I remember when this movie came out. Somehow my brother got tickets to the Arizona premier. I saw this one on the big screen (a rare thing for an Arizona boy). The whole family went. I've seen it a few times since then, but it's been a while. It's always amazed me how revisiting a text can change your perceptions of that text dramatically. I'm taking a Gender and Sociology class this semester and therefore I've been thinking a lot about media's representations of gender. However, I'm just realizing that LDS films have historically presented women in two ways. First, as super attractive singles who are hyperactive in the church. They go to the dances, devotionals, institute, homemaking meeting, and just about everything that a college student could go to. Secondly, women are presented as frumpy relief society moms. These women make huge breakfasts, bare children, bake, clean, prepare centerpieces to be placed on doilies during Relief Society. However, in both versions of women there is one thing in common. Women are not spiritual. They don't talk doctrine, like the men. They don't bear testimony (Hollist ,142). What does this say about role women play in the church? Are they too supposed to be hyperactive and go to every activity, every service project while canning beets and making jams? The RM is perhaps the most typical of these cinematic representations.
This film is about Jared Phelps. He is a recent returned missionary. He loses his job, his girlfriend, his car, and his chance at education. He's stuck with an engagement ring that blew his college fund. Throughout the film, however, he keeps his faith. He interacts primarily with two women in the film: his mother and Kelly Powers, his would-be-girlfriend. These two women are stereotyped into both categories of women.
Emma Phelps is a super mom. She has kids ranging from 21 to newborn. She cooks breakfast every morning, only to see it passed by as her kids run off to school. She singlehandedly got each of her boy's Eagle Scout awards. She creates intricate centerpieces for her relief society lessons. She is so set on getting a year's supply of food storage she creates furniture to hide the extra. However, the one time she is seen with the scriptures open she is looking for names for her newborn baby. When faced with a challenge from her son she denies his trouble. She ignores it and worries about how the family's standing in the community will fall (142).
Kelly is the daughter of a Seventy. She is perfect in every way. She is tall, thin, and a smile that melts Jared Phelps's heart. She is fiercely loyal. Even through all of Jared's trials she sticks with him. She also aggressively seeks him out. When he is too shy to ask for her number she leaves it at his work. She is coy and flirtingly teases Jared every chance she gets. She is everything that Jared ever wanted in a woman. However, just like Emma there is no reference to her activity in church. She is never seen reading the scriptures. She never references her prayers (143).
This film carries a dangerous representation of women in the church. It states that while they are required to preform all homemaking activities (canning, cooking, cleaning, etc.) they are also supposed to keep their spirituality quiet or at least to a minimum. It states that LDS men do not want spiritual women. They want women who will be stay at home. This is not only true in The RM, but in many other LDS films.