You may think you know how gross Kirk Cameron is, but unless you saw his latest “movie,” Unstoppable, you have no idea. I have no problem with faith. I find materialists who say bullshit like, “Religion? No, thanks. I don’t believe in fairy tales! “ just as annoying and thoughtless as fundamentalist Christians. That said, I’m not a fundamentalist Christian, so I had to answer a lot of stupid questions before I went to Kirk’s showing of Unstoppable at a movie theater in a mall. For example, I wondered, What should I wear to look like an evangelical, so they’re comfortable answering my questions? I couldn’t wear my gay San Francisco garb, so I threw on a shirt that read, “You Need to Be Nicer,” on the front. (It’s actually a Cardigans band tee.)
Spreading the Word, right?
As it turns out, my anxiety was unnecessary, because there wasn’t anyone to interview at the theater. In the huge cinema, I counted 24 people—some of whom left before the event was over.
When the event started, Kirk appeared on the screen. His tight face hadn’t changed much since Growing Pains, and he was at pains to say that the movie had sold out theaters all across “this nation.” (It’s always “this nation” with Kirk and the other prominent evangelicals.) Again and again, the empty theater was reminded that Unstoppable was a success, and that it was being screened again because of high demand.
After Kirk rambled about his “successful” movie, he spoke to Liberty University students with pop musician Mandisa, who sang the pornographically titled “Overcomer.” Then Kirk brought out a Christian wearing an American-flag tie, who had lost his son in Benghazi, a soldier in a wheelchair, and country musician Warren Barfield.
The woman sitting at the end of my row wore a straw hat. She was all alone, but she seemed to feel some sort of communion with the screen. She clapped to the beat, as Mandisa sang. Honestly, the music wasn’t that bad. Mandisa was no worse than vintage Destiny’s Child. Wash out the vocals and add some clattering background noises and you’d get a solid four stars. And, really, what can you say to the dad or the soldier who lost his legs? They made their own decisions in difficult times. There’s no need to take shots at them.
The movie is another story.
Kirk says the movie deals with the “faith wrecking” question of why God lets bad things happen to good people. It’s a question, he claims, that challenged him when a friend’s teenage son, Matthew, died. Cameron promises that the film will be very personal and a journey into his faith. It isn’t.
Unstoppable isn’t a grappling with theological questions, the work of a wistfully faithful person, or a personal journey. As I’m sure you have already guessed, it’s not the work of thoughtful biblical scholarship either. Unstoppable is the full-frontal display of an egomaniac who has somehow found his way into a position of power.
The movie is mostly a bunch of shots of Cameron talking and looking pretty. We see Kirk sitting on the stairs of his porch to show he’s pensive, picking up dirt from the ground and throwing it at the camera to show off his sex appeal, and walking through a field to prove he’s a deep motherfucker. Seriously, the bulk of the movie is Kurt posing and talking about the Bible. Actually, talking “about” the Bible is too generous—Kirk merely repeats what happens in the Bible while frantically expressing how cool the Bible is. All this is interspersed with music video versions of events from the Bible. Emerging from the mud, Adam reveals his huge pecs and undies. Butcher’s meat falls out of his side and becomes Eve. Instead of talking to a snake who urges her to eat the apple, she speaks to a hot dude with a goatee who wears a torn Cats costume. Later, Cain wears a piece of torn underwear on his head as he kills Abel to the beat of a bad rock song. It’s all very 90s.
Despite the fact that these stories have been told for thousands of years and have affected the entire planet, they are under threat from Hollywood—at least according to Kirk. After the cheesy Bible episodes, the film cuts to Kirk pitching the story of Noah to a bunch of Hollywood producers. He wants to show us how hard it is to convince people that God is good although he flooded the Earth. The producers, who are suggestively gay and/or Jewish, don’t get his pitch. They want to make the story fun and exciting, saying that the animals should talk and the dove at the end of the flood should be an eagle.
This scene serves up two pieces of awful at once. First off, there’s this bullshit that people don’t want to hear the truth about the Bible, which is ironic considering Kirk just finished telling us that his movie sold out everywhere—and that's because what Kirk is really saying is that he can’t get hired in Hollywood anymore. But what did he expect to happen? If you talk publicly about how you think gay people are icky and talk with extremists about how bananas disprove evolution, you’ll probably find it hard to get work.
The second problem with this scene is the film’s key issue: Kirk doesn’t just like throwing out Bible quotes—he thinks he wrote the fucking Bible. He presents the story of Noah as if he’s coming up with it, as if it’s his story. Cameron doesn’t just want to spread the good news. He wants to be its author. Seriously, someone should tell KC he isn’t JC. His movie is without original substance except for the scene where he pitches the story.
And that’s when Kirk emerges as the savior. There’s a reenactment (or at least I pray it’s a reenactment) of Matthew’s funeral. Kirk looks into the casket and says something about how we are blessed by events that present a “Matthew-like process.”
By the time the movie ends, we’ve learned nothing. We’ve certainly not approached the question of why God lets bad things happen to good people. Christians already know everything that was shown, and non-Christians aren’t watching. In spite of this, Cameron tells us, “There is only one world.” But it’s painfully evident that there is more than one world, since Kirk Cameron is on another planet than I am.
The tight-knit groups still in the theater left quickly, and there was no chance to speak with anyone. I thought it was a shame; I wanted to know if they were as baffled as me. I wanted to speak to the old woman clapping to the Mandisa beat. In a secular context, that music would have been marketed toward kids. But in an evangelical context, the words and sentiment of the music bridged that gap and brought people together. The students at Liberty could be working with this current of bringing people together, which is a foundation of the Christian message. But instead, whoever really holds power at Liberty has elected an unstoppable, charismatic cult leader named Kirk Cameron to represent them.
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