We watched the movie Follow the Prophet the other night. I was expecting a scathing criticism of a fundamentalist sect of Mormonism (and perhaps religious fundamentalism in general). What I didn’t expect was to spend over an hour being subjected to the type of high-quality argument you might find in the comments to an article on the Fox News web site.
The story focuses on 15-year-old Avery, the daughter of a bishop of the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints. On her 15th birthday, she’s told that she is to become a “secret wife” of the Prophet. More horrifying, her father attempts to rape her under the pretense of “preparing her for the Prophet.” She escapes and elicits the help of an ex-Delta Force soldier, Jude. The rest of the movie is about how Jude obtains evidence of the Prophet’s child abuse so that he can be arrested and charged.
Unfortunately, Jude pretty much ruins the movie. He is a weak man, driven more by his emotions of outrage and grief (the grief is over his daughter, who was killed in the army) than any sense of justice. He plants video cameras in private homes without any apparent concern over the breaking-and-entering and surveillance laws that he’s breaking. At the end, Avery goes back to marry the Prophet in order to get a video of child abuse that could convict him. As part of the plan, Jude is to monitor the house to protect her. He prepares by assembling his sniper rifle, promising a couple times that he’ll “ventilate” the Prophet if Avery sends the distress signal. She does, and Jude fires, almost accomplishing the murder he very much wants to commit.
The way that Jude does whatever he sees fit without any sense of consequences makes the movie feel surreal–a feeling that is only heightened when agents of the Prophet show up in dark suits, swarm the hotel that Jude was staying at, and shoot Jude with a sniper rifle in broad daylight. It makes it hard to imagine most of the movie actually happening in any part of this country.
The movie then ends by showing some text making the outrageous claim that it has shown the evils of polygamy. Wait, what? Where was the polygamy? All I saw was a movie about child abuse! In theory, the movie was set in a polygamous society, but any depiction of polygamy in the movie was very subtle and played no significant place in the plot development. How does a movie showing the evils of child abuse demonstrate that polygamy is bad? Is child abuse only bad if polygamists do it? (I speak as a fool.) Or do you have to be polygamous to abuse children? Obviously not, since the “zero-gamous” Catholic clergy seem perfectly capable of it.
The text also complains about how there are polygamous societies in several states, living in “violation of the law.” But having failed to make a compelling argument that polygamy is bad (I’m being generous by saying the movie failed to make a compelling argument, since it in fact failed to even present an argument), the fact that it may be illegal is anything but motivating. What, just because something’s illegal makes it bad? Was forced segregation of blacks and whites right while it was the law then?
Child abuse should be stopped. But if polygamy doesn’t necessarily result in child abuse, then that’s no argument against polygamy. If two women and a man love each other and want to get married, why is that anyone’s business?