import_contacts Betty Bowers

reviewed by Tom Hartman

Published in Issue No. 41 ~ October, 2000

Betty Bowers might be regarded as a sort of poor relation to Landover Baptist. The schtick here is this: Betty, “America’s Greatest Christian,” embodies a hyperbolic expression of the various evils of the Far Right. (To stick the blade in deeper, her picture reveals her to be a Dustin-Hoffman-in-Tootsie-esque drag queen.)

With each update of her “homepage,” Betty weighs in on such issues as the coming apocalypse, the evils of the Pro-Choice movement, and the correct (i.e. literal) interpretation of the bible – very much the same politico-religious territory covered by Landover. (There is something of a content partnership: Betty’s movie reviews are available through Landover.)

Even more so than Landover Baptist, however, Betty’s musings too often degenerate into potty humor, or worse, plain-and-simple name calling. In the current “Republican National Convention Notebook,” much is made of Barbara Bush’s “fat fingers” and Nancy Regan’s resemblance to a rhesus monkey. Efforts so plainly mean-spirited and uninspired as these will have even the most diehard liberal crying “foul!”

The movie reviews (click on “Hollywood” in the site’s main menu) are the best feature of Betty Bowers. Like a militantly born-again Roger Ebert, Betty inveighs against the overall “Godlessness” of today’s cinema, pointing out subliminal anti-Christian/pro-liberal messages in nearly every scene or bit of dialogue. All of this, Betty’s larger thesis states, is part of an ongoing conspiracy to deliver America’s collective soul into the hands of Satan. Take the following excerpt from Betty’s recent appraisal of Gladiator:

It doesn’t take a cryptographer to unlock the salacious wordplay of the title to this trashy homage to amorality. Of the seven women from Bringing Integrity To Christian Homemakers who attended the screening with me, only one did not immediately pick up on the shockingly lewd subliminal message glaring down on us in twelve-foot letters. As my dear Sister-in-Christ, the 81-year-old Mrs. Helen Floribunda pointed out: “It really takes a sick, sick secular mind to give a movie a title like that just to get a puerile giggle out of good, wholesome Christians going around town saying `Glad He Ate Her.’

At their best, Betty’s reviews are effective send-ups of the right-wing media criticism commonly heard in the Jesse Helms/Jerry Falwell camp. At their worst, they’re good for the odd chuckle, but that’s about it – which is basically the bottom line with both Landover Baptist and Betty Bowers: while the Onion occasionally reaches almost Swiftian heights in its skewering of the contemporary political and social landscape, Landover Baptist and Betty Bowers operate more at the level of post-Eddie-Murphy Saturday Night Live or National Lampoon’s European Vacation: there are some genuine laughs, yes, but also more than enough groaners to make you wonder if it’s all been worthwhile.  

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Tom Hartman has been a regular contributor to Pif since 1999. He lives in Philadelphia.