Earlier this week Tom Hanks referred to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who supported California’s Proposition 8 as “un-American.” Samuel L. Jackson then piled on yesterday by labeling Mormon Prop 8 supporters as “misinformed.”
To borrow a Tom Hanks line from Big: “I don’t get it."
One of my all-time favorite Tom Hanks scenes comes from Cast Away. Shortly after crashing on the deserted island he does an amazing job illustrating how nearly impossible it is for a Fed Ex employee to catch a fish with his bare hands. A moment later the camera zooms in on a large fish swimming in shallow waters when – BLAMO! – a crude spear suddenly comes from nowhere and impales the fish. The camera then slowly pans up to reveal an emaciated, shaggy, loin-cloth-wearing Tom Hanks standing above his fresh kill after several years alone on the island. Very, very cool.
Unfortunately, Tom Hanks delivered another kill shot. He killed me as a fan. It will be hard for me to watch Tom Hanks movies in the future unless I suffer an unexpected “brain cloud” as he did in Joe Versus the Volcano and magically forget that he challenged my patriotism for having participated in the democratic process. (Unless his Cast Away character somehow ended up on Lost. I’d be all over that!) The irony of calling people un-American for exercising their right to vote for other otherwise support legislation is so hypocritical that it deserves no further comment.
Tom Hanks should be relieved to know that some Mormons also exercised their constitutional right to oppose Prop 8. If he ever visits one of our church services he can rest assured that there are at least a few “patriots” in our midst who truly mean it when they sing “The Star Spangled Banner” in sacrament meeting. Not like the rest of us America-hatin’ frauds.
I gave Tom Hanks a pass when he decided to produce HBO’s Big Love despite the untrue stereotypes it perpetuates against Mormons. But with this second attack directed squarely at my faith there is now a pattern of contempt from Tom Hanks that sours me. Exit polling performed by L.A. Times found that roughly 70% of African Americans and voted for Prop 8 as did a significant amount of Latino and social conservatives of all faiths, yet Tom Hanks only singles out the Mormons. If he has issues with people who supported Prop 8 then he should direct his disparaging comments toward everybody, like he did with his hatred for his entire team in A League of Their Own.
Samuel L. Jackson’s comment was not nearly as offensive as Tom Hanks’ (“misinformed” vs. “un-American”) but it still cast Mormons who participated in the democratic process in a negative light. After reading his accusation I was hoping that Samuel L. would channel his inner Mace Windu and enlighten us poor, uneducated hillbillies. Regrettably, he failed to inform the misinformed. I was looking forward to receiving a moral lecture from a reformed cocaine addict with a felony conviction for his role in taking hostages during a 1969 civil rights demonstration. Worse yet, Samuel L. Jackson also starred in Snakes on a Plane. Yikes!
Since it appears that Samuel L. did very little research to inform himself about Mormons before attempting to point out how misinformed we are, he may be surprised to learn that we, as a whole, are a very educated people. A 1998 study by Stan Albrecht and Tim Heaton from BYU's Religious Studies Center found that 53.5% of LDS males have a post-high school education versus 36.5% of the US population. The findings among women were even more impressive as 44.3% of LDS females have attended some college compared to 27.7% of the general population.
I am sure both Tom Hanks and Samuel L. Jackson have a number of redeeming qualities. Their professional talents are unquestionable. In fact, Tom Hanks is so talented that he made me cry - literally - when his volleyball/best friend Wilson floated off into the horizon during Cast Away. They both seem to be good family men. They work hard. They are probably generous with their money in supporting causes they believe in. I applaud them for the good things that they do to make the world a better place. I am just tired of them hacking on my faith.
One of my favorite lines from Forrest Gump is when he says, "You've always got to put the past behind you before you can move on."
I just hope that Tom Hanks, Samuel L. Jackson and those who follow their lead in Hollywood can do just that.
And that I can, too.