In a New York Times Magazine article titled “When Hollywood Wants Good, Clean Fun, It Goes to Mormon Country,” reporter Jon Mooallem writes that Brigham Young University’s computer-animation program is “a farm team for the country’s top animation studios and effects companies.” The article is thoroughly researched and well written.
In addition to describing the excellent work that has come from BYU’s computer-animation program in its brief 13-year existence, Mooallem points out some of the reasons behind that great work, including the moral lives BYU students seek to lead. He points out, for example, that the university’s honor code proscribes such things as alcohol, coffee, drugs, premarital sex and profanity (standards that seemingly make an odd fit for those looking to make a career in Hollywood, he notes).
These standards, Mooallem says, affect both the entertainment Mormons consume and the products students in the computer-animation program produce. He says that in addition to avoiding negative and vulgar entertainment, students in the program seek to “create the maximum amount of good.” As one student tells him, that means producing entertainment that “makes people think about being better human beings — more productive, more kind, more forgiving.” Mooallem credits “Mormon culture” for “grooming its young people to be ideal employees” of the entertainment industry.
One comment toward the end of the article deserves amplification. Morgan Strong, a senior in the program, tells Mooallem that “a really strong message” of Mormonism “is that everyone’s a child of God — that they’re a sacred individual. They’re born into this world clean and pure and beautiful.”
It is more than just culture that is behind Mormons’ desire to create clean, uplifting entertainment. As Patheos “Get Religion” blogger and religion journalism critic Joe Carter correctly notes in his analysis of Mooallem’s article, “Mormonism is more than just a cultural expression of really polite people.” Rather, he adds, Mormons live the way they do “because of beliefs — doctrines even — driven by even more foundational beliefs.”
Knowing that Mormons believe in the divine heritage and limitless potential of humankind is critically important to understanding the why behind actions such as avoiding negative entertainment and promoting positive messages in films. As is demonstrated from Mooallem’s reporting, such understanding is the fruit of becoming acquainted with Latter-day Saints and asking them about their beliefs.
Read Jon Mooallem’s article, “When Hollywood Wants Good, Clean Fun, It Goes to Mormon Country.”