We’re about to take a quick break from our other projects to talk about this movie I blogged about watching last week, God’s Not Dead, which is a horrible movie in every single respect. There is a long list of movies that it is more horrible than, starting with my go-to benchmark of painfully unpleasant-to-watch bad movies, Absolute Zero.
Now, sometimes I really love bad movies that are fun to watch anyway, like Xanadu. There’s a lot of fun to be had in watching movies that are so bad they circle back around to enjoyable again.
This was not one of those sorts of movies, and let me explain why. It took me a few days to work out exactly why this movie torqued me beyond all recognition, but I got there eventually.
See, a long time ago I had this friend named Darcy who wanted to be an author. (I’ve briefly mentioned this anecdote in the past, but this is how it specifically went down.) She apparently took “write what you know” to mean “write what you wish you knew.” She wrote a novel based around the misadventures of a married couple whose names just happened to be almost identical to my name and Biff’s and who looked and acted like us in every respect. The woman–a career gal–adamantly didn’t want children, like I don’t, but her very traditional husband really wanted them, like Biff did. She got pregnant, and OMG IT WAS TWINS. Except the doctor told “Bill” that it was really quadruplets, don’t tell her or she’ll freak out and get an abortion or selectively winnow them down or something evil and feminist like that! So they had this absolutely deranged deception going on around keeping “Casey” from learning the truth–for her own good, of course.
After a lot of drama, emotional manipulation, and buckets of outright lies–all of it done for laughs, like it was all zany misadventures–the novel’s “Casey” delivered not two babies but four. Naturally she was upset that everybody had fibbed to her, but after a short while she discovered that she really and truly did “love it once it gets here,” just like the cliché–amazing, isn’t it? (Sorta like shooting an arrow into a wall, drawing a bulls-eye around it, and acting shocked about how accurate the shot was. And yes, that is exactly how all those New Testament prophecies can seem so strangely accurate to those who don’t know how the New Testament got written.) “Casey” also realized that really, deep down, she totally wanted to be a housewife and stay-at-home mom and all that feminism and career stuff was for the birds. The novel ended with “Casey” blissfully happy and wishing that she and “Bill” had gotten started on the babymaking years earlier.
I was naive enough to read Darcy’s novel at her request as an editing exercise; I had no idea what it was about before turning the first page. To say I was beyond appalled when the storyline finally sank in would be an understatement. It was like she’d tidily rearranged my entire life to punish me with something that I’d frankly consider to be a fate worse than death, and used her power as the author of the story to force me–a very real person, someone she personally knew quite well–into a storyline that I hadn’t consented to star in, and forced me to endure virtual violations of my body and mind that I’d never have tolerated in reality. And in her universe, she could force me to be happy about it all, eventually.
She never understood why I was offended and creeped out, which is why we didn’t maintain a friendship afterwards. Not only had she gone to the trouble of writing an entire novel about pushing me into boxes I knew I’d hate, but since her inspiration were Christian glurge stories and urban legends, she didn’t see why I was so upset when I “knew” that this stuff really happened all the time, like, OMG. Every time I saw her after giving her back her awful novel (which wasn’t even good on a technical level, as if you needed me to clarify that point), I had this awful feeling like she was thinking about how wonderful it’d be if I just had a totally unexpected pregnancy, like that’s all I needed to calm my tits down and get into line. My entire church had the same opinion about young women, that they just needed a few babies to deal with and that’d settle them down tout suite, and moreover that it wasn’t a question of if but when this joyous event occurred, but Darcy didn’t actually belong to my church; she was an evangelical from another denomination, one that allowed female preachers and didn’t go for “holiness standards” of dress and hair. Hell, most of the people in that denomination thought I was crazy for staying in something as outright and obviously sexist as Pentecostalism.
Because Darcy belonged to a denomination that didn’t normally treat women the way she’d treated “Casey,” at first this drafted novel felt like it was an assault coming out of left field. But I don’t think any part of this story was accidental, in retrospect. I knew she was crushing on my then-husband (most of our female friends were) and was peeved that I was resisting Biff’s efforts to convince me to be a proper little Christian wife, so maybe that’s why the way she treated her “Casey” character seemed so hostile and cruel.
God’s Not Dead reminds me of Darcy’s novel. Here’s why, on the next page: