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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Eyes Of Tammy Faye (1999 Documentary/Universal DVD)

The Eyes of Tammy Faye (1999/Universal DVD)

Picture: C+ Sound: C+ Extras: D Main Program/Documentary: B

Is it a documentary, a political film, or just a silly entertainment? The answers are not so simple at first with Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato's hard-to-resist The Eyes of Tammy Faye, a 1999 look at the wild life of a wild person. She gained popularity as Tammy Faye Bakker, then after the scandal that her then-husband Jim brought on the entire PTL ministry, she would remarry as Messner, but just calling her Tammy Faye indicates an iconographical status. But an icon for whom?

With host RuPaul Charles, who fell from grace after crossing the wrong person (Milton Berle) on an MTV awards show (and made a comeback since), serves well as the voice-over host. We never see the cross-dressing icon, but Tammy Faye's wild look is definitely material for persons involved in that school of dress. Of course, Tammy Faye is infamously known for her exaggerated eyebrows and the Gay reading may simply be that she became popular on craziness, scandal, Jesus, and makeup.

That holds water, but as the program goes on, it turns out to be much more savvy than what meets the surface. After covering her biographical origins, it goes into her date with destiny, meeting and falling for Jim Bakker. They launch a Christian TV network through huge support and syndication. They get such good ratings that they become the first to actually have a satellite.

At the time, they start off with Pat Robertson, but they eventually outgrow him (lucky them) and move on to their unprecedented success. When they actually are empathetic enough to support those who suffer AIDS in the 1980s, the Religious Right, Moral Majority, and Neo-Conservatives go into action to destroy them.

Jim turns out to be on the take, and his brief-but-ill-advised encounter with young sexpot Jessica Hahn comes to haunt him nine years later. It is questionable how this happened and to what extent he was set up. Then, when Jim makes the far greater mistake of breaking business laws in the way he ran PTL, he is visited by one of The United States all-time hatchet men/con artist/domestic terrorists. Yes, it’s the Reverend Jerry Falwell!

Falwell, who with Pat Robertson said soon after the atrocities on 9/11/01, that ''God'' allowed the tragedy to happen because the U.S. supported the rights of Women, Gays, and Lesbians. Even the Right Wing in this country had to (alas, temporarily) distance themselves from tweedledee and tweedledum, but we all know how good things can soon come to an end. Falwell pretended to befriend the Bakkers by saying he knew of Jim's troubles and discression, but would ''temporarily'' take over PTL to ''fix'' things. Instead, he went in with his fellow goons and caused the entire empire to implode by tricking obviously naïve Tammy Faye (any court, or person with a brain, could see how easily she could be duped) to write out her benefits on a piece of paper for Falwell so they could be ''preserved'' only to be read allowed on national TV, making her look as money-corrupt as her husband. Note that she did not go to prison.

However, Falwell and company got what they wanted, ruining an organization that was too sympathetic to the kinds of people Falwell's people were literally trying to drive to their graves. Like all forms of Fascism and censorship, any alternate version of the one dominant ideology had to be exterminated and Falwell won. Falwell also knew no one would help these people, including his powerful opponents with money and power who would not waste their time helping the Bakkers. But Tammy Faye went on, whether Falwell liked it or not.

As a result, this work shows her in a favorable-enough light and as somewhat of a victim. The answer is therefore yes to al three questions that opened this review. Though it only runs 78 minutes, this program has gained great value since and will above all be a document about one of the least noted moments of corruption in the U.S. that is up there with Enron, Iran-Contra, BCCI, the 2000 Presidential Election, and the S&L debacle. If the media is so supposedly liberal, why do these major stories continue to be censored? Because of what those scandals imply about the dark side of power.

The 1.33 X 1 full screen image is above average, produced just about entirely on analog videotape, with obviously poorer picture quality form the early PTL footage. Its cheapness seems to oddly fit its subject matter, and Tammy Faye comes across as a Dolly Parton wanna-be from hell. That is good, when it haunts people like Falwell, who ruins her life, then says her ''elevator'' does not go to all floors. This is typical form a woman-hating nut like him, and is further proof of what he really did when he ''helped'' her, as help is the sunny side of control. Too bad Tammy Faye's eyes were blinded by that sun.

The sound is simple, lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo with varying fidelity, when you include the early clips. It is more than adequate to cover the program. Sadly, there are no extras or updates. However, Tammy Faye is still with us. Even if you want to limit your exposure to her, it is ironic that even someone made disposable like her can still be a beacon of light to other hidden truths. The Eyes of Tammy Faye never covers what is going on with mascara, or anything else, which is why everyone needs to see it.

22 years later, we get the dramatic feature film of the same name and you can read more about it at this link:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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