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Case Number 18794: Small Claims Court

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Fish Out Of Water

First Run Features // 2009 // 60 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis (Retired) // April 28th, 2010

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All Rise...

Judge Daryl Loomis likes fish best when it's out of the water and into some cream sauce.

The Charge

What does The Bible really say about being gay?

The Case

In general, we can trace the hatred and fear of homosexuality back to religious instruction. It is in the churches where being gay is an abomination and young people are told that their very lives are sin. People the world over argue that The Bible bans homosexuality. They will even quote a few verses as evidence, but is the Good News actually so bad for homosexuals? This was the question Ky Dickens was compelled to ask after she came out to her sorority sisters and found nothing but condemnation. Her story is far from isolated. Within religious institutions, the LGBT community faces harassment that ranges from simple dirty looks to the threat of violence. If church-goers are so committed to loving their neighbors as they do themselves, how can homosexuals be excluded? Can The Bible truly condone such bigotry?

Dickens explores this question in Fish Out of Water by examining the seven Bible verses most commonly used to justify the discrimination of homosexuals. In this hour-long documentary, she presents each verse and follows it with commentary from religious experts and relevant testimonials from members of the LGBT community. It is a nicely-balanced piece that respects both sides of the issue, at least so long as the speaker remains reasonable. Dickens keeps the tone light with her agreeable narration and cutesy drawings that illustrate the verse in question. Breezy as it is, Dickens has an agenda and she stays on track. Her points are clear and she never makes the gay community out as victims. The testimonials tell some pretty sad stories, but she doesn't use them to elicit sympathy. Instead, these stories drive home the absurdity of the discrimination. With their emotional words and the evidence that the theologians present, the discrimination seems silly. All that the LGBT community desires is to fulfill a natural, normal spiritual need; yet they are obstructed by old prejudices and spurious biblical interpretation.

Adam and Eve, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Hebrew laws of Leviticus, and a few of Paul's letters make up the greater bulk of the evidence used to label homosexuality as an abomination. By looking at context and translation, Dickens wholly defeats each premise; showing that none of them hold water today and most are simply convenient reinterpretations of The Bible. For my money, the most important refutation is the Leviticus verses, where it is directly stated that a man should not lie with another man. Where most of the good book revolves around storytelling, Leviticus is an antiquated law text. In this book are the still-practiced kosher laws, but there are otherwise very few verses still followed today. This is the same book that advocates bashing babies' heads against rocks, quarantining women who are on their periods, and plucking out the eyeballs of peepers. We don't go for these laws, but the laws against homosexuality are somehow different. With the help of her experts, Dickens systematically shows each Biblical argument to be a gross misinterpretation of translation and history. Aside from a single crackpot, who conflates homosexuality and Judaism, all of the comments are reasonable and the experts concur with her interpretation on most points. Whether they agree or disagree with homosexuality as a lifestyle, they know that The Bible does not stand for discrimination.

Because Dickens focuses so sharply on the theological aspects, she doesn't ask the most essential question. Dickens is right when she says that there is no legitimate biblical foundation for this homosexual abomination. If that is indeed true, what do we make of the epidemic of bigotry that infects our religious communities? The threat of population decrease has long since gone away. The idea of the homosexual as an inherent deviant is patently wrong and offensive, so that can't be it. There is certainly the issue of generational prejudice, the same kind of scourge that has followed African-Americans from emancipation through to today. That doesn't quite satisfy, either; there seems to be something different at work. There is no easy answer to this question, but I wish the director had spent time exploring it. Fish Out of Water is a good documentary with an excellent message, but those who need to see the film most can easily dismiss her arguments with the same willful ignorance that causes the discrimination in the first place. Since it only clocks in at an hour, it seems there could have been time for a little bit of modern cultural context would have made a slightly stronger argument. Nevertheless, Dickens makes the most of the hour that she gives us. Fish Out of Water is an intelligent, entertaining, must-see piece.

First Run Features presents an adequate release for Fish Out of Water; solid, but nothing special. The full frame transfer makes the low-budget video look as good as possible, with a sharp image and accurate colors. The sound is a basic stereo mix; clear all the way though with easily heard dialog. For extras, we have about twenty minutes of additional testimonials, a text-based study guide, and some comments from the director; a standard plate of supplements from First Run.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 86

Perp Profile

Studio: First Run Features
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 60 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary
• Gay
• Independent
• Religious and Spiritual

Distinguishing Marks

• Director's Comments
• Bonus Footage
• Study Guide


• IMDb
• Official Site

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