I don’t know shit about Jesus. I was raised atheist in NJ and the only “thumpers” I encountered were animated and in Disney films. I do not, however, live under a rock, and word on the street is Southern Baptists don’t like fags. Now the afore-linked-to website is one extreme example of extreme Christianity being extremely lame, but it’s often what most of us (non-Christian queer folk) think of when we hear the word “Baptist,” Southern or otherwise. Thankfully, writer/director/producer Stephen Cone’s 2011 film, The Wise Kids shows a different, softer side to the faith.
The film is about three, Baptist BFFs in South Carolina, on the verge of adulthood/high school graduation – one of whom happens to be dealing with is sexuality (read: gay). I almost gave this film the SCARED STRAIGHTS label (reserved for films whose gay plot lines serve to give street(meat)-cred to an otherwise heterosexual film), but then thought twice. In interviews, Cone himself even marvels at the inclusion of this film in gay film festivals, citing his use of a gay storyline as a simple representation of stories he’d encountered in his own Southern Baptist upbringing. However, I felt that the gay characters (there’s one more, but I won’t tell you who! it’s a surprise!!) are critically required for the successful balance of the film’s humble musing tendency and its larger socio-critical exposé nature. Surprisingly enough to this Yankweer, not all people who come out in the South get beat up and shunned from their churches. News to me.