Thursday, December 14, 2006
Here's a review I wrote for the Metro Herald, a Northern Virginia-area weekly:
One Punk Under God: The Passion of the Hipster
For someone who has spent so much of his life in the media spotlight, Jay Bakker seems remarkably ill at ease there. The only son of televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, whose “Praise the Lord” television ministry imploded in the late 1980s under allegations of financial and sexual misconduct, Jay Bakker is the heavily tattooed hipster founder of Revolution Church, a grass-roots Christian ministry “for people who have given up on church.”
Bakker is also the unlikely star of the new half-hour reality series One Punk Under God, which airs on the Sundance Channel starting December 13. In contrast to the gregarious, outspoken ministers common to Sunday-morning television, the young Bakker can seem prickly and standoffish. During the series, he repeats some revealing phrases: “I just want to be real.” “I’m just trying to be comfortable in my own skin.” “I don’t want to have regrets.” The motto of his church is equally unconventional: “We’re sorry for being such self-righteous, judgmental bastards.” But when he decides to make Revolution Church officially open to gay and lesbian worshippers, conservative staff members -- and worse, financial backers -- flee in droves.
As a series, One Punk Under God has some obvious flaws. The first episode is slow going, because the show's basic conflict doesn’t emerge until late in episode two. Worse, Bakker comes across as too guarded and reserved to carry a reality show on his own. He certainly suffers in comparison to his flamboyant parents, who obviously understand the nature of television better than he does and manage to steal every scene they‘re in.
The series hits its stride in its later episodes, as it offers a front-row seat to the young Bakker’s personal crucifixion. His life, work and ministry -- along with his mother’s health -- all fall apart beneath the camera’s unflinching gaze. There are lighter moments, such as when Jay attempts to visit his famous father (who has remarried and resumed his television ministry in Branson, Missouri). But for the most part, viewers will be in for a harrowing ride, following the tribulations of this “Christian punk.”
In late October, the Virginia Film Festival offered a special sneak preview of the first episodes, with Jay Bakker and series director Jeremy Simmons in attendance. For Simmons, getting the young Bakker to show his personality onscreen “took a lot of time, a lot of one-on-one time.” Yet Bakker, unaccustomed to the exposure of reality TV, finds that the series “gets weirder every time I see it.” “I really feel I’m naked on the screen half the time,” he added.
Undaunted by his recent setbacks, Bakker continues to challenge traditional Christianity, claiming that “the church has made it impossible for you to stand on your own as an individual, to have your own beliefs.” His uncompromising integrity even impressed director Simmons, who mentioned that although he “started out very interested in Jay, I grew to respect and admire him more than I could ever have imagined.”
Those who follow One Punk Under God to the end may feel the same way.
The half-hour, six-episode series One Punk Under God will run on the Sundance Channel at 9 p.m. Wednesdays, beginning December 13.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Like an oncoming freight train in a dark, narrow tunnel, Christmas time is a-coming -- which means that FoxNews anchor John Gibson and erstwhile libertarian talk-radio host Neal Boortz can resume their diatribes about the "War on Christmas," and social conservatives will threaten to boycott any store that dares to wish them "Happy Holidays."
Well, I've had it. After a few years of sitting on the fence, I've grown tired of Wal-Mart clerks who wish me a merry Christmas with terror in their eyes. I've grown tired of having my face rubbed in Christian pieties, and I hate thinking about what my Jewish and Muslim friends must go through at this time of the year. So the freshly agnostic author-editor of My Stupid Dog is proud to announce that this blog is proudly joining the War on Christmas.
Here are a few salvos from Christmas Past:
What the Dickens: Some Modest Thoughts on A Christmas Carol: The Ghost of Christmas Coercion rears its ugly head, and a founding myth of Anglo-American socialism is born.
The Seamy Side of Christmas: Robbery, anti-Semitism and Satanism -- it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas ... on TV!
Santa Wars: Public school officials in Missouri prove there is no Sanity Clause.
Santa and Me: A Christmas Buzzkill: Sometimes the faith of a child is better left there, especially if it happens to involve magical red sleighs and flying reindeer.
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