The Eyes of Tammy Faye (Doc of the Week #4)

Tammy faye

(In view of the Supreme Court’s recent hearings on gay marriage cases, and the recent conversion of several Republican lawmakers in favor of same, I figured it was as good a time as any to re-print my review of one of the earlier unlikely “evolvers” on this issue).

The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Directed by Fenton Bailey & Randy Barbato—2000—80 minutes

Long seen as a figure of ridicule by those who recall her messy mascara meltdowns during her husband Jim Bakker’s infamous trial, televangelism’s first lady comes across surprisingly well in this entertaining revisionist biopic. Tammy Faye Bakker seems every bit the likable, plain-dealing farm girl who was an equal partner with preacher Jim. The couple built up a three-network TV empire based on a showbiz brand of Christianity that was kinder and gentler than that of most of their counterparts (Tammy is seen embracing AIDS patients way back in the early Eighties). But the Bakkers would be done in by personal scandals (remember Jessica Hahn?) and a penchant for living too high on the hog while their gigantic, parishioner-subsidized Heritage USA theme park was tanking.

The directors have a sharp eye for the snarky appeal of this subject matter, but in the end they ease up on eyeliner discussions and zero in on the dogged perseverance of an open-hearted woman who apparently received a lot more negative publicity than she ever deserved. “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” became a huge hit among homosexual men, and towards the end of her life she declared herself to be in favor of same-sex marriage and made many appearances at Gay Pride events. It’s ironic, given her fundamentalist background, that Tammy became a gay documentary icon almost in a league with Little Edie from David and Albert Maysles’ “Grey Gardens.”

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