Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Trials of Ted Haggard: HBO's New Documentary

Alexandra Pelosi, an excellent filmmaker/producer, has a new project out entitled, The Trials of Ted Haggard. The first time I became familiar with Ted Haggard's coerced heterosexuality was when I saw Pelosi's 2006 documentary Friends of God. I knew nothing about Ted Haggard or his ministry. I simply relied on my gendering of him and I could tell that something was a bit, well, different about him. He seemed to try a bit too hard when talking about heteronormative settings. I noticed a kind of inherent sadness about him that he seemed to try too hard to hide with the help of religious rhetoric and ubiquitous smiles. And then the 2006 scandal broke out and Haggard was on the first page of every paper in the country.

After Pelosi's Friends of God came out, Haggard was caught up in a sex and meth scandal. Subsequently, Pelosi did another documentary following Haggard's experience after his church of some 30 million followers apparently abandoned him. Now, Haggard identifies as a heterosexual man deeply in love with his wife of 30 years, Gayle.
I don't doubt that he has deep feelings for the woman with whom he had a number of children. What I do doubt is his level of honesty and the kinds of pressures he feels inform it. His pre-being-found-out sermons against homosexuality oozed a kind of affectation that is difficult to ignore. Apparently, it took Haggard TWO years to get right. I cannot cognitively get that phrase: getting right. What does that mean?
One's left-handed and after therapy one becomes dexterous?
Why is the concept of gender such an anxiety-engendering one?

Something very interesting is happening with Haggard, and he is most certainly not alone in this. And what's of interest to me as a gender theorist and person is the strong relevance of gender and mostly importantly gender identity/identification.

Concepts tend to be decoded and embraced with more ease once they are demystified. I believe that. I don't think Haggard has read the Greeks, more specifically Plato. I think he should. And perhaps he and many with similar symptoms with find authenticity and trueness to nature to be the best modus operandi to espouse. Is it easy?
Of course, not.
And that seems to be Pelosi's point as well.
HBO premiered the documentary last week and if you can, do watch it.

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Ted and Gayle Haggard per google images


Tina said...

I saw him on Oprah. I'm not much of an Oprah fan but she had some good questions, like why he associated 'shame' to same sex. This is very sad. Very sad.

Tina said...

I saw him on Oprah. I'm not much of an Oprah fan but she had some good questions, like why he associated 'shame' to same sex. This is very sad. Very sad.

Becca said...

It was painful to watch him and his wife on Larry King.
What is so wrong with accepting one's sexual identity?
Well, maybe his career path wasn't for him better.
Also, why did he have the need to keep talking about the evils of homosexuality? I mean, I get the need to do so but, come on, you're the leader of a gazillion people.... Did he think people wouldn't pay attention to him. Or even better that he would not be found out?
Doesn't the Bible say that your secrets will come out one day? OR was he reading another translation I'm not aware of....

sp said...

scary that people still think like that in todays day and age. its similar to a cult following. ie. if you dont conform to the dominant paradigm you re cast away by the crowd. sad that people still have that sort of mentality.

Sra said...

That's really sad.

I saw a tv documentary about gays in the Mormon church a little while ago, and it featured a gay man married to a straight woman, and they were trying to live a heterosexual life even though they both knew he was gay. They had a couple kids. She said the hardest thing was she wished he wanted to be more affectionate. It's just so unnatural, and I ask myself, Why would either of you want to make happiness so difficult for yourselves?

Perry said...

He says: "Living like this motivates me to go out and learn a living. I really don't want my family to be poor."
Being a pastor was lucrative....?
Maybe that's encouragement enough to keep one in the closet? It's not so easy to be happy just being true to one's self. This was a sad documentary.

Perry said...

Oh, that song at the end of the film is in Moby's album 18, right?

Nila said...

The thing is many people find it easier to adjust to a life of affectation than 'authenticity.' It's just easier.
There are many, many, many, many supposedly hetero folks out there who have chosen a hetero lifestyle. Perhaps to them it's easier to pretend than to just be true to nature. Haggard strikes me as one such a person.

Anonymous said...

-This was posted double.... I know you're picky re: form, so I thought I'd tell you. :)

B.R. said...

-Ah, yes, indeed. Thanks. Took care of it. I started jotting down ideas as I was watching it a few days ago, hence the double copy.
Form remains, indeed, important.

Nicki said...

He seems pretty genuine in his contrition. Bottom line, when you are conditioned to think a certain way it's very, very hard to de-wire one's self.

Amanda said...

I think it is just sad that some still label "homosexuality," or "bisexuality" as sin. It is ludicrous and completely ridiculous. I was hoping that Ted Haggard would have a spiritual revelation and realize that homosexuality is not a sin. Although the whole using "meth" thing cannot be justified.