson of Saturday's Warrior, and to me, the lesson was this:

That Mormons are really, really hungry for stories about us. Not about the pioneers or about Old Testament people or about the lives of modern-day prophets, or musical allegories about gospel truths, but about regular members of the Mormon church dealing with the struggles of day to day life.

I'm not saying those things don't have a place, and that members don't enjoy them. I'm just saying they don't enjoy the success that Saturday's Warrior did because they don't fill the across-the-board need that Saturday's Warrior did for a movie or book about us. About the members who believe the gospel and are trying to live it.

Not done in a way that half makes fun of ourselves, the way the Halestorm movies do, and not in a way that puts us in situations that are too unusual to be generally validating (Brigham City is my favorite LDS film so far, but again, I know I'm kind of unique in this).

I think that the Hatrack River books, to a large degree, were trying to fill this exact need. I think those books were really trying to be exactly what Mormons want.

Sadly, it looks like the pendelum is moving the other way. Rather than make movies that are more Mormon, it seems the LDS filmmakers are trying to make films that are more mainstream, that include wink-and-nod refrences to Mormonism, but that overall are diluted for mainstream audiences, and that makes me sad.

********************

As for the children in the pre-existence, I chalk it up to the convention of stage production. Much as stripped-down sets can represent anything in a play like Our Town, the actors playing the various parts are like "Avatars" of their characters. We don't know what spirits look like, but we know they look like us, so we'll just let the actors play their own spirits.

It's far less confusing than having a bunch of 22.5 year olds play all the parts in the first act and then try to transition into different actors for the next scenes, based on their ages on Earth. Making the woman old and giving her a clipboard made her instantly someone the audience knew was wise and had authority without anyone having to say, "This is Sally! She is wise and has authority!"

Again--this isn't meant to be an unbridled defense of the project, just some thoughts on what it got right and why we're still talking about it all these years later.

Oh, and we used to use alternate words to the most annoying song in the play:

"The chorus of this song extends
Beyond the reach of time
Beyond the span of days and years
It goes forever
It goes fore-e-e-ver
It goes forever and ever and ever . . ."

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Libbie
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quote:
Originally posted by docmagik:


But nobody's really learned the lesson of Saturday's Warrior, and to me, the lesson was this:

That Mormons are really, really hungry for stories about us. Not about the pioneers or about Old Testament people or about the lives of modern-day prophets, or musical allegories about gospel truths, but about regular members of the Mormon church dealing with the struggles of day to day life.

Hmm - interesting! That could be true. Although I am no longer a religious person, I still consider Mormons to be "my people," or my heritage, or whatever you want to call it, and I know even I love good stories about Mormons in real-life situations. There is something genuinely positive and hopeful in every Mormon I personally know (and that is a very large number), and it usually makes for a good story whenever they encounter some rough patches in life.

quote:

"The chorus of this song extends
Beyond the reach of time
Beyond the span of days and years
It goes forever
It goes fore-e-e-ver
It goes forever and ever and ever . . ."

HA!!! Oh, man. I think we had something similar. The dancing in that scene was particularly bad. Todd should not dance. Even slightly.
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JennaDean
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quote:
musical allegories about gospel truths,
You mean like The Garden? My very, very favorite.

(Now I've got that song stuck going in circles in my head ... forever and ever ... forever ... forever and ever ... thanks, docmagik. [Wink] )

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ketchupqueen
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quote:
You mean like The Garden? My very, very favorite.

Ick.

My husband has that CD. Hate it. Hate it.

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Libbie
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Ahh, but have you ever seen The Apple? Easily the WORST musical based very lightly on scripture EVER. So bad, it's hilarious.
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JennaDean
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quote:
Originally posted by ketchupqueen:
quote:
You mean like The Garden? My very, very favorite.

Ick.

My husband has that CD. Hate it. Hate it.

Well, naturally. [Big Grin]
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Occasional
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I'm with ketchupqueen. Never saw it. Never wanted to. Hopefully, never will.

quote:
I've got my problems with it, but there's no denying that this movie did what no other play or movie has really done since--it struck a resonant chord with the vast majority of the church.

It hit all the major Mormon themes--familiy, missionary work, ties between our current life and our pre-mortal life, conversion and (what's the word? Deconversion?), dealing with huge ideologies that challenge our core beliefs--and it did it in a way that spoke right to the audience.

Probably the number one reason is that it happens to be a musical. Although I have enjoyed a limited number of musicals, most of them turn my stomach. The more "ketch" they are (and Saturday's Warrior has that in spades) the more I want to leave the room.

The other reason is that it DIDN'T speak to me. Now, I know I am a critic of something I haven't seen, but I have seen parts. And those were so awful to me that I cannot watch without rolling my eyes and looking for the nearest exit. You knew each and every stereotypical role each was to play, and none of them were more than cardboard characters. They lived by Fate (or Destiny) rather than choice. Predictability + sentimentality = yuck.

quote:
That Mormons are really, really hungry for stories about us.
I won't deny this is true. My problem is that I don't think that is why Saturday's Warrior was so successful. There are possibly two reasons. 1) Mormons simply have bad taste in art. 2) Having a choice between the not so great and no choice at all, the majority decided they wanted something. After years of comparing "Mormon" art with other kinds of art, my opinion is that Mormons wouldn't know good art (or maybe that is make good art) if they stepped in it. Orson Scott Card is the only one I have ever read that treats Mormon characters as people. The best visual art I have ever seen (minus film) are from non-U.S. citizens who aren't as familiar with the sterilized Swindel, Hegsted, and Olson. It's too bad Mormons took their cue from Arnold Friberg rather than Minerva Teichert.
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pooka
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Meh, it's not like non-Mormons never have bad taste. Look at Titanic. (I secretly own the VHS, but I don't delude myself that it isn't relationship porn.)
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Occasional
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"Meh, it's not like non-Mormons never have bad taste."

True, but Mormons have consistantly bad taste. There isn't anything I would recommend, other than perhaps Orson Scott Card's Mormon centric books - very few in number.

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Artemisia Tridentata
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I've said it before here. But have you ever read any of Gordan Allred's Utah centric fiction, or Clinton Larson's plays? If you have only cruised the sale table at the local Deseret Book, you haven't looked at "Mormon" fiction
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docmagik
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quote:
There are possibly two reasons. 1) Mormons simply have bad taste in art. 2) Having a choice between the not so great and no choice at all, the majority decided they wanted something. After years of comparing "Mormon" art with other kinds of art, my opinion is that Mormons wouldn't know good art (or maybe that is make good art) if they stepped in it.
and

quote:
True, but Mormons have consistantly bad taste.
I have a few issues with both of these posts. First, they have the same arrogant "I'm wiser than you" undertone that, say, literary types have with science fiction.

Now, Occasional, I apologize if it seems like I'm singling you out here--I'm don't mean to. It's actually kind of a common thing among more literate members of the church. People who would consider it snobbish to poo-poo "popular" literature, nevertheless feel perfectly comfortable poo-pooing "popular" Mormon literature.

Like everybody's got to have their ghetto to relegate something to, just so they can feel superior, whether it's sci-fi readers poo-pooing romance novels or "artsy" moviegoers poo-pooing mainstream films, or whatever.

And just to be clear--I've got no qualms with somebody not being interested in Saturday's Warrior or The Work and the Glory or Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites. I couldn't finish the first Work and the Glory book myself, and you know from this thread I had problems with Saturday's Warrior.

But to suggest that people's interest in it is because of an active interest in sub-standard art is a bit condescending. I think even the most sincere fans of Saturday's Warrior recognize that it's not The Mikado, and talk about their enjoyment of it in a guilty pleasure, staring-at-their-feet kind of way.

If the masses were hungry for bad art, the Halestorm comedies would be getting more, not less, popular. I think the decline in interest in the sophmore efforts of Mormon cinema are proof that the LDS palate is at least a little discriminating. I think the fact that most LDS fiction books don't get past six digits for sales says the same thing.

My other problem with what you're saying is that you're blaming the quality of the art on the viewer. If we've got a shortage of Mormons writing good stories that engage vast quantities of readers, that isn't the readers' fault. If some of those readers are hungry enough for some form of Mormon art that they take what they can get (as you suggest is possible), that doesn't mean they've dictated the level of quality of what they've consumed.

I think the vast majority of readers do see Mormon literature as disspointingly bad, and that's why Mormon literature isn't that popular. If something better does come along (like, say, Dean Hughes Children of the Promise series) they miss it because they're afraid it's going to be like so much of what dissapointed them before--not because they've lost any sense of good and bad. Somebody reccomends it to them, but they shrug it off, knowing the quality of something that's been reccomended to them before.

Are there Mormons who consume Mormon Art for Mormon Art's sake, simply because it's got the "Righteous Label" of Deseret Book on it? People for whom reading Mormon literature is more an act of piety than than of entertainment?

Sure.

But I don't think they represent the mainstream Mormon audience any more than most romance readers are lonely old spinsters or sci-fi readers are nerds who don't shower.

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bCurt
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I never heard of Saturday's Warrior until going on a mission to Utah. People there were puzzled that I never had seen it (on video by then, of course). I did watch it and, frankly, its no wonder people have the impression Mormons have bad taste [Razz] (which I don't believe to be true).
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mr_porteiro_head
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I've never seen it.
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pooka
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:high fives porteiro:

A lot of Mormon fiction (under the Deseret Book label) is just mainstream fiction cleaned up and Mormon themed, at least that's how the blurbs read.

But I like the idea that people are interested in books about Mormon people, and not just scriptural re-tellings and prophets (at least, the ones that don't present the prophets as people. Rough Stone Rolling apparently was a more even biography of Joseph Smith, and a lot of people couldn't handle that.) Still, as I'm writing my book I wonder a lot "if I tell the truth about this or that, is it going to scare off people?" Since part of the purpose of my book is to familiarize church members with what it's like to be mentally ill, I don't want it to turn them off. But my larger purpose is to give hope to people who are mentally ill - Mormon or not, that they can have a spiritual life and mental illness at the same time.

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Occasional
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dogmagik, I don't think we are disagreeing as much as you think. In fact, in some ways you are making my point. At the least, you are reinforcing my aside "or maybe that is [Mormons don't know how to] make good art."

Perhaps, as you said, "If we've got a shortage of Mormons writing good stories that engage vast quantities of readers, that isn't the readers' fault." Rather, it is the Mormon artists fault for not pushing creative bounderies. On the other hand, it might be a producer or publisher's fault for not looking for more quality in what they accept. It is really hard to say because there are so many factors in creating and publishing art.

If what you say is true that the Halestorm comedies are getting less popular and the small sales of LDS fiction, my hope for the Mormon consumer has improved. However, it does seem to suggest, on the whole, Mormons are not good artists or writers. It is hard to say what this says about Mormons as a group. They hunger for stories about themselves, but don't know how to actually put that on paper. Again, that might be a problem related to publishing rather than production.

I know this; as a writer I am very frustrated at my own ability to write Mormon characters and stories. The reason is clear to me as to why its so hard for myself. At basic levels I don't see any difference between what I would do and what a non-Mormon would do in life situations. True that I would probably not drink and take drugs, have sex outside of marriage, or swear. The problem is that these are not singular to Mormons. To really make a Mormon character stand out is to create stereotypes. And that is where so many Mormon writers are hitting a creative brick wall. Their stories and characters are predictably Mormon. Yet, you take them out of the typical Mormon mold and there ends up a question of the "Mormon-ess" of the characters.

By the way, I know this isn't only a problem with Mormon literature either. The general Christian books have the same underlying problems. You expect a Christian to act and react certain ways and question the faith of the characters if they don't. Perhaps the problem with stories based around denominational faith groups is they are about what we want to be, and not what we are as humans. Yet, deep down we also know these stories might be inspirational or safe, but not very imaginative.

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quidscribis
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Haven't seen Saturday's Warriors either. Heard about it, of course, but haven't seen even five seconds and don't know the songs. I didn't actually know it was a musical. [Dont Know] Maybe it's from living in the middle of nowhere rural Canada. [Smile]
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Uprooted
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I was very aware of Saturday's Warrior the play as a teenager in NY in the late 70s, when all my friends went to see it and I missed out. We sang the theme song at youth activites, etc. I never did see it, and by the time they made a movie of it I had no interest in it whatsoever.

As for its staying power, I just wonder if it is the words in the lyrics that resonate, implying that God has saved his mightiest spirits to populate the earth in the latter days. I mean, that's a pretty flattering/inspiring idea.

And as for the LDS interest in sub-par Mormon fiction and literature--it seems to me that it's mostly supported by teenagers. Who says teenagers have to have highbrow taste? If I had teenagers who wanted to watch The Singles Ward I'm sure I'd rent/buy it for them even though I have no interest in it myself.

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