The Religious Test and Cleanflix

I thought I would take a quick break from the Bushman interview for this little post.   I attended the Ogden Film Festival last week (officially known as the Foursite Film Festival) and saw 2 films: The Religious Test and Cleanflix: the Documentary.  I thought I would give my impressions.

The producer and director for The Religious Test noted that in 1967, 17% of Americans refused to vote for a Mormon (at that time George Romney was running for president.)  In 2011, that number was 21% (though I think it could easily be within the margin of error.)  They examine issues why that might be.  They also noted similar numbers were raised when John F. Kennedy, a Catholic, ran for president.  Since that time, fewer people have a problem voting for a Catholic: John Kerry, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich don’t seem to run into the Catholic problem.  Evangelicals don’t seem to have an anti-Catholic bias anymore, but the anti-Mormon bias still seems to exist.

For me, it was fun to see some prominent bloggers interviewed, such as Joanna Brooks, Kristine Haglund, and Daymon Smith interviewed, to go along with historians Richard Bushman, Newell Bringhurst, and other academics like Laurel Thatcher Ulrich and Kathleen Flake.  The film interviewed non-Mormons as well, though their names aren’t as familiar to me so I have a harder time remembering them.  I know that someone from Beltway Atheists was interviewed, as well as the French’s from Evangelicals for Mitt, Richard Muow from the Fuller Theological Institute, and some other organizations.  I thought the film was interesting, though I don’t know that it broke new ground:  Anyone that is Mormon is already familiar with these issues. I will mention that some blogs were mentioned too, such as Feminist Mormon Housewives, and A Latter-day Voice made a cameo appearance.  They plan to release the film soon, though the version I saw was still being edited–they included something in the film as recent as a few days ago.  They hope to take the film to colleges and universities, as well as Netflix.

For me it was interesting to notice that the hard-left and hard-right political groups both oppose a Mormon, though for different reasons.  The hard-right seems to be evangelicals with theological problems with Mormons.  The hard left are for human rights, and see problems with Mormons on gay rights, sexism, and past racial problems. Seeing the hard-right and hard-left unite against a Mormon candidate seems to be strange bedfellows indeed.  One thing I thought the producers left out were prominent Mormon Democrats, such as Harry Reid and Morris Udall.

Cleanflix: the Documentary tells about several Utah companies (most prominently Cleanflix) attempts to edit out sex, profanity, and violence from Hollywood movies.  Living here in Utah, much of the information was quite familiar to me, though I am sure that those outside would probably be less familiar with it.  I was surprised to learn that several small video stores tried to keep editing movies even after Cleanflix lost the lawsuit against Hollywood directors.  It did seem to me that the directors were more in favor of Hollywood than Cleanflix, but they did try to present both sides of the story.  I did find the Hollywood director’s position that “there wasn’t a market” for edited films to be hollow.  Clearly the boom in Utah should have made it clear to Hollywood that a thriving market exists for removing objectionable material from movies.  Clearly Hollywood views this as censorship.

They showed several instances of Cleanflix editing. In some cases, such as Saving Private Ryan, Cleanflix editors merely edited out profanity, and they even pointed out that the Today program from NBC News couldn’t even tell that any editing had been done.  The Cleanflix editors did a really good job with that.  However, in a few other movies, such as editing out sex scenes or language in The Weatherman, it was much harder to edit some of those scenes without noticing.  They also mentioned that some movies, such as Pretty Woman were about a prostitute, and while nudity could be edited, the subject material was still about prostitution.  I was amazed to see that Cleanflix editors added a realistic looking bra to the topless Kate Winslett in Titanic.  They also did a podcast on Mormon Matters recently that I found interesting. You can rent this movie on iTunes, Amazon, or purchase it on DVD.


  1. I wanted to see more movies, but was unable to. Do you have any review you would like to share?
  2. Does Mitt Romney have to win the election for the 20% of Americans who won’t vote for a Mormon to drop, or has Mitt made the Mormon issue in politics go away already?
  3. Do you think that people should have a right to edit Hollywood movies?  Why do you think Hollywood is ignoring this moneymaking opportunity?

6 comments on “The Religious Test and Cleanflix

  1. Hollywood has always been perfectly willing to have their movies edited in order to show them on airplanes, or edited to show them on TV (either for content or for time). My parents video cassette drawer was full of movies we recorded on the VCR that were shown on TV. Movies that has been edited to be shown on TV.
    I can’t understand why they flat out refuse to edit their own movies to release them to a market that wants it, or let others edit them. They would make money. But it comes down to the us vs. them mentality that they have. They don’t want to feel pressure to not have their artistic license to use language, nudity, sex and violence as much as they like. They don’t want to cave to the religious or family value pressure they see is wrong. They are willing to recycle plastic bottles to due their part to help keep the world clean and protect it for future generations, but they are not willing to adjust their behavior to make the world a slightly better place for young people to grow up in.

  2. I agree with you. They spent quite a bit of time on that issue, and a petition was drawn up asking Hollywood to release these movies, but their response was that there was “no market”, which is blatantly false. The only company to survive was Clear Play, which seems to be doing well.

  3. Mitt’s nomination should lower the number by 7-8%, about 3/4 of the right leaning anti-mormon voters. I do not know if the same thing would happen if a mormon democrat was nominated against a hard right republican.

    On the movie issue, just look at the blockbusters that are animated and geared somewhat toward children. There are lots of adults watching because it is easy to be sure the content is not highly controversial.

  4. I’m pretty jealous that you were able to go to this film festival. I recently discovered The Religious Test trailer a few days ago. I hope to see it soon. I actually posted their trailer on a Facebook group I created for my blog to see what people thought. What one of my readers pointed out is that one of the worst things is when Mormons vote for Mormons just because they are Mormon. You see it ALL the time! At least where I grew up (Southern Nevada near the Utah border) you saw it a lot. It seems to be an old person problem… You know, the ones that get up in testimony meeting and give a political speech and how good of a person the politician is. 🙂 I don’t think it’s a Mormon thing though. Evangelicals vote for Evangelicals, Catholics vote for Catholics and so on. It be interesting if they were able to discuss some of those issues in the film but I’ve never seen it so I don’t know if it would take away anything from the film.
    I saw Cleanflix a few months back and I found it to be kind of hilarious. Just the irony of Daniel Thompson and his demise was just insane. Also all the statements from the true blue Mormons doing their best to justify watching the edited films and it being okay was funny at times. I reviewed this movie on my blog if anyone would like to check it out. I did like CLeanflix the movie and I also really liked the podcast they did about it.


  5. I enjoyed your review. It sounds like we have a similar taste in movies. I love documentaries as well.

  6. […] R rated movies for quite some time.  (For a little more background, here is my post that discussed the documentary Cleanflix.)  As I reviewed that post recently, some ironic things struck […]

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