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Ted Haggard Goes Hollywood

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"Ted Haggard Goes Hollywood"

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It’s one of the trashy greatnesses of America that as long as you don’t commit a felony, you get to find yourself a new equilibrium after a scandal by making the rounds on talk shows. Having done that, disgraced minister Ted Haggard is leveling up from the ritual-humiliation rounds, joining the ranks of quasi-political figures who have made movie cameos with an appearance in an abstinence comedy:

His new fellow travelers include anti- tax crusader Howard Jarvis, who rode his role in California’s Proposition 13 to an appearance in Airplane!:

Late Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, who showed up at the titular bar in Cheers:

And Democratic James Carville in damn near everything:

Haggard’s downfall and subsequent long-running denial that he’s actually attracted to men have always struck me as a sad symptom of a larger disease. When he inched open the closet door last fall, it was mostly to say that he still can’t bring himself to identify as bisexual or gay. The Waiting Game looks like it straddles that same kind of awkward divide, acknowledging that abstinence is unrealistic while also trying to rebrand it as cool with awkward jokes and bad production values. It’s a totally untenable reach, and Ted Haggard, of all people, should know that now. It doesn’t work to say “never a religious right, hateful, anti-gay guy,” and it doesn’t postpone the inevitable to insist you’ve cured your homosexuality, then to say if you were 21 you’d say you’re bisexual.

If anything, Forgetting Sarah Marshall bridges the divide between abstinence and progressive sexual politics better: the subplot with Jack McBreyer as a harried Christian newlywed with an insatiable wife acknowledges that waiting until you’re married probably won’t make sex better, but insists that everyone deserves to have their world rocked when they do decide to get it on.

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