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A documentary look, mostly through the eyes of Tammy Faye Bakker Messner, at her rise and fall as a popular televangelist with husband Jim Bakker. Traces their rise: her teen marriage to Jim; their children's TV show (she was a puppeteer and singer), success founding the 700 Club, co-founding the Trinity Broadcast Network, and starting PTL Network; her nondenominational version of Christianity reaching out to all; and, their building of Heritage USA, a theme park. Things fall apart as money woes mount for Heritage and for Jim, as Tammy takes pills, and as Jerry Falwell takes PTL. Jim goes to prison; she remarries, finds herself alone again, yet remains unsinkable. Written by
Tammy Faye Bakker:
How sad that we as Christians, who are to be the salt of the earth, and we, who are supposed to be able to love everyone, are afraid so badly of an AIDS patient that we will not go up and put our arm around them and tell that that we care.
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We rented this mainly because we like documentaries and this was supposed to be a good one. I was very impressed, and also moved.
I remember not being able to stand the sight of this woman back in the 80's, and being extremely satisfied when the Bakker's empire crumbled very publicly. Maybe I just got sick of hearing about them, and the media did not exactly paint a flattering portrait. I started out this movie feeling pity for Tammy Faye, but began to admire her as it went on. I had no idea she was gay-friendly way before it was fashionable to do so(and even now, I don't think there are too many gay-friendly televangelists), and had no idea she had a TV talk show with an openly gay co-host. Not to make media headlines for being 'daring', either. With many other celebrities, you get the feeling they figured out, "Hmmm, gay men seem to really love me, I think I'll use this and cash in on it". With Tammy it's clear that she is not calculating at all but just a very friendly person with no prejudice.
The movie, narrated by RuPaul, chronicles her life, and gives her side of the story of the scandals. There are interviews with her current and ex-husband, and many of her friends, people she worked with, and biographers. The film includes great archival footage of her early television shows (if you think she has big hair *now*, just wait) to her later ones. The movie is divided up into chapters that are introduced with sock-puppets (this is not as ridiculous as it sounds, though the movie has plenty of humor).
In one scene Tammy confronts a reporter who wrote a very unflattering, and Tammy says untrue, book about the PTL Empire. This and several other scenes are hard to watch (though it's fun to see the reporter stammer when Tammy asks him point blank why he printed lies about her). In another scene I felt like watching through my hands over my eyes, during a point in her life when she was addicted to prescription drugs, we see Tammy sort of wandering off in the middle of a broadcast to remark on the backdrop, pretty whacked out. When I found out the circumstances that led to her doctor prescribing something to calm her down, I wasn't disgusted but more surprised that she wasn't taking every narcotic she could get her hands on at the time.
I remember thinking back in the 80's that anyone who walked around looking like Tammy and carrying herself confidently was out of their mind, or at best, delusional. At some point during the movie- probably a scene where she cheerfully pitches ideas for TV shows to someone probably 20 years younger than her at the USA Network (you get the feeling maybe he won't make fun of her as soon as she's out the door, but it's easy to imagine him having a good laugh with someone he knows later as he tells them about his encounter)- I realized she is just, well, being herself. She knows that her heavy eye makeup is "her trademark", and is proud of it. Let's face it, it takes real guts for this woman just to walk down the street when most people consider her a punchline, a cartoon, a freak, or all three. She is not a stupid woman and knows this, but holds her head up high anyway, and carries herself proudly. How many people would be brave enough to do that?
I never thought I'd say this, but after seeing this, I have a newfound respect for Tammy Faye. If the film-makers intentions were to have people view the subject of their documentary in a different light, then they did an excellent job, and I don't have any complaints about it at all. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about Tammy (even if only out of morbid curiousity, like I did at first) and loves a fascinating, touching documentary. Be sure to wear waterproof mascara when watching it, though.
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