and another one bites the dust

Haha, oh, wow.  Here’s something else I’d forgotten had happened.

[tw: Church stuff, Christian homophobia, fictional conversion therapy and sex/implied corrective rape, fictional suicide attempt, dang this is a lot of stuff oops okay this is gonna be heavier than I thought]

Wanna hear about the time me and my best friend at the time watched a movie that “satirized” Christians and Christianity?

We were eleven or twelve or so.  It was a PG-13 movie and I had to get permission from my mom over the phone.  E, as I’ll call her, suggested we watch it because we were bored and couldn’t find anything else around except for VHS tapes of shows for little children, because we were hanging out in and around kids’ room of the parish hall for reasons I can’t remember.

Why her mother had this movie in her office, or why she gave her daughter permission to watch it, I can’t say.

I didn’t initially understand that the movie was supposed to be satirical or what the heck it was going for with its message or tone, but I remember getting a bad feeling about it from the opening scenes.  Early on, there was a joke about the idea of heaven/a desirable afterlife, with a young character walking into traffic and trying to kill herself to get there.  It made me uneasy, but I ignored it and kept watching because this was what E wanted to watch and we had nothing better to do.

Then the main character, a teenage(?) girl, finds out that one of her male friends is gay.  She sees this as a problem and wants to make him become straight.  For some reason (?) he cooperates with her attempts to change him (I can’t remember whether he was supposed to be a Christian too).

These attempts culminate in what I remember as a shot of some objects rattling on a shelf while those two characters are having implied just-off-screen sex, because that’s her idea of how to make him not be gay.

I couldn’t suppress my discomfort anymore.  I don’t remember if I said anything as I stood up and turned it off.

My friend, E, objected and looked at me in disapproving confusion.  All I remember of what she said is the sentence, “It’s better than Veggie Tales” — meaning only that it was the more tolerable of two unappealing options.

I remember saying, “No.  It’s not.”

And I don’t remember much after that, besides that being a very strange, awkward moment for us.  I had always adored that girl with the reverent desperation of a lost puppy.  I had never gone against her like that.

The way our friendship fizzled out of existence involved a long, gradual process of fading contact and strained interactions, and it can’t be attributed to any one thing.  But given where that day falls in the timeline, I can’t help thinking that moment, that refusal, had something to do with it.

And it’s probably things like that that taught me, very early on, that rejection of sex in any form could get me rejected as well.

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10 responses to “and another one bites the dust

  • epochryphal

    that wasn’t “Saved!” was it? we watched that as a church teen group and it was really bizarre. and then the queer college group loved it like mean girls and i was just like ??????

    (also, i still love veggie tales. french peas! a squash in love with a cheeseburger! chocolate bunny idol worship! the classics of my heart.)

  • luvtheheaven

    I read this post of yours… and wasn’t sure what film you were talking about. Then I saw epochryphal’s comment on it and decided to re-watch Saved! since I didn’t really remember the film at all. I saw it about a decade ago, when I was 15? probably, long before I grasped any nuanced understanding of religion, of issues faced by non-straight people, etc. I remembered enjoying it so I wondered if I’d still enjoy it today.

    I just finished re-watching it on Netflix. This was only my second time viewing the film. To me… the film Saved! doesn’t make it explicitly clear that the sex was… coerced, or otherwise non-consentual. I mean, I say this as someone who thinks it’s possible for people to consent to sex even if they’re not attracted to the person/that gender. As just one example, a person could consent to it for means of experimenting and to see how it’d feel. To test for himself if he still felt gay afterwards.

    I mean sure, Dean is gay. He’s not attracted to Mary in this film. He’s masturbating to gay porn when she (unknowingly) interrupts and walks into his bedroom. Earlier, on her own, she has decided God won’t mind if she has sex with him because she’s trying to stop him from being gay, and she doesn’t seem all that interested in what he does or doesn’t want… but we don’t see anything that shows him being distressed or feeling pressured into sex with this girl. And the gay character is… exaggeratedly very happy throughout the whole film. He gets shipped off to a boarding school/program to “fix” him, but the whole film makes a joke out of it, because he meets another gay boy there and seems to fall in love, and the boys are each other’s prom dates a year later.

    Erasing the experience of how this kind of sex would actually be “corrective rape” for real many people and how boarding schools/camps/programs to “fix” gay people (corrective therapy) actually is for real people is certainly a problem. (Obviously either experience can be horrifically traumatic.)

    his film maybe went too far with that particular satirical plot, I’m not sure. Somehow I personally really enjoyed the whole film, though. Somehow, I think, as someone who gets how bad those things are, I think this movie making fun of them still, somehow, works. It’s a particular brand of dark humor. I don’t know.

    And the main character, Mary, who had sex with Dean realizes, by the end of the film, that she was wrong about all of her intentions in those first 8 minutes of the film (the corrective rape scene you referenced happens about 8 minutes in). She realizes that there’s nothing wrong with being gay and God didn’t want her to do that — in fact, she got pregnant after having sex that one time, which was the whole point for the writing choice — proving that even good intentions can have bad consequences. The whole film makes light of a variety of very serious issues in a way that certainly might be offensive to some people, but that’s… kind of the point. Not the offending. I mean, the point is that these issues *are* serious and should be treated very differently than conservative Christians often do. When things are made light of in the way the film does, it reminds you just how serious they really are. The point is to say these types of Christians are either complete hypocrites, cruel and the opposite of “good”, despite how much they may pride themselves on being “good Christians”, or they are completely naive and ignorant to the point of making things worse for everyone involved. The main character is one of the latter type.

    Also, yes the film sort of criticizes the logic of a desirable afterlife within the first minute or so. It feels a bit out of place since the message by the end is still pro-God in a Christian(ish) sense, which presumably involves the afterlife. But the film is basically the story of a girl who is questioning whether her religion makes sense. And even from the start, even when she was a young child, she jumps to the “wrong” conclusion about that she’s being taught — that if the afterlife is so desirable, then she should die right away. It sets the tone in a kind of powerful way. “This film will be pretty sacrilegious”, “This film will have dark humor and make light of serious topics”, etc.

    I don’t know. I enjoyed the film a lot overall, even today. I didn’t interpret these scenes the way you did.

    • Coyote

      I’m really confused what the point of this comment was.

      • luvtheheaven

        I guess if the only part of the film you saw was the first 8 minutes, many years ago, when you were so young… Your upset reaction was of course valid, and an important memory, but… I wasn’t responding to that at all. I was just responding to the fact that I certainly interpret the film in a very different way, and even many years ago did, since I enjoyed it even then. I’m sorry if you think my comment had no point or was out of place. I definitely didn’t intend to offend you or detract from the real point of your post. I thought it was relevant at the time when I typed it. But… Never mind then.

        I’m just glad this discussion encouraged me to (critically) rewatch an enjoyable film I had only seen once and then forgotten about. I found the idea that this plot-hinging moment of sex in the film can be interpreted as a corrective rape scene thought provoking, even if ultimately I disagreed that it was that. Etc. I think the point of the film was absurdity and I think the film did it well, and of all of the ways male rape can be downplayed or ignored, this wasn’t a scene where I felt that was what was happening. But I think it’s important to consider the idea.

        • Coyote

          jsyk, you responding to a post about “here is a time my unwillingness to watch a sex scene caused an awkward moment between me and my friend” with “Well I liked that movie” & getting defensive about it just comes off as self-centered and rude.

          You didn’t state it outright, but I can only assume you’re objecting to my choice of trigger warnings for this post. In that case, I’ll need to remind you that trigger warnings are for the purpose of warning people with triggers, not for the purpose of opining on the merits of a film. I was just going to put a content note for fictional sex, but when I thought about how I’d describe the narrative context, I realized how it sounds and that someone might want a corrective rape trigger warning before deciding whether to read further. Helping people who have actually been in a situation like that one navigate a hostile world matters far more than whether you like the movie. For Pete’s sake, quit being selfish.

          • luvtheheaven

            I really wasn’t trying to object to your choice of trigger warnings. That’s not what I thought I was doing.

            I… am very sorry.

            I do understand that having a trigger warning for corrective rape makes sense for this post.

          • Coyote

            Okay, are we in disagreement about anything else then?

          • Tom

            I think she was just giving her own thoughts on the film. Although, there may have been a misunderstanding as to what made you uncomfortable watching the film, from what you’ve said it sounds like you just weren’t comfortable watching a sex scene, but maybe luvtheheaven thought it was that you didn’t like the film making light of serious issues. It didn’t look to me like she meant any offence, or maybe I’m just misreading the whole situation.

          • Coyote

            She already apologized. What are you popping your head in for?

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