REVIEW: Emotions Get the Better of 8: The Mormon Proposition

Movieline Score: 7

8_review_top.jpgScheduled to be released on the second anniversary of California's legislation of gay marriage, 8: The Mormon Proposition marks the occasion with a furious requiem. Mournful and righteous in its retracing of the months between the bill's passage and election night in November 2008, the film assembles a damning case against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), which spearheaded a massive campaign to revoke gay marriage rights. Directors Reed Cowan and Steven Greenstreet make their agenda clear from the first frames, which depict a Mormon "prophet" calmly denouncing gay marriage in extreme close-up, his face distorted with scary, Poltergeist-style pixilation. The opening impression -- that the LDS acted villainously with regard to Prop 8 -- will soon be supported by a raft of facts; that the Mormon church couldn't have done it alone is a complication the film sidesteps almost completely.

Lamentably dry in its execution despite an almost nonstop flow of tears, 8 moves between its line-by-line, week-by-week takedown of the LDS's involvement in the vote on Proposition 8 and the story of a California gay couple who married in the summer of 2008. Footage of their (teary) union -- a bust of Harvey Milk presiding in the background of a San Francisco courthouse -- is followed by an intriguing but numbingly presented exposé of the pilot PR campaign the LDS waged in Hawaii in the 1990s; their success in stopping gay marriage there led them to try it again in California. Both halves of the newly married couple were raised Mormon (as was Cowan and narrator and Milk writer Dustin Lance Black), and one is the fifth-generation descendant of a prominent Utah Mormon who was driven from the country for his polygamist practices. Is there any difference between the struggles of these two men, their insistence on the right to an "alternative marriage"? The juxtaposition is made to a somewhat quizzical end: By even casually aligning their plights, the more powerful angle on polygamy -- that of exposing the Church's hypocrisy -- is weakened. It is also a typical example of the film's tendency to sail past its own provocative or cross-purposed suggestions, carried by the wave of emotion it relies on for effect.

8 is most coherent as a chilling confirmation of both the mind-warping power of an institution like the Mormon Church and the extent to which politics is, above all, a marketing game. The LDS, having deduced how easy it is to juke the system -- by hiring signature-collecting companies, drafting door-to-door volunteers, and creating slick, doublespeak campaign ads -- blanketed California, where less than 2 percent of the population is Mormon, with anti-gay marriage propaganda. They raised a huge sum of money ("Obama money," as one reporter notes) by strong-arming their congregants with encoded threats of God's wrath. It's saddening and infuriating to learn of a middle-class couple with four children donating $50,000 to such a cause; it's terrifying to hear the cold, impassive voice of the father of a gay son whose faith-based torment led him to commit suicide: "We don't have any position but what the Church's position is."

There is a long digression into the scourge of gay suicides within the Mormon Church, and an exploration of the horrendous, torturous "therapy" inflicted on homosexuals who sought counsel from their church or school. More directly to the point is the film's exposure of the legal ramifications of the Church -- which enjoys tax-exempt status -- running a political campaign. And although passing reference is made to the Mormons buddying up with the Catholics and finding other false fronts for their cause, the film hinges on the presumption that enough money can buy you anything, even a vote for religious bigotry.

But it was the Californians -- not the Mormons or their Utah constituents -- who voted in Prop 8, notably 70 percent of the state's black voters; what were they thinking? Although there is plenty of illuminating and indicting information about the run-up to the vote, you won't find the answer to that question here.


  • Justin says:

    What a crappy review.

  • Martini Shark says:

    One aspect of the Prop-8 dust-up that is always sidestepped is the cowardly way proponents have targeted the Mormon Church but have been mute in their opposition to the Muslim faith. Protests and direct conflict with Latter-Day believers has been common, but they avoid Mosques entirely even though they have been preaching a more strident message against gay marriage.

  • NP says:

    I'm pretty sure the point here is the amount of money the Mormon church poured into a political campaign against it. I don't think the same is true of Muslim congregations, is it?

  • NP says:

    What a stupid comment.

  • Nathan says:

    Martini-mute about muslims? dont be silly-plenty of outrage against muslims though their numbers in voting for prop 8 were almost nill. No need to deflect-the Mormons committed the greatest atrocity in getting 8 passed and that is what this film represents.
    The blacks are the next bigoted group to blame-their horrendous support of discrimination supports the belief that they are backwards and have learned nothing from tehri own civil rights fight-sad, but their race has continually struggled to progress in this country. Their support of Prop8 clearly shows they are foundering and will never grow until they release hate and ally with their fellow minorities-such is the striong grip of brainwashing by religion.

  • Justin says:

    Again, I repeat, what a crappy review.

  • 8: The Mormon Proposition, reflects the efforts of those that created it and us that are in it, to hold OUR (now former) church accountable for the pain they knowingly inflicted on OUR families and the LGBT community.
    - It IS about hypocrisy; how a church (that says it is all about “being honest in our dealings with our fellow men”), knowingly created and funded dishonest ads to promote their own moral agenda; and (by their own admissions) hid their involvement. The Church stated in their own documents, that if the voters knew the extent of the church’s involvement, it would negatively impact the vote.
    - This documentary does not claim that the LDS Church did this alone, even though at its strong urging, its members (only 2% of the voters) donated over 70% of the money contributed and over 90% of the volunteer efforts.
    We would hope the displeased members of other groups, be they Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, African American, Latino, Baptist…, would hold their leaders accountable as well.
    I first saw 8: The Mormon Proposition at The Sundance Film Festival and it is worth seeing again and again. It is getting extended standing ovations at almost every festival it plays at and anyone feeling to criticize it should see it first. They will find as Variety’s review states: “8″ actually spends more time trying to humanize homosexuals than to demonize those who hate them.
    Linda Stay -

  • Tracy Hall says:

    ". . . the film hinges on the presumption that enough money can buy you anything, even a vote for religious bigotry."
    Inconveniently, the film fails to follow the money trail of its own side, which would have undermined its case:,0,2198220.htmlstory
    "No on 8" (in favor of homosexual marriage) raised $44.1 million, with $13.2 million coming from out-of-state.
    "Yes on 8" (in favor of traditional marriage) raised $38.8 million, with $11.2 million coming from out-of-state.
    So advocates of homosexual marriage raised $5.3 million (14%) more total than advocates of traditional marriage, and they raised $2 million (18%) more from out-of-state!
    If "money talks," the homosexual agenda should have prevailed. In any event, in losing, they "benefited" from more out-of-state "interference."
    Tracy Hall Jr

  • NP says:

    The homosexual agenda? Gee, I wonder which side of this issue you fall on.

  • Craig Lambert says:

    Simply stated and to quote a very near and dear friend of mine regarding his view on the passing of Proposition 102 in AZ, which is applicable to Prop 8 in CA:
    'Well, if gay marriage is formally banned due to it “violating
    biblical protocol and the sanctimonious notion of marriage”, then
    perhaps a law should be introduced to ban divorce and truly allow
    it to be “till death do you part.” The genius of the Constitution is to INCLUDE, NOT EXCLUDE, but apparently no one has figured out that radical ideal yet. This country in more ways than one is at least two decades behind the winds of change.' - JRG, Atlanta, GA
    Arizona and California should be states of diversity; two of acceptance, tolerance and equality for all. Yet, passing Propositions 8 and 102 clearly sends the message that ignorance, hypocrisy, and bigotry still very much exist in our societies, which is truly disgusting.

  • Craig Lambert says:

    Religion as a whole is hypocrisy. The Roman Catholics, Southern Baptists and the Mormons are just the biggest offenders.

  • Anonymous says:

    Wait, so, African Americans are regressing because they didn't support Prop 8? I'm not here to wage war for/against Prop 8, but that's a pretty presumptuous comment. I thought voting was a sign of progression and intelligence? Whether or not you support Prop 8, people agreeing or disagreeing with you should not be a mark on their character/race. That's some straight up bigotry. Suppose I support Prop 8. Would it be fair for me to think that the liberal-minded are more amoral, twisted people? Because that's the counterargument. If voting for Prop 8 makes you backwards, non-progressive, stupid and ignorant, than voting against Prop 8 makes you amoral, sinful and evil? I say, an end to the name calling. This country gets to decide its laws, its fate. If the people vote against something, so be it. They live in the country, or the state, or the town - they get to choose. What a bigoted review. I mean, "Oh my gosh 70% of African Americans voted against it! What were they thinking!?" So what? Pretty sure we're allowed to disagree with each other. And I disagree with the review - this is an awful review. Feel free to disagree with me, but I'd like to see reasons why. This review spent more than half of its copy on spewing stuff about the Mormon church. What, religions can't act in this country? People can't believe in what they want to believe? Religious people have to be derided for disagreeing with the "open-minded?" Asinine. Here's real open-mindedness: let people vote and believe how they want without being mocked and scorned for it. Go ahead and disagree - but if Mormons want to believe in a "prophet," let them. Jews believed in a prophet for millenia - do we deride them?
    I realize this comment is everywhere. But I'm amazed to see such a biased review of a film - review the film, folks, don't spew your agenda.

  • I am not sure I agree with the last comment.

  • Devon O. says:

    The problem is that this law is unconstitutional and discriminatory. I don't think you would say the same thing if the law banned interracial marriage.

  • Suzie Sharp says:

    It's time to commemorate the death of Proposition 8! Homosexual couples now have equality in the state of California!

  • Suzie Sharp says:

    Congratulations to the gay community! Gay and lesbian marriage is now legal once again in the state of California.

  • JJ says:

    First of all, the movie shows that the mormons went door to door to collect money for this. that is bull shit. They also show that the church was threatening its members to lose their callings if they didn't donate to this cause. that is bullshit.

  • Mark says:

    you must be gay then.

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