The tears and cheese of Glenn Beck
Sitting through the conservative firebrand’s very expensive live movie
Tue, Dec 8, 2009 (8:15 p.m.)
One ticket for the live Glenn Beck movie,” I said.
“Twenty dollars,” the girl behind the glass replied.
“One ticket,” I repeated, thinking the girl must have misheard me.
“Twenty dollars is how much one ticket costs,” she said.
I frowned, gave her my credit card, walked into the Regal Village Square multiplex, found theater No. 9 and took a seat next to a married couple named Chris and Christina. They told me that they watch The Glenn Beck Program, that they read Beck’s book Common Sense and that they “went through parts of” Beck’s latest book, Arguing with Idiots.
“Did you guys know tickets were going to be 20 bucks?” I asked.
Chris said he didn’t, and then he frowned, too.
I met a second married couple, Art and Debbie, who told me that they also watch Beck’s show. Every single day.
“I like that he encourages people to do outside research into what’s really going on in the world,” Debbie said. “I like that he teaches people how they can protect their liberties and freedoms.”
“So where do you, personally, go to do your outside research?” I asked
“Random Internet sites,” she replied, demurring and adding, “I should probably do more…”
Fifteen minutes before showtime, with the theater lights still on, Beck appeared on screen and welcomed everybody to the show via pre-taped message. He was sitting before a bookshelf filled with books, and every last one of ’em was The Christmas Sweater, by Glenn Beck.
Cut to a shot of a theater stage on which a choir of children sang Christmas songs. Maybe two of the 20 kids were white. Contrast that with the people at Regal Village Square; everybody sitting in the theater was white*.
The choir finished and the announcer said, “Ladies and gentlemen: Glenn Beck.” One woman applauded, another woman waved at the movie screen.
Within minutes of the live broadcast, Beck is crying. He’s recalling the time he had to do his Christmas shopping at the drugstore. His life was ruined and he thought about “ending it all”… but then he came across a quote from Jefferson and everything turned out okay.
Cut to a “brand-new, remastered” presentation of Beck’s one-man performance of The Christmas Sweater (by Glenn Beck), taped in 2008.
The Christmas Sweater is the story the story of a young boy named Eddie, who receives a handmade sweater for Christmas and bitches about how scratchy it is. But when Eddie’s mom, dies, well, suddenly the sweater she made him isn’t such a crappy gift anymore. Long story short: The whole thing was a dream. Eddie’s mother didn’t actually die. And when Eddie wakes the following morning and realizes this much, he thanks his mother profusely for her thoughtful gift. And he discovers the true meaning of Christmas: It’s about second chances.
The story is cheesy but the performance is solid. Beck’s penchant for gliding from emotion to emotion works perfectly for the one-man show format, and his innate childishness lends itself to his performance as the 10-year-old protagonist.
Cut back to Beck live, standing in front of the projection screen. “This is the first time I’ve watched that,” Beck says, and then, within a minute, he’s crying again. And so are a lot of the people sitting around me.
Beck holds a live discussion about the replayed movie with four people whose lives have all been touched by the publication of The Christmas Sweater: a car accident victim, a drug addict, a second drug addict and a breast-cancer survivor. At the end of the discussion, Beck shakes their hands. Now, anybody who watches daytime television knows that a hug would have been a more standard parting gesture in this instance, so you have to give Beck credit for resisting the conventional display of fake affiliation.
After the show, I was about to ask Debbie and Art what they thought of it, but before I could get my question out, Debbie asked me one of her own:
“What did you take from the movie?” she wanted to know.
“I took that Beck is a great performer. He’s like the Baryshnikov of emotions.”
Debbie looked disappointed.
“Were you asking me something deeper?” I asked.
“Yes; what did you take from the movie?”
“Not much. Maybe I couldn’t get past all the clichés or maybe I don’t let stuff get to me when I have my journalist hat on … or maybe I’m just a humbug.”
Before I leave the theater, Chris and Christina tracked me down.
“One important thing for your story,” Chris said.
“When you asked if I knew tickets were going to cost 20 bucks, you probably saw that I was frustrated. Well, after seeing that, I feel like I got my money’s worth.”
Surprisingly, I did too.
* Five minutes before show time, however, an elderly Asian couple walked into the theater, and two minutes after that, right before the feature presentation began, an Asian man in his 30s or 40s, wearing a Danny Zuko jacket, also entered.