What About Becki?
More concerned about Donald Trump than the actual story at hand, documentary about the Falwell sex scandal is missing some key points of view
Given that the Hulu documentary God Forbid: The Sex Scandal That Brought Down a Dynasty tells the tale of the depraved exploits of Jerry and Becki Falwell, it should be a salacious treat. Instead, the bloated production gets too bogged down in its own burning sense of righteousness to bring its subjects to justice.
The only thing better than a sex scandal is a sex scandal involving well-known, supposedly righteous Evangelicals. In the early 1970s, Jerry Falwell Sr. founded Liberty University, which is now one of the largest Christian universities in the world. By the late 1970s, he also started a movement known as the Moral Majority. It was the original mobilizing force that united the country’s right-wing conservative Christians and helped elect Ronald Reagan to save America from its godforsaken ways. Throughout the 80s if a white man appeared on TV blaming something on a social minority of any kind, odds are, it was Falwell or one of his fundamentalist cronies. His work became synonymous with traditional family values, a legacy handed over to his son, Jerry Falwell Jr.
Jerry Falwell Jr. and his wife Becki have one of those great, old-fashioned love stories. They first met when she was thirteen and he was eighteen, but it wasn’t creepy at all because things were different back then. They became an item as soon as she was legal, married soon after, and had three kids. Jerry took over at Liberty University, while Becki presumably held down the household. God Forbid doesn’t bother itself with details about Becki as a human with personal agency; she exists merely as the sex object in the narrative of her family’s downfall.
As the documentary reveals, in 2012, a twenty-year-old pool boy named Giancarlo Granda was flirting with some hotties while working at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach when he noticed an older woman snapping pics of him. Purportedly, she chastised him for wasting time with the young girls, and offered to get to know him if he was cool having her husband watch. Giancarlo’s sister says he told her about the salacious offer, and his intention to follow through at a nearby Days Inn. When she saw a pic of his swinging friends, his sister realized the lady her brother was plowing and the cuck in the corner were American Evangelical royalty. Unbothered by this information, he continued the affair.
Granda proceeded to revel in the perks only hundreds of millions of dollars can buy. He flew around the country on the family’s private jet, relaxed at their home with their children (who were his age), attended family events, and eventually entered into a real estate deal in Miami with Jerry. In between the hobnobbing and jet setting, he and Jerry supposedly tended to Becki’s sexual satiation.
As the relationship progressed, Jerry Falwell Jr.’s concerns became more worldly, as he courted the attentions of Donald Trump, and surprised his Bible-thumping friends by endorsing his candidacy for President. Through the Falwells, Giancarlo met Trump, and it was his lawyer, Michael Cohen, who first questioned the constant presence of this random kid. Eventually, others asked questions too, the business deal unraveled, and a series of events aligned that ultimately led to Jerry Falwell’s preemptive damage control announcement that Becki had engaged in an affair and he totally was not a part of at all.
God Forbid wants to make a feast out of these details, but barely turns them into a snack. There are only a handful of pictures and pieces of actual evidence to present, so strange reenactment actors serve as generically reasonable facsimiles of the main players. Lots of close ups of mouths and bodies remind us that Becki and Jerry have mouths and bodies too. Maybe it’s the best approach available, as there are few actual participants in the documentary. Giancarlo’s sister backs up her brother’s story, but where are any of the other people in his life? Though he may be telling the truth, something about his motives and actions rings false, and the doc never pushes into it to the detriment of the story.
The final third of God Forbid collapses faster than the Falwell empire did. There is little to no reflection about Becki, nor any admission of feelings Giancarlo surely had, or sorrow he might have felt about and for her when her husband readily used her as his human shield. It mentions nothing of the profit Giancarlo’s made by selling their relationship, or that he still seems to run that same hotel the Falwells gave him. Instead, there’s a quick summary of Jerry’s final days at Liberty University, and then way too much footage to remind us of all the worst Orange Man Bad moments, thus indirectly blaming Jerry for it all.
In more skilled hands, God Forbid: The Sex Scandal That Brought Down a Dynasty would show us the waxing and waning of one of our nation’s renowned conservative families, illuminating why and how their actions not only hurt their legacy, but the entire country. Instead, the main takeaway here seems to be that Jerry Falwell Jr. is a jerk, but Donald Trump is an even bigger one; God Forbid’s failure to dig any deeper is truly a sin.