Review: “The Trials Of Ted Haggard”
January 22nd, 2009
What’s this, a new author? If you take a look at the left side of this page you’ll see there are three authors listed here at BTB. As a former patient of ex-gay therapist and NARTH founder Joe Nicolosi my specialty is ex-gay issues and video projects documenting ex-gay harm.
I admit I’d grown sick of following Haggard’s most recent media circus when a screener of Alexandra Pelosi’s upcoming documentary fell into my lap so I didn’t have a clue what to expect from it. First let me tell you what the film is not about — it’s not about the initial breaking of scandal in Colorado Springs nor is it about Ted’s ex-gay therapy sessions. Rather it’s about Ted trying to put his his life and the life of his family back together after being banished from Colorado and the effects of his cripplingly harsh severance agreement. This agreement dictated he may never work in any form of ministry or reside in the state of Colorado ever again (the Colorado restriction is dropped after a year). Additionally Ted’s presumably vast Christian social network had largely abandoned him leading Pelosi to ask (while holding the camera at Ted) “Where have all your friends gone?” I found that question so shockingly harsh I let out an audible gasp in sympathy.
That’s very much what this film is about, feeling sympathetic for Ted because of the way his former friends and church have abandoned him. Viewers see the Haggard family move repeatedly between Phoenix area motels and “safe houses,” trying unsuccessfully to put their lives back together. We see Ted try and secure steady employment, and failing at that, take out a loan against their home back in The Springs.
I’m listing all the ways the film makes you sympathize with Ted, but don’t worry about Pelosi presenting it in an overly sentimental way. The film’s very raison d’être is to look at Ted’s unglamorous new life in Arizona and give him a fair chance to tell his side of the story. Of note is Ted’s explanation that he never claimed to be “completely heterosexual” after three weeks of therapy, a claim which he says originated with a member of his “restoration team.” Also of note are a couple of very brief interviews with his wife, which are some of the most profound and telling scenes in the entire film. With those two exceptions the film focuses far more on Ted’s alienation from his old social networks than what’s going on in ex-gay therapy or his marriage.
Pelosi does an excelent job shooting compelling footage to illustrate how far the Haggard family has fallen and how much of a trial their lives have become. She pulls no punches with her questions for Ted, who answers them with the most genuine thought and emotion of any of his public statements since the scandal broke.
I still have a great deal of criticism for Ted and personally would liked to have seen Pelosi focus on other aspects of his life and behavior, but as I’ve made it pretty clear this film is about the trials which Ted Haggard’s family endured after being banished to Arizona. For succeeding in that I absolutely recommend spending 41 minutes of your life watching this film and possibly feeling human emotion for someone you’d previously felt nothing but loathing and disdain for.
“The Trials Of Ted Haggard” premiers on HBO January 29th at 8pm “HBO East” and 11pm “HBO West” with multiple re-broadcasts (all times Eastern). View a full schedule here.