Friday, April 1, 2011

Take Both Sides

I watched the episode of South Park that talked about Mormonism today.  I've seen it before and enjoyed it.  The entire episode is a bashing of the beliefs of the Mormons.  They show that the story of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon is the most ridiculous fraud ever and only a complete fool could believe it.

This time, though, the ending really struck me.  In it, when all of this frustration comes to a head and is released, the Mormon kid basically says that the story of Joseph Smith may be crazy, and he may have even been a fraud, but the religion teaches beneficial lessons and has made his family a good and loving one, and that is what really matters.

I thought about the creators of the show today.  It is very easy to watch the first 20 minutes of  that episode and think they are mercilessly insulting the Mormons.  But to watch the whole thing, you would think that it was the story of how great the Mormons actually are, not only for being great people, but for dealing with massive intolerance and taking it in stride.

Which side on the Mormonism issue did they take?  Both.  It's an impressive feat right there.  It's also spectacular writing.  I think the best writing does not tell you what to believe; it simply shows you a world and some people and leaves you to figure out what's good and bad, what's right and wrong, what's good and evil.

The next best thing to do in your writing is to take both sides of an issue and defend them equally.  Confuse the hell out of your audience by making an argument, then arguing against it.  Support your argument, then support its opposite.

The world is full of gray.  The truth lies between the absolutes.  Only by taking both sides will you be able to find it.

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