Sundance Films, Utah, and Porn

NPR recently covered a kerfuffle going on in Utah.  It seems that an intolerant guy named Derek Monson suggested in an article that the State of Utah should end its financial support of the Sundance Film Festival.  For what silly reason?  Because the festival shows films that are sexually explicit and porn-related.

After all, "What would you call a film festival airing movies that explore the lives of porn stars, adulterous relationships between mothers and their friends’ children, and teenagers competing to lose their virginity?"  Definitely not a valid family night option.

According to NPR, Derek is saying that he believes the risque films "cast an immoral shadow over the [Sundance Film Festival] no matter how much money it brings in."

Holy prudish-conservative-crazies!

But wait, there's more!

"...what message does it send to society, especially children, when we try to teach them that sexual promiscuity is bad, only to turn around and endorse it if it brings in enough money?  The last thing society and children need is for their government to act in a way that says it is fine to sell your sexual morals for money....Some things are more important than money."

Robert Redford responded by reasonably  pointing out how much money the Sundance Film Festival brings in.

In his own words: "If they'd like us to go away, we'd probably take, what, $70 [million], $80 million with us — $80 million comes to the local economy in 10 days.  Pretty good."  Well put sir.

NPR didn't miss the opportunity to beat a dead straw man, focusing a great deal on *surprise!* how much money the Sundance Film Festival brings in.  "And for the Utah Film Commission, $80 million is an excellent return on that $300,000 investment."

These are the types of conversations that make me want to slam my head in a car door repeatably while watching Jersey Shore in slow motion.  It is sooooo painful.  These are two groups of people talking about totally different things.  Derek Monson might as well have ran his article through a third grade Chinese translator before publishing his concerns.

Derek Monson is questioning the morality of State funding going towards a film festival that is notorious for explicit films, regardless of how much money it brings in.  Mr. Redford is pointing out how much money the Festival brings in.  Anyone else see the miscommunication going on here?

Derek Monson is pointing out an easily understandable concept:

The ends don't justify the means.

Many evil and deplorable acts could be used to produce good outcomes.  Human trafficking, for example (I am not equating the two) produced around $31.6 billion globally in profits in 2005.  If you spoke out against such an atrocity and someone justified human slavery by pointing out how much money it brought in, you would call that man heartless and insane.  He would be sidestepping the question of morality all together.

It seems this faulty moral logic (called proportionalism) has taken a kung-fu-like grip on a majority of people these days - mature smart grown people.  It is a weighing of the pros and cons.  The ends CAN justify the means.  You can justify doing ANYTHING as long as there is a big enough pay-off.

Lying? Sure!  If it will help ease someone's suffering.  Torture?  Sure!  If it will save hundreds of people.  Abortion?  Sure!  If the woman can regain her reputation and her future.  Inhumane working conditions?  Sure!  If it gives some poor foreigner some money and you make huge profits.  Porn related films?  Sure!  If it will bring more money to our state economy.

Look, the ends, however big and lucrative, do not justify the means.  We should not commit a moral evil to reap some cash rewards.


They are talking about two different things.  Mr. Redford needs to address the morality of state funding going toward sexually explicit films and the glorifying of porn actors and sexual immorality.  Derek Monson is not saying "I don't fancy porn".  He is saying sexual immorality and porn-related films are a questionable way to make money and goes against the values of the people of Utah, no matter what reason it is being shown and glorified.

Whether or not you think it is a matter of free speech or a work of art, these would be arguments for the morality of a state funding Sundance Film Festivals.  But to stubbornly wave cash around while refusing to answer the challenge is the wrong way to handle a legitimate concern.

Derek's article seems pretty clear to me, yet NPR and Mr. Redford seem to be focusing on precisely what Derek is saying should not be focused on.  So the question remains to the Sundance Film Festival and to the State of Utah:

Is it moral to fund with state money a Film Festival that shows sexually explicit and porn related films?

***** Another well thought out argument is that truth depends on majority rule.  This argument that "thousands of Utah people watch porn every day" is littering the comment boxes of the NPR article.  Well I hate to quote your mom, but if thousands of people were calling Rick Astley the best rapper of all time, would you?  (Not to bring up the fact that many of these porn watchers might just be addicted persons who know porn is evil and hate that they watch it).  If the whole world got together to decide that "1+1=cat fart" would that change the fact that only "cat food = cat fart" and "1+1=2"?