Keeping with Monday's religious theme, here's a recommendation that you check out Louis Theroux's latest Westboro Baptist Church doc, America's Most Hated Family in Crisis, which recently on the BBC. Watch while it's still up on YouTube in its entirety (that is, if you haven't already). It's so brilliant and more hilarious than you probably expect. More than ever, the WBC is a carnival freak show. Its entire angle for attention is exploiting how its members' beliefs differ from the rest of the world, while said members piss on the very idea of diversity. They seem simultaneously hyper-aware of what they're doing, and clueless of its ridiculousness. For this reason (and also because of their several Weird Al-esque reinterpretations of Lady Gaga songs), the WBC have crossed over from outwardly threatening to campy. They have jumped the Sinai.
America's Most Hated Family in Crisis is embedded below, with a few additional thoughts a bit further down...
First of all, the Gaga stuff is all amazing (see Shirley Phelps-Roper bust out the WBC twist on "Telephone" at around 5:00 in Video No. 2). It doesn't make sense to me that the work of a hell-bound fag-enabler can be converted into something holy, and that is why I love it. The WBC studied Gaga, like aspiring little-girl (and -boy) dancers in their rooms after school. (See later when several of the church's young girls line up to perform the "Telephone" video choreography.) They've spent more time with Gaga's work than even I have and I'm gay. They love it. I love them (not really...but sometimes it sure feels that way).
Amid the pink caves in Jordan and bitch burgers and compulsive use of the phrase "if the Lord tarried..." and nauseating anti-Semitism, there is a certain logic to their intolerance. To invest utmost belief in a fundamentalist religion is to consciously reject all others. Any less than that is less that true faith. At best, you can wave to the doomed from above. Of course, who has dibs on righteousness is purely subjective, and that's the problem with religions claiming to have all the answers (and most of them do): they work in theory but not in practice. In the case of the WBC, impracticality of the church's dogma trickles down into the congregation's behavior. As Theroux notes, they renounce basic human emotion so much of the time, and if you're feeling something, isn't it God that's making you feel that way? So much of the time, the behavior we see in the documentary amounts to reasoned nonsense -- that's why they promote something as contradictory as repulsive evangelism.
Who the hell wants to jump on board to be screamed at or punished by the Westboro Baptist Church's jealous God (who obviously has way too much time on his hands if he's micromanaging our emotions by picking people off one by one to prove a point)? "I didn't make her upset, the word of God made her upset," explains convert Steve Drain toward the end of the film, after he's had a verbal altercation with someone he offended. Who wants to sign up to be upset? The WBC's "love" is abusive -- and that's really what keeps them from being a non-stop, fun-time circus. (It goes without explanation that the funeral picketing is disgusting, too.) I wasn't offended watching the really young kids in this doc spew hatred -- I was saddened. They have even less of an idea what they're talking about than the wilfully ignorant adults, and you can detect their childhood struggling against the weight of their family's negativity, as they attempt to explain what's been ingrained. I'm inclined to believe the abuse allegations from Fred Phelps' estranged son Nate, but even without first-hand proof, there's clearly a fucked-up cycle going on here. An outsider with any sense can be disgusted or morbidly fascinated by these weirdos (except maybe that gay Asian dude from San Francisco, but I'm not sure he actually has sense), but the kids born into this toxicity have little choice until much later. For at least some period of time, they are doomed.