Tue. Oct 26th, 2021

The Eyes of Tammy Faye, a biopic starring Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield, opened to mixed reviews at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, but is guaranteed to be a conversation starter over the next few months of awards season. The film centers on the Bakkers, the infamous televangelist stars who made millions from their garish brand of prosperity gospel, media-focused Christianity before being revealed as high-level financial scammers. Mostly, however, the narrative focuses on Tammy Faye, the oft-derided preacher’s wife whose frequent crying and very heavy make-up made her the subject of many jokes. In The Eyes of Tammy Faye, she is positioned as a deeply misunderstood woman, an earnest believer of God with utmost commitment to human kindness in ways that put her at odds with the increasingly right-wing evangelicals of her community. It’s an angle that is, at best, only half of the picture, but it’s also exactly the story one would have expected from this film had they been familiar with its source material.

In 2000, the documentary The Eyes of Tammy Faye was released to great acclaim. Directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, the duo who helped to birth the long-running Drag Race franchise, the film was a clear attempt to rehabilitate the image of its beleaguered subject. By 2000, Tammy Faye, now going by the surname Messner, was working to move on from her evangelical life. Her ex-husband, Jim Bakker, had been sent to prison on a 45-year sentence for fraud and conspiracy, but was released after serving only five years. Messner had begun to lean into her image as a camp figure of fun, and The Eyes of Tammy Faye fully cemented that status. If people thought Tammy Faye’s dramatics and aesthetics were prime for camp parodies and drag queen impersonations, the documentary only cemented that fact, all while allowing its subject to be in on her own joke for once. At one point, someone jokes, “She’s a survivor. After the holocaust, there will be roaches, Tammy Faye and Cher.”

By admin