Saturday, February 26, 2005

Napoleon Dynamite Rumors

We rented "Napoleon Dynamite" and watched it this evening. Afterward I went on IMDB to see if it was supposed to be a period movie set in the late '80's, and found my way onto the message boards. I must admit that I only went to look because I noticed that half the threads mentioned Mormons and Mormonism, and I thought that was a bit odd.

From reading some of these messages I gather that there is a rumor out there that "Napoleon Dynamite" is somehow about Mormonism or about Mormons, or that there are inside jokes in the movie that only a Mormon would get. If by some chance you, dear reader, have been inclined to believe these rumors, let me put them to rest. I personally am a Mormon, and I can assure you none of the above is true. Yes, Preston, Idaho is a real community, and yes, it's in the predominantly Mormon Cache Valley area. If you chose a real resident of Preston randomly, odds are he or she would be a Mormon. But Napoleon Dynamite and his friends and rivals are neither real citizens of Preston nor randomly selected. In the movie they don't go to church, they don't mention religion, they don't study scriptures; so the only way anyone could get the idea that they were Mormon is by assuming they are real residents of Preston. For crying out loud, people, they are fictional characters. If you think they're Mormons because in the movie they live in Preston, you need to get a grip. Non-Mormons live in Preston. Good Mormons live in Preston. Not-so-good Mormons live in Preston. Being Mormon is not a requirement for living in Preston.

As for inside jokes, the only things I could see that could be considered such were local-color type things, like characters who say "flip" or the kids drinking Gossner's milk boxes at lunch. For those who aren't familiar with Gossner's, it's a local dairy product producer, and its most famous products are "squeaky" cheese curds, and shelf-stable milk that comes in boxes like juice boxes. As far as I know the Church doesn't own Gossner's. But even if they did, one doesn't have to be Mormon to enjoy a nice Gossner's milk box; they are sold to the general public. Likewise, Napoleon goes shopping at a store that is instantly recognizable as Deseret Industries, the Church-run thrift store. They don't check membership cards at the door of the D.I.; anyone who walks in off the street can shop there. So it's Utah residents who shop at thrift stores that will instantly recognize the D.I., not Mormons. By the way, Napoleon also shops at a store whose hexagonal green hanging signs instantly identify the store as King's, a local chain that (again, as far as I know) has absolutely nothing to do with the Church.

Ten words or less for the clue-impaired: It's a Cache Valley thing, NOT a Mormon thing.

Okay, now that I've ranted on and on about a rumor that my readers are probably too smart to believe in the first place, here is the other thing I wanted to say about the message boards: I was very heartened to see the reaction on these message boards to the anti-Mormon posts. Even non-Mormons were defending the Church from vicious rumor attacks. This heartens me. I always like to see civil and rational behavior triumph over ignorance and vitriol.