Media and salad dressing

January 26, 2008



Some people are connoisseurs of bad salad dressings.  They have a knack, talent, or instinct when it comes to picking mixtures that will in no way make a salad better.  In some cases they make lettuce, the most benign of all salad components, worse.  If a bottle says low fat, fat free, low sodium, it will find its’ way into their fridge and somehow on the dinner table when you come over to eat with them.  And though you will be smiling on the outside, you will not be happy on the inside.

Sadly my parents are among ranks of the salad dressing impaired.  At any given time there are seven already opened bottles of dressing in their fridge, and none of them are good.

I am willing to abstain from fried foods, cut back on red meat, and increase the amount of fruits and vegetables that I eat, but I will not, (Foghorn Leghorn) I say I say I will not let bad salad dressing and low fat mayonnaise grace the shelves of my fridge.  To do so would require nothing less then mosaic like rites of purification to redeem it, or require my roommates and I to take the unclean appliance outside and stone it.

Like the people who habitually choose bad salad dressing, many Mormons that I know are like them when it comes to the movies and music they choose.  Friends of mine have on, countless occasions, said a movie was great and then said there was no swearing, sex, or violence.  Like people who buy bad salad dressing, these unfortunate souls choose their media based on what’s not there instead of how it tastes.  And as a self-proclaimed foodie, if doesn’t taste good, regardless of the calories, what’s the point?

Really, if your criterion for judging media is, “I did not have to walk out or turn it off”, then you are missing out and should reexamine how you choose your media.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t believe that a constant diet of violence, sex, profanity, and other evils in popular media is good.  I believe that some media is just so offensive that it will drive the spirit away.  But I do believe that there is a way to choose media that will not leave that bad taste in your mouth the same way that fat free raspberry nastiness will.  Ponder the last bit of the 13th Article of Faith.

If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

I have followed it from time to time and when I’ve applied this teaching I have found lots of good movies and music that has been good for my soul.

I said earlier that a constant diet of sex, violence, drugs, profanity, and rock and roll was bad.  Let me relate watching the movies Hero and Saving Private Ryan for the first time.

Hero tells the story of a nameless man who is seeking to avenge the death of his family by conspiring to kill the man ultimately responsible for their deaths; The emperor of China.  I won’t give it all away, but I will say that after watching this movie it taught me how horrible and destructive seeking revenge can be.  It taught me that all the parties involved would have been better off letting go of their anger and living peacefully with themselves and with others.

If anything were removed from Hero, it would be less then what it is.  But it would not be better if the director added anything to it.

I watched all of Saving Private Ryan during Christmas break in 2000.  After the credits I could only say, “My God, I had no idea that so many, gave so much, for their fellow human beings.”

Again this brings me back to balance.  No matter what I do, I cannot escape this.  I seem compelled to read, write, and think about the middle way.  A good salad dressing, meal, movie, book, or music is balanced.  Somewhere in that last bit of the 13th article of faith lies the balance for choosing good media.

(This blog was written while the author was listening to Siamese Dream and Editors.  A great album by the Smashing Pumpkins.  At some point this week, I will watch his first season of Arrested Development on DVD when my homework is done.)



  1. While I understand the concept of worthless fluff, your analogy seems to claim violence is the fat necessary to make the salad dressing palatable. I am sorry but what tastes good in movies isn’t the cheap crutch violence or tittilation. It is plot, theme and well developed story. Personally, I loved Hero as well, have not seen Saving Private Ryan, but really don’t need a gruesome body count to make a good award winning war movie, or to appreciate the complexities, challenges and sacrifice of war.

  2. Doc,
    I doubt that anyone would agree that violence is needed to make anything palatable, but I think any student of entertainment would understand that conflict would. Whether it is Man vs. Man (as in Hero), Man vs. Nature (as in SPR, where the Germans are, with a few notable exceptions, treated as an deadly, unknown force beyond the comprehension of the soldiers), or Man vs. Society – Conflict is needed. While violence and conflict are so similar it is difficult to fully separate them in most good films, I will agree that some films seem to think that conflict and violence are the exact same thing – it is possible to have a film with violence and badly executed conflict (and these films obviously suck).

    Unfortunately, when people reject films purely on their basis of violence or other conflict-related aspects, they risk throwing away a film that uses conflict well and thus miss out on the experience such a film can provide. Successful plot, theme, and well-developed story IS the introduction, exploration, and resolution (to varying degrees) of conflict.

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