Over spring break, I had the opportunity to see The Book of Mormon live in New York City. To put it simply, the whole musical was pure genius. The whole show was hilarious, the choreography incredible, and the singing even more so.
However, despite how much I loved the show, I’m surprised that it’s even still on Broadway. I could easily say it’s one of the most controversial shows to exist, yet somehow, it’s not that controversial. In fact, according to some people I’ve talked to, Kinky Boots is more controversial simply because of the cross dressing, completely ignoring the fact that the Book of Mormon was offensive to just about every race, religion, and sexuality.
I could tell that the whole musical is basically satirical to the Mormon Religion, but in the progressive society we live in, I’m still trying to ponder how the Book of Mormon has not been shut down by Twitter and Instagram activists alike. Either people don’t watch Broadway shows enough, or it isn’t seen as a problem, even though one Tweet intended to be a joke could be interpreted wrong and ruin someone’s life.
Now, I’m going to dive into an overly, probably unnecessary, analysis of the whole musical and the music included.
For those who haven’t seen the musical yet, it follows the story of two young Mormons who travel to Uganda to convert the people there to the Mormon religion. The musical basically mocks the Mormon religion, but also uses offensive stereotypes of other races and sexualities to get their point across.
This whole analysis isn’t me criticizing the musical. In fact, it was probably one of the best musicals I’ve ever seen besides Hamilton or Aladdin, but I’m just genuinely trying to figure out how this musical hasn’t caused more controversy.
But then I realized the answer, and it’s because the entirety of the show is mocking the extremities of the Mormon faith and being entirely satirical of it. Maybe everyone who’s seen it and every critic who’s analyzed it has realized that that is the whole purpose of the show, and everyone who buys a ticket is ready to either be offended or be entertained on a whole new level.
First, let’s talk about the song “Hasa Diga Eebowa,” a song the citizens of Uganda sing when the two Mormons travel to the town for the first time.
To translate just the song title, it’s saying “F**K You God,” and that alone should’ve caused uproar to some of the people watching it, however it ended up just causing the whole audience to burst into laughter.
But the reason is that there were these people in Uganda suffering from hunger, a corrupt government, and many other issues (not to forget all the stereotypes of third world countries in Africa they mentioned), and there were these two guys trying to sugarcoat their troubles and convert them to their religion. That was saying that all their problems would go away if they followed the word of the book. Maybe that’s a flaw of all religions alike, that problems won’t just go away with a little bit of optimism. The song was criticizing that idea, but in a way that made it capturing and hilarious.
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Next song, is “Turn It Off” which was basically a song about a little trick they had to turn off their emotions or “bad” thoughts, one of these, including homosexuality. Now that’s homophobic isn’t it? Was that the intention of the writers, or was it, yet again, being satirical about the faith? Were they criticizing the fact that the religion that preached to be good, was being bad to people who didn’t fit their standards? They weren’t necessarily being homophobic, but they were using examples of homophobia to shine light on the issues that came with the faith.
Next, was “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” which was my favorite song in the whole show. Basically, Elder Price broke rule seventy-two and was now having a nightmare where he was sent into Hell for eternity. There’s the fact that he was in Hell with Hitler, Genghis Khan, and Jeffrey Dahmer, but he thought he was the most evil of them all. Now, that’s being critical of the ridiculous expectations of Mormons and rules they have to follow. The fact that one little bad act was sinful, and left them believing that they were sinful at the same level as some of the most evil people in history, that’s ridiculous. Now, this example in the show is definitely hyperbole, but it’s still a real problem addressed even if it’s to a much lesser extreme.
Those are just a few examples, but how is this show that’s so insulting still so widely accepted as only comical?
Maybe it’s because it’s so hilarious that people don’t really care, or maybe it’s the fact that it’s a musical meant to be mocking and not actually real life, but isn’t the point of the show to mock the actualities of the religion’s extremities?
I don’t know the definite answer, I’m still trying to figure it out, but for now I’ll keep listening to the songs and continue to analyze this show one too many times.