Dutcher Advertising Opportunism?

First of all let me say that I think that Richard Dutcher is a very talented filmmaker and I have been impressed with his films. I disagreed with some of the ideas introduced in his movie “States of Grace,” but the storytelling was powerful, and I thought that “Brigham City” was great. I was sincerely disappointed, though not completely surprised, when he announced last January that he had ceased to be a practicing Latter-day Saint.

Long ago I signed up for the email list to receive announcements about Dutcher’s films. Today I received an email advertising “States of Grace” that rubbed me the wrong way. Here is the text:

Hello Friends!

With Mitt Romney’s red hot presidential run, popular LDS talk-show hosts, cover of Time Magazine, and President Hinckley’s 97th birthday grabbing the headlines, Mormonism is generating lots of talk. Also lots of frustrating misconceptions.

The good news is that Richard Dutcher’s acclaimed missionary drama States of Grace: God’s Army 2 is helping Mormons across America to clarify many of these misconceptions to their curious non-LDS friends and neighbors. Questions such as:
—Are Mormons Christian?
—Do Mormons still practice polygamy?
—How do Mormons view other religions?

This is where Grace3 comes in. For the duration of this exclusive offer, Lighthouse Promise is offering States of Grace at a significant discount (more than 65% off for 3)! Plus the shipping is free! So take advantage of this incredible opportunity not just to answer all of your friends’ Mormon-related questions, but also to share one of the most powerful spiritual films of our time!

Link here to take advantage of this amazing offer:

http://www.lighthousepromise.com/

Sincerely,
K. Thomas
Vice President of Marketing
Lighthouse Promise
XXX-XXX-XXXX

Somehow this email came across to me as somewhat opportunistic. There is a good chance I am misreading to some extent, but I certainly feel uncomfortable with this kind of advertising. Do the majority of those to whom “States of Grace” usually appeals most have any interest in help Mitt Romney’s campaign by dispelling misconceptions about Mormonism? In my experience, not likely. Are they likely to be fans of Glen Beck’s show? Again, not in my experience. And the mention of President Hinckley’s 97th birthday seems superfluous except that it allows them to somehow associate the advertisement obliquely with the Prophet.

To me “States of Grace,” seems more designed to try to clarify perceived misconceptions about the Gospel among more orthodox LDS members than an attempt to clarify Mormonism itself to an uninformed world. I’m sure that my non-LDS friends would enjoy the film and likely be emotionally moved by it. Would I use “States of Grace” to “answer all of [my] friends’ Mormon-related questions”? No.

In the end, perhaps the fact that brother Dutcher is no longer a “practicing” latter-day saint makes it seem weird that he would promote his film as a tool for Mormons to clarify misconceptions about the church. It seems likely that he thinks the Mormons themselves have various misconceptions about the church, or even that the church itself teaches misconceptions about reality, to the point where he no longer can participate with us. Perhaps that is why it rubs me the wrong way.

In any case, if you haven’t seen “States of Grace” you should. Just be sure to carefully consider and weigh the themes and ideas the film promotes, both true and false, and not just the emotional power and skill of the storytelling.

My personal reaction to the email is negative. What do you think?

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6 Responses to Dutcher Advertising Opportunism?

  1. It’s opportunistic and, given Dutcher’s disassociation, somewhat even more unseemly if anything.

  2. Cameron

    It’s just a marketing gimmick. I don’t think there’s anything neccesarily opportunistic at all; just a way for a company to move some of their product by capitalizing on current events. Lots of companies do this (is the Alberston’s sale on bar-b-que foods around the 4th of July nefarious and opportunistic; not really, I don’t think). Come to think of it, Criterion recently touted a sale wherein if you purchaced three of their DVDs that had something to with theatrical releases, you’d get a free Criterion baseball cap. Again, I think of this as pure marketing; it’s possible Dutcher doesn’t even know about the sale himself. I wouldn’t read too much into it.

  3. Dutcher, himself, is not a practicing member anymore, but I believe that I read somewhere that his wife and children still are, and, on their behalf the argument could be made that he does still have some interest in clearing misconceptions.

    I haven’t seen the film, myself, and so I can’t comment on how appropriate it would or would not be in showing people what we’re all about, but I have to say that my take on the email is similar to J. Max’s. It does, unfortunately, come accross as opportunistic, crass, and just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I’m not terribly comfortable (in general) with anyone unnecessarily mixing money and mormonism. It simply feels exploitive to me.

  4. I don’t know what it is about Dutcher – but he’s always been someone I just didn’t warm up to. I don’t know if it’s the arrogance or what… but he doesn’t strike me as sincere. His actions…to me…seem completely cocky and all about gaining fame. He’s an odd one. It always amuses me when people are so full of hypocrisy… “I believe I am too good to make movies that cater to you…but I will try to sell them to you anyway…”

  5. It reminds me of an episode of “Big Love” where the protagonist, a fundamentalist practicing polygamy, is approached by his LDS advertising folks (he runs a store in the Salt Lake are which is a kind of independent Lowes or Home Depot), who as part of their campaign to compete with the locals directly target the LDS market. They interview Mormons who work for him, subtly and not so subtly pointing out their large families, pictures of the temples, and other Mormon red flags. This “we believe like you” campaign is even more disengenuous, considering that no one knows he’s a polygamist nor a practicing LDS. With Dutcher, the same seems to be the case.

    However, I do think it’s wise to think this push, like in Big Love, is initiated by his marketing company and not perhaps how he personally would of concocted things on his own.

  6. jose

    The logic in the email a non sequitur. The purpose of the movie (as with all movies) is to entertain.

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