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The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Years from now, when the 1980’s are reduced to a few meager paragraphs in textbooks, only a few names will make the cut. Ronald Reagan and Oliver North will probably be two of them for the infamous Iran-Contra scandal. Ditto Mike Milken and Ivan Boesky for their notorious Wall Street activities. And surely Jim Bakker will also find his way into the history books as a founder of televangelism and a man who fell fast and hard. But where is his partner? The other giants, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Pat Boone are all still standing – Bakker alone when to jail. Of course, there was his loyal wife who seemed to vanish at the end of the turbulent decade and never resurfaced. “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” asks the question: “Whatever happened to Tammy Faye?”

 

Tammy Faye grew up in Small Town, USA as a Christian girl with such strong faith that she claims a finger wart of hers was cured during communion one Sunday. When in college, she met her religious equal and married him within a year. Jim and Tammy Faye Baker would go on to make Pat Robertson who he is, build three Christian television networks and practically create the electronic pulpit.

 

The couple, who became the most popular Christian force in America, redefined how it all worked. Tammy welcomed a homosexual suffering from AIDS on air  something that had previously been taboo in the faith. Together, they gave religious television a new look: no longer would it be super serious and oftentimes boring, rather it would have a carnival like atmosphere. Tammy insists “we believed Christianity should be fun” as she recollects how she sung and used puppets, Jim introduced magicians and clowns, and together they spread their religion over the Praise The Lord Network (a. k. a. “PTL”).

 

Studio: Lions Gate Films

 Release Date: TBD

 Budget: Not Available

 Running Time: 75 Minutes

 Directors: Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato

Producers: Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato

Narrator: RuPaul Charles

 Subject: Tammy Faye Bakker-Messner

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Of course, such an operation wasn’t cheap. They were constantly asking for donations and raising money. The bigger they got, the more expensive their network became. When Jim decided to build a theme park ” one that would be the third largest in the world ” the cost of operation per every two days was $1 million. That’s equivalent to 50,000 $10 pledges a day.

 

Then, in the 1980’s, it all came crashing down. “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” with a clear pro-Tammy bias, pins most of the couple’s problems on Jerry Falwell. Rather than Jim Bakker being at fault for his infamous rendezvous with Jessica Hahn, Jerry Falwell is the troublemaker. It is strongly implied that Falwell leaked word of the affair to the news media and it is stated, by many people, in very clear language, that Falwell maliciously conned the couple out of PTL and then intentionally bankrupt the empire. It is even alleged that he went a step further and insured that Jim and Tammy Faye suffer public humiliation  possibly even framing Jim for the financial irregularities that ultimately led to his being sentenced to 45 years in prison. At one point, the film goes so far as to refer to Falwell as “The Dragon.”

 

Of course, Jerry Falwell allegedly wasn’t alone in sabotaging the couple. The documentary assures us that the trial was biased from the beginning, the press just as slanted and the American people all-too unforgiving.

 

Could it be? Is it just possible that America’s largest religious scandal in memory was actually a sham? Tammy Faye, between many tears and sobbing, denies that either she or Jim ever misplaced a penny. Rather, it is conveyed, that she merely suffers from bad luck and is continuously forced to survive what no person should have to endure. As soon as we learn of her phobia of flying, we see her in a plane that is grounded mid-route because of weather problems. It all strikes a note that belongs in an Alanis Morissette song. Yet, as frustrating as Morissette’s “Ironic” may have been, it was still a very entertaining piece. “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” is no different.