Sunday, July 1, 2007

Hell House

I finally saw the Hell House documentary (yes, I know, it's ancient in the world of blogs) but I was struck by several things as I watched it:
  • There was a tendency to depict victims as sinners. For example, a woman during the "rave scene" was slipped a roofie and then gang raped. Later on, another scene depicts that the same woman was a victim of sexual abuse from her father as a child. It's then that she commits suicide. They later make it clear that this woman is going to hell. But the woman has done nothing wrong -- she has merely been the victim of a number of different kinds of sexual violence. What of the men who drugged and gang raped her? What of her father that took advantage of her as a child? Their fates aren't even addressed.
  • A definite homophobia runs throughout the movie. The Hell House depicts a young gay man dying of AIDS, but the documentary also depicts an early planning meeting where one woman suggests depicting a lesbian picking up another woman in a bar. The director (pastor?) says no to this because he is afraid that two women depicting lesbianism will begin to have feelings for each other.
  • That same leader midway through the movie describes the origins of the Pentecostal church. It began under the rebellion of a black bishop, he said, who wanted to emphasize the relation to the holy spirit, rather than the dry readings, but in 1914 several members of the church were "uncomfortable" with worshiping under a black bishop, so they started their own denomination. Even the modern church had few minorities, and those minorities that were present were happy to play racial stereotypes of the violent gang Mexican, for example.
  • The incident of adultery was depicted with an Internet love affair. God forbid! The Internet is evil ...
  • Something a friend who had seen the movie before me pointed out was that the young women in Hell House competed to be the young woman who had the abortion. (By the way, they call out medicated abortion as the source of the bleeding and death for this young woman, but RU-486 doesn't cause that kind of reaction, especially when taken with the direction of a doctor, so this woman is actually a better example for pro-choice than for anti-choice, since a young woman is more likely to die from an abortion when she is attempting to do so without medical supervision.)
The movie itself was done well, with no editorializing or voiceovers. The director simply lets the people speak for themselves. Even though the movie is a bit outdated, I would recommend people still see it if they haven't already.

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