Stryper merchandise on the big screen!

You didn’t have to be a Christian to know about Stryper back in the 1980s. Unlike most other Christian rock bands of that era, Stryper, which supposedly got its name from Isaiah 53:5 (“by his stripes we are healed”), toured with secular bands and released its albums on a secular label. But for all their mainstream exposure, I don’t believe they ever got played or mentioned in any of the movies made back then.

The filmmakers of today certainly haven’t forgotten about them, though. If you look very closely at a couple of recent films, you can see that bits of Stryper iconography have begun to pop up, here and there, on the big screen.

Last year, in Wendy and Lucy, we saw a card or sticker bearing the Stryper logo in the office of a grocery-store manager who sends a woman’s life spinning in an unfortunate direction after she is caught shoplifting by an employee who happens to be wearing a cross around his neck. The images are very subtle, but they do suggest that the woman is being judged, in some sense, by religious people who, for whatever reason, have refused to show her mercy.

And now we have the trailer for Whip It!, the directorial debut of Drew Barrymore and the first film to star Ellen Page since her breakout role in Juno. Note the T-shirt that Page’s character wears in what seem to be at least three different scenes, in the final minute of the trailer below:

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So, what does the T-shirt signify? Well, the movie is based on a book by Shauna Cross called Derby Girl, and here is what it says on pages 100-101:

In an effort to shake off the pink-suit residue and reclaim my personal identity, I wear my favorite thrift-store T-shirt to school the next day: a baseball tee featuring Stryper, circa 1984.

Who’s Stryper, you ask? Only the most perfectly awful ’80s, Christian, heavy-metal rock band ever. Not that I knew this when I found my beloved T-shirt. I simply swooned over the image of five (sic) guys trying to look tough with their big, permed hair, gobs of makeup, and skinny yellow-and-black-striped spandex pants. In short, a fashion disaster of such major proportions that I had to spend the four dollars on the shirt. It makes me so happy to wear it.

Seriously. One day when you’re completely bored, depressed, or both, Google Stryper and have yourself a laugh-fest. Guaranteed.

There’s more, but you can check it out for yourself by reading the book — or by using Amazon.com’s “Look Inside!” feature. Suffice it to say, though, that the T-shirt’s fate seems to involve a spoiler or two.

Turning to other bands besides Stryper…

Christian music went mainstream in a big way in the ’90s, thanks to cross-over hits by Jars of Clay (whose song ‘Flood’ played over the closing credits of Hard Rain), Sixpence None the Richer (whose song ‘Kiss Me’ was featured prominently in She’s All That) and others. But with the possible exception of Stryper, Christian musicians in the ’80s were a bit more obscure.

So… can you think of any other Christian ’80s bands that have been referenced in non-Christian films? Either in the ’80s themselves or in more recent films, such as the two mentioned here?

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his film column, which won multiple awards from the Evangelical Press Association, the Canadian Church Press and the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005).


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