armchair cultural observation since 1995

Beneath the facade, a fragile man

Although Haggard’s work to “save” other homosexual men from their sinful ways has made him an enemy of gay people everywhere, Pelosi’s film strips away the knee-jerk assumptions about him to show us a fragile man trying desperately to keep his life together. More important, his struggle to stay in the good graces of his family and the church hints at the countless dark stories playing out in towns across America today: gay people struggling to beat back their natural urges, and failing, only to find themselves ostracized by their communities.

Even if you condemn Haggard’s choices and question his smiling, “Jesus will deliver me from evil” facade, it’s tough not to feel some sympathy for the man as he places pamphlets for health insurance on doorknobs throughout an Arizona neighborhood or moves boxes out of a U-Haul into a bleak-looking apartment where his nomadic family will be staying for a few months.

-Heather Havrilesky’s review in Salon.com of “The Trials of Ted Haggard.” The documentary makes its debut tonight on HBO.

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