Nudity, nuance in Sharehouse journalist’s pic of Indonesia’s Islam

LDS-owned Deseret News describes how Utah’s Motion Picture Advisory Committee reviews scripts and discourages production of films (by withholding financial incentives) which have “inappropriate content” or that “portray Utah or Utahns in a negative way.” Nudity can be a deal breaker, but producers sometimes offer to “redress” offensive scenes.

In both Indonesia and Utah — where church and state remain remain entangled — the popularity of pornography and closely related genres is an embarrassment. In the New York Times, former sharehouser Aubrey Belford describes the protest that ensues when Indonesian producers import name-brand Japanese porn actors for local no-budget but highly lucrative skin flicks.

While the media often draw attention to the widespread use of  pornography in Indonesia and Utah, attempts to filter vice out of society are  — of course — a political and technical minefield, as depicted in a separate article by Belford on Indonesia’s “fight” against porn.

While Utah’s attempts to block porn have also been ridiculed (as the “Great Firewall of Utah“), due to the economic incentives and script review, in all likelihood Utah won’t become a major porn supplier in the near future.

But what if it did? Would the embarrassment and anomie be enough to set off a few Mormon vigilantes?

The analogy to angry Islamic radicals  — and here, in yesterday’s NYT, Belford helpfully distinguishes between the moralist and terrorist elements  — doesn’t really go any further.

If it did, angry Mormons would blow up their own churches. For that matter, radicals in Indonesia have, in recent months, sent letter bombs to liberal Islamic figures, bombed a mosque in Central Java and brutalized members of the minority Ahmadiyya sect.

But democracy in Utah is much older than in Indonesia. Instead of an isolated Salt Lake caliphate, the LDS have opted for control of a state whose political influence far exceeds its population. There may be a few fundamentalists here and there, but there’s simply no history of military-versus-militant repressed religious fundamentalism. So, once again, no comparison.

But let’s say that an island somewhere in Indonesia — Bali for example  — did become a major porn destination. It happened  — lets say — because of the size of the local market, traditionally tolerant attitudes toward sex, an increasingly sophisticated film industry or the opportunistic, predatory nature of the industry.

And imagine a lone “deranger,” fed up with negative portrayals of Indonesians blamed on foreigners by Indonesian officials , blew himself up in a crowd on these “grounds.”  Without any doubt, the reaction of Indonesians everywhere in this perhaps unfathomably heterogeneous and common-sense nation would be  . . . shock — since it just doesn’t make sense. I honestly think people (ie, the average person) in Jakarta care less about what is shown at the cinema than people in Utah. If you don’t want to see it, don’t sit in the audience, I can hear Indonesians say.

My point regards just how textured Indonesian society really is. I think Belford’s brilliant polish really brings out the grain. I disagree with the notion that certain parts of the world are “just coming out of the Middle ages.” According to Wikipedia, by the time of the European Renaissance, Java and Sumatra had already seen over a millennium of civilization and two major empires.  Indonesia, I believe, is the number two Facebook consumer and just dropped into fourth place on Twitter (behind Japan).  Details like that matter when you’re talking about the future of porn.

NOTE: I met Belford during a stint as copyeditor at the Jakarta Post.  With several friends he stayed at the Sharehouse when he wasn’t reporting from the likes of Iraq, Aceh and Papua or covering naked women. Before going freelance he covered the phenomenon of people commuting to and from Jakarta atop trains. Numerous train-top deaths have been reported in the local media since then.


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