If they weren’t so damn rich with a dedicated audience I don’t think Trey Parker and Matt Stone could get away with doing this–parodying the Mormons with music. An in-depth story is running on MSNBC.com about the creation and production of their new Broadway musical The Book of Mormon featuring two Mormon missionaries who go to Uganda. Yes, this is actually going to be on Broadway!
Somehow between the brief periods of creating each South Park episode they have managed to write a script, lyrics and music for The Book of Mormon–then, as the show is nearing its premiere in the next 8 days, they are attending rehearsals and taking care of last minute business. It’s almost time for the curtain to go up and for them to check out and do nothing…oh wait, the 15th season of South Park is ready to go into production. Damn, that is one hell of a schedule.
So why would these two put themselves through so much turmoil? Well, for one, they love pissing people off, but two, according to the article, “Growing up in Colorado, next door to Utah, Parker and Stone had long been familiar with the Mormon church and its members; Parker even dated a Mormon girl and was badly hurt when she ditched him.” How’s that for a little vengeance. Oddly enough, I had a best friend who went through the same exact experience except he was foolish enough to join the Mormon Church for his girlfriend, and it wasn’t easy to leave.
From the tone of the article though, there doesn’t seem to be anything vindictive about The Book of Mormon. I believe they are doing it to see if it can be done and to make people laugh. Taboo subjects are becoming harder to find as Christianity has already taken its lumps in various forms (and I believe is all the better for it). The pair knew they obviously couldn’t do a musical on Islam as they’ve been down that road with South Park. Mormonism was the best choice for a new subversive project. It is completely American and a completely weird religion, suited for their twisted brand of humor.
It does appear that so far, the Mormons are being very smart about reacting to the musical. “The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening,” the LDS website notes, “but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people’s lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.” Amazingly smart as they are avoiding adding any controversy to the production. That doesn’t mean that individual Mormons won’t get upset or maybe Mormons will even enjoy the production as even they can see how silly their religion can be.
Regardless, it is good to see a large production in the form of a Mormon parody. We’ve seen Big Love and some news specials, but they all focus on what LDS has left beind–polygamy. There is plenty of new contention to be found as The Mormon Church is the driving force on shooting down the legalization of gay marriage. They also continue to add members based on false premises that are easily researchable, from the writing of The Mormon Bible to Mormon claims about lost civilizations with no archaeological evidence to the claim that Mormons are just simply Christians (whose theology is radically different). It is a nutty, successful cult…but then so was Christianity at one point.