Dustin Lance Black Is Ready For Backlash, 'Death Threats' From The Mormon Church Thanks To Under The Banner Of Heaven

Under the Banner of Heaven, the latest project to star recent Osacr nominee and one-third of our cinematic Spider-Men, Andrew Garfield, tackles some pretty heavy subject matter. The FX miniseries is based on the true story of Brenda Lafferty, a woman whose murder involved a group of Mormon extremists after she dared to challenge the conventional gender norms of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Generally, religious institutions prefer not to focus on dark periods in their history, and consequently, there will be pushback. However, this is something that the show’s creator Dustin Lance Black is ready for, as he believes it’s a story that needs to be told.

Dustin Lance Black is perhaps best known for writing 2008’s Milk, a film dealing with the history of the fight for gay rights in the United States, for which he also won an Academy Award. Needless to say, he’s no stranger to telling stories that challenge people, specifically their traditional values. When we asked if he expected pushback from the Mormon Church for Under the Banner of Heaven, he didn’t mince words, even going to far as to welcome the expected “death threats”:

Whenever you challenge a convention, a status quo, things that people find comfort in, and safety, when you challenge them, you're going to get pushback. You're going to get the death threats. You're going to get the criticism on social media. And in this case, you know, having grown up in this church, I'm well aware that the Mormon Church does not look kindly upon anyone discussing the church's history and certainly not, quote-unquote, ‘outsiders.’ And they will challenge this in the same way they tried challenging the book. But I'm here for that conversation.

When Dustin Lance Black says he’s here for the conversation, he’s not kidding. The show had a premiere in Salt Lake City, Utah on April 25, and Black said he brought it there with the purpose of starting a dialogue with the church. As he mentioned in the quote, he grew up in the Mormon Church himself, so similar to the way he told the story of Harvey Milk as a gay man, he’s telling the story of Brenda Lafferty as someone who knows what it’s like to come of age as LDS.

Dustin Lance Black seems rather adamant about telling the most honest and authentic story possible, despite the feathers it ruffles. He fears that the current state of American politics is leaning in the direction of a Theocracy, and feels that these types of stories are important to challenge our way of thinking. As he explained:

I want to ask and I think it's what the show asks, which is if you are going to be a fundamentalist Christian, then you must be telling me you are okay praying to a misogynist God. And so I think it's time the Mormon Church, that claims to be an ever changing church. That I think far too late decided to stop being racist in one revelation in 1978. I hope they start to see the wisdom and having another revelation that says, ‘hey, we believe in a God that understands that human beings are equally capable and valuable, no matter if what their gender is.’

Aside from its social importance, Under the Banner of Heaven is a rather compelling detective story, and it’s worth checking out on Hulu! Andrew Garfield seems to be on an acting sabbatical, so this may be your last chance to get a Garfield-fix for a while. 

Hulu is offering a free month, so check the series out at no cost while you can. They’re offering much more than The Kardashians, and the line-up of this year’s new releases seems pretty solid.

Jeff McCobb
Senior Video Producer

Jeff started his career producing television commercials in his hometown of Fresno, California. After a few years, he came across the opportunity to make a living talking about his favorite thing: movies. Jeff is a film buff who is full of gratitude that he gets to spout opinions about them for a living. He currently resides in Los Angeles, where he spends his time complaining about Los Angeles.