Remember the '80s? Remember the bevy of televangelist scandals that besmirched the name of Christianity? Well, here's an excellent documentary about one of the people involved in the most infamous of those scandals, Tammy Faye Bakker. She's cleaned up her act, though she'll never give up her mascara, and Judge Patrick Naugle rules in her favor.
God + Mascara = Tammy Faye.
In the 1980s, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker were to Christian TV what "Seinfeld" was the to the secular audience in the 1990s. Parlaying a vast television ministry with the station PTL (Praise The Lord), The Bakkers were the first family of televangelism TV. But in the late '80s it all came crashing down around them with scandal, heartbreak and jail. A hit at the Sundance Film Festival in 2000, Universal now presents on DVD The Eyes Of Tammy Faye, a documentary about Tammy Faye…mother, wife, Christian, and mascara queen.
Facts of the Case
The Eyes Of Tammy Faye is a fascinating look at one of the media's most bizarre and interesting figures. Starting with her childhood, The Eyes Of Tammy Faye documents Tammy's rise and fall in front and behind the camera. Interwoven are interviews with prominent figures from her past, including ex-husband Jim Bakker, new husband Roe Messner, and talk show co-host Jim J. Bullock. Mixing in rare TV footage, interviews with Tammy herself and narrated by RuPaul, The Eyes Of Tammy Faye is great fun even if you don't believe in an everlasting life.
The Eyes Of Tammy Faye is certainly not something I would have rushed out to see or rent. However, like the "Star Trek" fan documentary Trekkies, The Eyes Of Tammy Faye draws you in after just a few minutes of watching it. Roger Ebert sums it up when he said "You might be surprised how much you like Tammy Faye Bakker!" I was never very aware of who Tammy Faye was. I had known (mostly through Church Lady "Saturday Night Live" sketches) that she and her husband Jim had been scandalized by shady money deals and illicit affairs. What I didn't know was what Tammy Faye was all about. If we can take what this documentary shows as proof, Tammy Faye is more than just the poster child for Avon; she is someone who stands strong in her convictions and her faith. There are two things that Tammy Faye won't give up: Her love of God and her mascara (as she tells it "I just wouldn't be Tammy Faye without either").
Surprisingly, The Eyes Of Tammy Faye is a moving and inspirational film about loss, faith and the power of optimism. Tammy Faye certainly has been though a lot in her life. She has battled cancer, been publicly scrutinized, and had family problems in the vein of "Jerry Springer" guests. It's been a mostly uphill battle for poor Tammy Faye, but through it all she has kept her chin up and her foundation heavy.
Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye were head of one of the most popular and successful Christian stations ever. Each week Bakker was forced to raise over $1 million to keep his ministry running, including "Heritage U.S.A.," a 500 room hotel, water park, and meeting facility that, after Disneyland and Disneyworld, was once the most-visited theme park in the nation.
But after a struggle with drugs, sex, and money, it all came crashing down on the Bakkers. Though Tammy Faye was innocent, in the public eyes she was guilty by association as her husband was courted off to jail for a 45-year sentence. After a few years the Bakkers were divorced and Tammy Faye remarried to a man who would also eventually end up in prison. She's certainly not doing well with her pick of men in life.
As I watched The Eyes Of Tammy Faye I found myself admiring Tammy. Yes, in all honestly she is a bit of a dingbat (and Tammy, I really do mean that in the best possible way), but she is also a very caring person, striving to keep her dignity and sanity in a world that often times mocks her faith. Pat Boone may have said it best; when interviewed he notes, "It's so often true that Christians are one army that kills their wounded. We don't try to nurse them back to health. I don't know of any woman of our time that has been so put down and so maligned." For me there is much truth in what Boone says. The Bible speaks of forgiveness and redemption, yet many Christians lack this understanding. They judge in a harsh light and often close the door to reconciliation for the fallen. Instead of giving new chances, they play God on their own. Poor Tammy Faye was one of these fallen. It was tough for her to get back into TV ministry, and even admits to liking secular television more (probably because you can be a slime ball or an angel and people will still like you). She hosted a talk show with openly gay/HIV-positive actor Jim J. Bullock (of "Too Close For Comfort" fame). How funny…while her "comrades" like Jerry Falwell wage war on the homosexual community, Tammy Faye is stretching her arms wide open to embrace them, citing intelligently, "We're all made of the same dirt." Even those that aren't Christian sometimes lose that perspective. Tammy Faye has not.
Overall The Eyes Of Tammy Faye is an in-depth look at a lady who is not without her faults. She does seem a bit over the top at times, and acts in ways that have lent themselves to mockery and self-destruction. But who among us can't say the same thing? Those who judge Tammy Faye must look at their own lives…just because you're not in the public eye, does that make you any better?
The Eyes Of Tammy Faye is presented in 1.33:1 full frame and looks…well, like a typical documentary. Much of the footage for The Eyes Of Tammy Faye is old and from early Christian broadcasts in the '70s and '80s. Other interviews were shot on camera or done by hand-held video cameras. Obviously, The Eyes Of Tammy Faye is not the type of film that will make grand us of your DVD player. I assume that the fill frame aspect ratio is how this was originally shot, so no complaints here. Besides, when I am going to watch a documentary, striking, bold picture quality is not the first thing I look for (though it is a nice touch). Audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 and sounds fine for what the medium is (a documentary). Often times the sound is muddled because of old source material, but once again this is to be expected. The interviews are crisp and clear and sound well mixed.
Disappointingly, there is only one extra to be found on this disc, and that's the original theatrical trailer presented in full frame as well. As a side note, I find it weird that this film was rated PG-13. I assume that most kids under the age or 16 won't be interested, but I really didn't find anything inclusive that would warrant anything over a PG rating. Then again, I don't have kids and own the film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, so what do I know.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
At almost an hour and a half, The Eyes Of Tammy Faye does tend to get a little long in spots. Overall I can't do much complaining. As a renter this will make a fun and informative night for you and your loved ones. As an owned disc, this may not be something you'll need in your collection.
For the price of around $19.99-$24.99, I can't really advise anyone to pick this up as a keeper disc. The lack of extras on it is a real disappointment, and the quality (though a documentary) is somewhat poor. But it's still a good film to watch for a little down home inspiration, a few chuckles, and RuPaul's narration…
Tammy Faye, you go girl!
Innocent…and insert your own Jim Bakker joke here.
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Scales of Justice
• Theatrical Trailer
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