‘God Forbid’ Review: The Jerry Falwell Jr. Sex Scandal, All Over Again

By | October 29, 2022

In the year The life of Jerry Falwell, who helped transform America’s evangelicals for decades before his death in 2007, is the most important piece of American television history. But it’s in the next generation that Falwell’s narrative becomes at once soap opera and morality tale.

“God Forbid Them: The Sex Scandal That Made Dynasty” is the subject of a feature-length documentary aired on Hulu. It covers the fall from grace of Jerry Falwell Jr., who was appointed president of the family’s conservative Liberty University after his father’s death. There, he seems to have gone on horribly, raving about his appetite. We hear testimonies about his tendency to drink on the job and alleged interviews between him and sympathetic media – but most importantly, we receive the testimony of Giancarlo Granda.

Granda With what can be described as forced. His energy was drained by controlling his temper and occasionally threatening behavior, and he blamed the swirling scandal around them for ruining his future. Outspoken and occasionally emotional, Granda is his own best advocate as he describes the couple who wanted his body and were willing to throw away what was left of him.

This is a sad and sad story; One feels for Granda, who once expressed his own suicidal thoughts. But director Billy Corben’s attempt to connect his conflict with the boomer-generation Falwells to the broader history of evangelicalism in the United States seems stretched at times. Of course, Liberty University has been a key hangout for various Trump-era figures, including the 45th president, and Falwell Jr. was a key early supporter. But the idea that the weight of that dynamic moral, biblically based movement rests behind an ungodly image is, in the first place, a minor point that viewers are already making elsewhere. It also takes more time to shake off its historical underpinnings—the question of how we got here—than “God forbid.”

For Falwell’s patriarch, as widely televised as he was, shown in clips and stills, he’s a fleeting, elusive presence here that simply makes us pay more attention to his complex son. Failing that, Grandan’s isolation is a rare streaming-era documentary that might go a long way in connecting Corbyn to the core heartlessness of the movement that elevated Presidents Reagan and Trump. The “God forbid” signs for political statements are well-intended, but distract from Falwell Jr.’s character study, which seems to use the power of the platform and space to take what he wants until the bill arrives. This is a charged story, and not just because Trump is involved. Indeed, the temptation to make big points about the president, as usual, trumps otherwise robust muckraking.

“God Forbid” premieres on Tuesday, November 1st.

Category: tv

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