Jan 11, 2005
As a sixth grader, Hazel Gonzalez was constantly in trouble. A member of two gangs, she was in the principal’s office daily. Known for shooting off her mouth, she was headed toward a future of shooting off guns. “I was always rebelling because I was mad at the world,” Gonzalez explains. “I didn’t come from a ‘Betty Crocker’ family home.”
Purporting to deliver the straight goods on modern sexual interactions, Closer is glossier than last summer’s similarly themed We Don’t Live Here Anymore, and it has a more impressive pedigree—an award-winning director (Mike Nichols), a highly acclaimed British stage play (by Patrick Marber) for its source, and a glamorous cast: Julia Roberts, Clive Owen, Jude Law and Natalie Portman. It has Oscar nominations written all over it. But it contains barely a convincing moment.
It is hard to be moved anymore by films about concentration camps. The grainy images of scarecrow figures; maniacal guards firing pistols on a whim; parents dragged away while children stare—Hollywood has managed to turn such horrors into stock visuals. It has made the unspeakable not only speakable, but almost rote.
By exploring the contradictions between official theologies and the actual behavior of religious communities, sociologists of religion help religious people to view themselves more honestly—a sometimes deflating and even painful process. Such may be our experience in reading W. Bradford Wilcox’s Soft Patriarchs, New Men, perhaps one of the most important studies of American religion to come along in recent decades.