Christian TV: "Bibleman" vs. a New York Jew
Click to viewIn journalist/blogger Daniel Radosh's upcoming Rapture Ready, he investigates the parallel universe of Christian Pop Culture. It's kinda like regular pop culture, except holier and with slightly worse production values. He says the music's not as bad as you think, but from the looks of this EXCLUSIVE VIDEO, the TV is sublimely ridiculous, if a bit, uh, totally offensive. It's from a TV show called Bibleman, which airs on Trinity Broadcasting Network. In this installment, Bibleman takes on a smarmy talk show host named Sammy Davey, who happens to be an embarrassingly exaggerated Jewish stereotype. Sammy Davey—played by a man in a ridiculous Jewfro wig doing an impression of Martin Short doing an impression of Jerry Lewis—totally ambushes Bibleman, the Christian superhero who apparently doesn't fight evil so much as appear on talk shows to explain why bad things happen to good people. (Hint: because New Yorkers are Jews who don't believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ.) The whole thing is basically Randy Newman's "Rednecks" come to life, with Bibleman in the Lester Maddox role. Click through to read an explanatory excerpt from Rapture Ready and to watch the the astounding clip.
If non-Christians have heard of Bibleman at all, it's probably because for the first seven years he was played by Willie Aames. In the 1970s and 80s, Aames was the shaggy-haired co-star of Eight is Enough and Charles in Charge, and his only superpower was snorting three grams of coke a day. Eventually he cleaned up, was born again and took a new job as Bibleman. His episodes are now in perpetual reruns on TBN, and I sat down to watch one.
The show opens with the backstory of our hero, Miles Peterson, "a man who had it all: wealth, status, success. Still, something was missing." That's putting it mildly. I don't know about you, but when I feel that something is missing I usually mope around the house or browse YouTube for videos of cats falling off stuff. Miles, however, goes tearing out into a rainstorm and collapses into a sobbing heap. "Then, in his darkest hour," Miles finds something half buried in the mud: a Bible. Not just any Bible — a radioactive Bible. No, actually it is just any Bible. But apparently that's enough to turn him into Bibleman.
In this episode, Bibleman and his sidekicks, Cypher (the black guy) and Biblegirl (the girl) go up against a villain called Primordius Drool, a mincing green-skinned fop with a lisp and a fondness for show tunes. Subtlety is not Bibleman's strong suit. The same actor also plays a talk show host named Sammy Davey, who is a classic stereotype of a New York Jew, complete with nerdy glasses and a giant Jew-fro. Slouching and cringing, Sammy Davey needles and browbeats poor Bibleman in an accent so thick that he actually pronounces Bibleman as if it were a surname like Silverman or Lieberman.
The heart of the show is the fight sequences, typically involving a darkened warehouse (all the better to obscure the lackluster choreography) and Bibleman swatting away CGI fireballs with his lightsaber while announcing, "Isaiah 54:17 says 'no weapon forged against me will prosper!'" Every now and then, Bibleman shares a lesson with his sidekicks, as when he laments that people "allow their minds to cover up what God has placed on their hearts" — a near perfect pitch for the common evangelical notion that feelings are to be trusted above rational discernment, a belief that many non-evangelicals would be distressed to hear is being passed on to eight-year-olds.