Outcasts—our theme this week—continues with today’s recommendations of two documentaries about the infamous Bakker family. If you’re just joining us, our centerpiece this week is our interview with Jay Bakker on “Falling to Grace.” We also reported on a new biography of the late poet Joseph Brodsky.
The Bakker story is all about television—so we asked Jay Bakker to help us recommend a couple of DVDs that truly capture his family’s saga. We previewed both and share in these recommendations—plus we back up the opinions with a sampling of other critics. Enjoy!
REVIEW OF “THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE” (2000)
Jay Bakker tells us: “I enjoy this film quite a bit. I was surprised by how close they got to telling the story accurately. When they started making this, I was used to seeing all the facts about my family messed up, so I was pleasantly surprised by the accuracy in the final film. Originally, I had told Mom not to do this film—but it turned out pretty beautiful. You get a good, honest look at my family.”
ReadTheSpirit says: Tammy Faye Bakker Messner died in 2007, so she can’t speak for herself anymore. In this documentary, however, she speaks and sings and performs in a wide range of clips and interview settings—larger than life, as always. In her prime, Tammy Faye was fun and this film is fun, too. Historically, it’s worth trying to understand Tammy Faye’s early support for inclusion. Why was she so open? Now, through Jay Bakker’s new book—and strong support from gay advocates—Tammy Faye is lifted up as a pioneer among famous evangelicals. Watch this DVD and you’ll understand more about that seemingly strange connection.
What other critics said: The national gay journal, The Advocate, recommends this documentary. But, the biggest “thumbs up” comes from Chicago’s Roger Ebert, who proudly admits he was always a Tammy Faye fan. Here’s a key paragraph from Ebert’s original review of the film: When Jim and Tammy were on the air in the 1980s, I confess to watching them, not because I was saved, but because I was fascinated. They were like two little puppets themselves—Howdy Doody and Betty Boop made flesh. Tammy Faye cried on nearly every show and sang with the force of a Brenda Lee, and when she’d do her famous version of “We’re Blest,” yes, dear reader, I would sing along with her.
You can order The Eyes of Tammy Faye on DVD from Amazon at a discount.
REVIEW OF “ONE PUNK UNDER GOD” (2006)
Jay Bakker says: “One Punk Under God represents a time of giant transition in my life. My Mom died shortly after it was finished. I was starting to take my stand for LGBT folks at that time, just making it clear to people and it cost me to do that. The series captures that whole transition in my life. I’ve only seen it once because I don’t like to watch myself on the screen. But I do think it’s a great video to watch if you’re someone going through big transitions like this and you want to see what happened as I dealt with all these life issues.”
ReadTheSpirit says: If you’re curious about this whole strange-sounding saga of Jay Bakker, then you’ll enjoy the six episodes of this reality-TV series produced for the Sundance Channel. The filmmakers, who earlier produced “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” caught Jay in the midst of monumental changes. If you’re in an evangelical church yourself, right now, and you’re contemplating going public with support for inclusive theology—watch what happens to Jay in these six episode. He certainly takes his lumps! Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker both appear in the series, although their scenes are poignant because Tammy Faye was near death. She died a year later. And, Jim is a toubled figure as he tries to reconcile with his own past—as well as his son.
What other critics said: The Advocate recommends “One Punk” because it shows the tough challenges Jay Bakker went through as he made big “changes, set against his mother’s valiant struggle with cancer and his complicated relationship with his father.” The Washington Post said “One Punk” was “promising” as a series: “Bakker the Younger would seem to be a promising reality-show subject.” The New York Times wrote: “When Jay takes the stage at the bar that is his pulpit, preaching mostly forgiveness and openness, he seems able to persuade a crowd of body-modifiers to give Christianity another try. He’s all about struggling with his own demons, and knowing he’s imperfect, and believing in God’s love. Who can’t appreciate that???”
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(Originally published at readthespirit.com)