Not altogether unlike combat veterans who wax nostalgic about the Spartan conditions they endured in wartime or people who find themselves strangely misty-eyed over memories of childhood deprivation, Mormons likewise have a cultural touchstone that fills the universal need for shared painful experiences upon which they reminisce, shaking their heads at a rite of passage that they look back on with fondness now, but which was agonizing at the time.
Deserving of a whole blog by itself, perhaps the single most salient feature of seminary that prompts weak smiles from some and terrified night sweats in others is that paragon of wince-inducing awkwardness, the seminary video.
And the ultimate wince-inducing seminary video is Johnny Lingo. Ostensibly a metaphor for the power of being valued for who you really are, this old film is legendary for its low production values, poorly forced message, and dialogue that flirts with both racism and sexism. In the great pantheon of bad church videos guaranteed to create groans and eye rolling, Johnny Lingo gets to be Zeus.
Like an irritating burden in life that slowly grows on you, the trauma of seeing this video for the first time ultimately gives way to a friendly familiarity that eventually becomes fun. Some scientists think this is just a variation on the Stockholm effect: our brains tell us to start liking this stuff because dealing with the awful reality of their true nature would just be too painful.
Other seminary videos tortured poor young Latter-day Saints with unbelievably earnest actors striving to convince us that their constipated performances were approximating spiritual experiences. (Sadly, this strategy backfires on teenagers who quickly decide that if that is what being spiritual does to you, they might rather not.)
Case in point, starring a young pre-Dark Knight Aaron Eckhart:
However, it wasn't all gloom and doom for our friends in seminary. No, there was one seminary video that made up for it all...at least for the borderline disturbed boys, which was most of them. Whenever a sleepy seminary teacher rolled that TV into the room, they all crossed their fingers and prayed it was this one. Ladies and gentlemen...Spiritual Crocodiles: