The Distancer: Wednesday, July 29, 2020

DAY 139: Saved!

A happy Hump Day to all!

Someone missed the memo before clearing Lafayette Square

Before I go any further, I have to own up to something. I forgot to mention one of the biggest selling points for yesterday’s recommendation, Yes, God, Yes: it features Veep’s own Jon H. Ryan as a randy priest! What’s not to love?!

Anyways, on with the show! Found this a thought-provoking read from The New York Times today about how the fitness industry is responding to this summer’s movement for racial justice. It’s worth looking at how people are reimagining their roles and institutions because perhaps it will open our own minds to seeing how we can do the same in our own lives.

A bit of random joy/the news is just Mad Libs now: Dame Judi Dench herself has said that joining TikTok during quarantine “saved my life.” (Sadly, it was too late to save Cats…)

And, finally, thanks to the generous contribution of a reader last night … I have now hit my $1,000 corporate match to racial justice organizations! Thanks to all who donated and/or tolerated this section of the newsletter. This now means that I’m going to have to start getting more inventive on the charitable portion of The Distancer, so if you have any tips of charities/GoFundMe pages/any kind of support mechanism, please send them my way! I sadly fear that Congressional inaction will soon leave us with no shortage of people in dire need; according to Bloomberg News, almost 30 million Americans didn’t have enough to eat last week.

Now, what you came for…

DAY 139: Saved! (available on Amazon Prime)

Apropos of nothing, I’ve been feeling like a bit of a moviewatching yenta these past few days and recommending consecutive picks that I think would make for great double features. Just as My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Meet the Patels pair nicely, so would Yes, God, Yes with 2004’s Saved!, another holy — I’m sorry, wholly — entertaining high-school comedy set in a conservative religious milieu.

Brian Dannelly’s film paints a vibrant picture of early-aughts Christian school through a full ensemble cast, though largely centered around the whiplash experienced by Jena Malone’s ironically named Mary. When the movie starts, she’s living what most in her community would consider a model lifestyle: running with the godly girl group headed up by peak GCB Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore) and dating the handsome stud Dean. That ideal turns out to be a mirage once her boyfriend reveals his homosexuality and a tight-knit circle near Dean tasks Mary with what they see as a sacred charge of turning him straight. Despite her good intentions in sleeping with him, she gets the worst of both worlds — Dean gets shipped away and Mary gets pregnant with his child.

Even before her pregnancy becomes evident, Mary goes from becoming a quiet savior to her school’s pariah. The hypocrisy of supporting her as a vessel to change a man only to abandon her when doing that very thing comes with a consequence begins to reshuffle her high school experience. She begins to gravitate towards the school’s burnouts, rebellious Jewish student Cassandra and sardonic wheelchair-bound Roland (Macaulay Culkin). Not unlike my beloved Easy A, this is a movie that cuts against the grain of high school movies that so often follow the journey of an individual joining a group. Saved! understands a different and no less valid kind of adolescent experience: isolation and the constructive self-reflection that stems from feeling ostracized.

Saved! is more a product of the time that Karen Maine reflects through a somewhat loving glance in Yes, God, Yes, so the edges are a bit rougher and more jagged. It’s not critically reflecting a reality so much as it’s accepting and presenting one with some key exaggerations and distortions. (I won’t lie, I did find it a little jarring how casually the film deals with a practice as abhorrent as gay conversion therapy … at a time when a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay people from getting married was being used to whip up political support, no less!) Dannelly has a satirical edge to his humor, and the aftertaste of the film does contain more than a trace of bile. But there’s a real sweetness and sincerity to the film, too. It’s worth engaging with Saved! on a more serious level around Dannelly’s ideas about who plays the role of upright religious people in a community … and who actually embodies the values they espouse.

Be good to yourselves and to each other,

See past recommendations