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.
Ted and Gayle Haggard per google images