Following up Paradise Recovered as the second recent cinematic portrayal of a fundamentalist girl’s journey out of oppressive religion, Electrick Children was released in the UK on July 13, 2012. Starring Julia Garner, the movie follows 15-year-old Rachel McKnight, who discovers and listens to a forbidden rock and roll cassette tape and has a new kind of spiritual experience. Believing that she’s become pregnant through immaculate conception by listening to the tape, Rachel flees the quickly arranged marriage her father concocts to seek out the artist (Blondie).
Like Paradise Recovered, whose writer Andie Redwine escaped a Christian fundamentalist group, Electrick Children is the brainchild of an ex-Mormon. Rebecca Thomas, who wrote and directed the film, was raised in a more mainstream Mormon household, but has interviewed more fundamentalist ones and has a keen eye for their overlap:
“I was raised as a Mormon, a family of five kids so naturally I wanted to talk about those things. I am not fundamentalist Mormon but I had opportunities to do some documentary work and hear their stores. Mainstream and fundamentalist Mormonism overlaps and there was enough commonalities so that I could tell a story about them.”
As farfetched as the idea of an immaculate conception by music seems from the outside, I find Rachel’s naivete surprisingly believable. “Sex, drugs and rock n’ roll” is not just an expression in fundamentalist circles. I was taught that music embodied spirits. You could get a spirit of rage, of pornography, of pride, or of peace from music. The rock n’ roll beat (as though there were just one!) was supposedly designed to arouse one’s carnal side (in all possible senses – all puns intended). Making the leap from music as a conduit for sexual feelings to music as capable of producing the same effects as sex is not that difficult for a fundamentalist child who has probably never received an adequate explanation of sex, reproduction or her own anatomy.
I look forward to seeing this movie when it becomes available in the US.