Exploiting the Archives Week: Control Nathan Rabin! Christian Mingle
Nathan Rabin's Happy Place (or rather, Nathan Rabin) is taking the week between Christmas and New Year's Off to prevent him from going insane (seriously, dude is on the edge! Writing about himself in the third person and everything). So the next week will be Exploiting the Archives week, where we'll be running some of our favorite pieces from the year that was.
Control Nathan Rabin is a column where Nathan Rabin has to watch and write about a movie Patreon donors have chosen. First up: Christian Mingle, which patrons chose over Saving Christmas 73 to 37
For the very first edition of “Control Nathan Rabin” I gave you kind, sadistic souls an opportunity to force me to watch, and then write about, either Christian Mingle or Saving Christmas. You decided to punish me with Christian Mingle. I was morbidly fascinated by both films, but Saving Christmas’ reported intense materialism (for was it not Jesus who famously commanded, “Blessed are the consumers, for truly they are the people who put the black in Black Monday) gave it a slight edge for me.
Nevertheless, you selected Christian Mingle and while I hated every minute of it, I am sincerely glad that you did because Christian Mingle is exactly the kind of too-ridiculous-to-be-true horse shit I was put on earth to write about.
Christian Mingle is more or less a feature-length commercial for the popular Christian dating site of the same name. It casts the once moderately popular Lacey Chabert as Gwyneth Hayden, a secular, on-the-go business woman and career gal who is tired of men who only want to have sex with her. So she decides to take a chance and logs onto Christian Mingle in hopes of meeting a man that only wants to marry her and is willing, even eager, to forego sex indefinitely (maybe even for eternity!) in order to make that happen.
Lacey Chabert plays the title character as a lobotomized version of Sex & The City’s Carrie Bradshaw. It’s as if on the first day, writer-director-costar Corbin Bernsen told her to pitch her entire performance at the level of someone sitting down to cold-read a script for the first time with a pounding hangover and is exclusively interested in hearing what dialogue sounds like when read aloud.
Yes Chabert maintains what I like to think of as a “Jeb Bush” level of energy throughout Christian Mingle, but she’s like a young Busta Rhymes on cocaine compared to the Christians who surround her. The glassy-eyed, perpetually grinning Jesus-lovers in Christian Mingle are supposed to go through life with a joyful spirit due to their relationship with the Lord. Instead they seem like aliens doing a very bad impression of human beings based exclusively on some footage of a Christian puppet show from the 1980s they picked up on their spaceship. It's Invasion Of The Jesus People.
In her bid to find the asexual, Christ-loving man of her dreams, Gwyneth boots up the laptop and we are treated to the pulse-pounding excitement of Gwyneth sitting at a computer and filling out her Christian Mingle profile. That makes it the second consecutive film I’ve seen, after Batman Vs. Superman, where a crucial scene involves an attractive woman sitting down at a computer and pressing some buttons. Over a century in, this apparently is where cinema finds itself.
Gwyneth soon finds herself on a date with super-Christian Paul (Jonathan Patrick Moore) a man with all of the personality and flavor of a soggy slice of Wonder Bread dunked in powdered milk. Paul is so insufferably, surreally wholesome that he makes Ned Flanders look like G.G Allin by comparison.
In 98 percent of romantic comedies (that is to say, comedies not primarily devoted to bringing people to the Lord, or helping a dating service’s bottom line), Gwyneth’s date with Paul would be squeezed into one of those ubiquitous “dating-a-bunch of losers” montages you see in movies about single ladies pursuing love. He’d probably be squeezed in between a comic book geek and a Goth, or a slick businessman and an empty-headed bodybuilder as the token Christian dork. You can practically hear the comic needle-scratching-a-record sound effect that would ensue when Paul starts talking about the Lord in secular comedies.
In Christian Mingle, however, Paul isn’t a dorky bit player the plucky heroine is fortunate to never have to see again after a disastrous first date, or two minutes of speed-dating. No, this almost perversely uncharismatic, nap-inducingly boring do-gooder is supposed to be the man of Gwyneth’s dreams and an irresistible charmer who sets our Godless heroine on a righteous path to find the Lord.
So Gwyneth picks up Christianity For Dummies and sets out to non-seduce the Jesus-loving object of her desire. Paul isn’t just aggressively sexless. Paul doesn’t just seem to have been born without a libido: he seems to have been born without a penis as well, which I suspect he’d think was swell, because it would give him fewer distractions when serving the lord.
Gwyneth feels bad about lying about being a Christian to get closer to a man she has zero chemistry with, but he really should feel guilty for acting like the picture of piousness when it’s pretty obvious that he must be a serial killer. Oh, the film never outright establishes that Paul murders without remorse but any man that horrifyingly “normal” and “wholesome” is obvious a sick fuck with a staggering body count. I have no doubt that Paul has a secret life as the “Christian Cannibal”, crucifying his victims before eating their hearts, but Christian Mingle is audacious enough to ask us to believe that Paul is a great guy Gwyneth should be aggressively pursuing, and not a man who keeps the organs of his victims in a cross-shaped walk-in freezer filled with blood-soaked bible pages.
Through Paul, Gwyneth manages to meet a whole group of dead-eyed automatons who can’t stop talking about how much they love the Lord. Gwyneth is continuously reflecting upon how happy faith makes all Christians but these people don’t seem to be radiating joy because they’re full of Christ’s love. No, they seem like they’re either space aliens or cyborgs whose free will has been removed and replaced with an unending obeisance to the Lord.
How creepy are the creepy Christians in creepy Christian Mingle? Let’s just say that there are Jim Jones documentaries that depict Christianity in a less disturbing and cult-like fashion than Christian Mingle does. Paul is so boring that I found myself fighting off sleep whenever he’s onscreen yet the film asks us to believe that its heroine, who, it should be noted, is pretty goddamned motherfucking awful herself, would be willing to change everything about herself and live a lie, all for the sake of someday experiencing eyes-closed, missionary sex solely for the sake of conception lovemaking with Paul, and then some room-temperature milk and a marathon bible-reading session.
I would forgive Gwyneth all her sins against art and characterization if she, just once, cut through the film’s smug piety and implored Paul, “I want you to nail me harder than Jesus was nailed to the Cross” but Christian Mingle is a movie about courtship and romance that does its damnedest to make audiences forget that sex exists.
A Christian movie with “Christian” in the title is, by definition preaching to the choir but the movie makes Christianity look so dull and unappealing that it’s liable to inspire some good Christians to start experimenting with Satanism and sex cults. At least those people seem to be enjoying themselves, which is more than can be said of anybody in Christian Mingle, especially the people with the biggest, creepiest and least convincing smiles.
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