Next in our Teenage Crusade movie series: Teenage Testament.
I briefly mentioned Teenage Testament when I visited Teenage Christmas over the holidays. Like Teenage Christmas, Teenage Testament answers a vital question facing every teenager, to wit: Is it okay to proselytize when you’re working at your aunt’s business, even when it drives away the customers, and even when the income from the business is supporting you and your sick mother?
The answer, unsurprisingly, is: Yes.
Two teenage boys are working in Gertie’s Malt Shop. A significant close-up of the radio reveals that the lame elevator music is not the soundtrack—the characters can hear it too.
The two boys are Roy and Chuck. Exposition reveals that Roy is staying with his aunt, Gertie, and his cousin, Chuck, while his mother is in the hospital. Gertie is delighted that Roy is “really pulling his oar” in the malt shop, though Chuck laments that Roy can’t stop “putting his oar where it doesn’t belong.” (Saaaaaay…)
Nah, all he means is that Roy just can’t seem to stop proselytizing to the customers.
In fact, while his aunt and cousin are expositioning, Roy is busy proselytizing right now, to one of the regulars—cab driver Josh, who is suffering from an ulcer. Josh is cranky about it, but in a sort of lovably curmudgeonly way. Though Josh does not ask for help in any way whatsoever, Roy feels obliged to tell Josh about a friend of his, who got rid of an ulcer by “getting on the right diet, the right food for his body and the right food for his soul.” Wow, subtlety is really Roy’s strength, isn’t it?
Josh immediately says that he doesn’t want a sermon, but Roy just can’t STFU, and tells Josh that his problem is that he’s “mad at the world.” First, it’s always nice (not to mention winsome) to tell someone “what your problem is.” Second, cool that Roy managed to get a medical degree at the tender age of sixteen, eh?
Gertie rushes out to break up the conversation and send the boys off to school. As they leave, Josh is actually incredibly nice about the whole thing, and basically apologizes to Gertie for “being hard” on Roy. Because telling someone that his proselytizing is not welcome is being hard on him. However, at least Josh has enough spine to say that Roy should knock it off and stop alienating customers, given all that Gertie is doing for him. Turns out Gert isn’t just taking care of Roy, she’s paying all of Roy’s mother’s medical bills. Josh also informs Gertie that a new malt shop may be opening only a block away, and that Roy’s preaching is going to drive the customers right to the competition.
At school, the persecution starts against poor Roy before he even walks in the door, as a couple of “wise guys” ask Roy to pray for good grades for them. Wow, it’s really just like Jesus, isn’t it? And Roy takes it so stoically, too (“There are always people who think being a Christian is a joke.”), though Chuck warns him that he brings such comments on himself because he doesn’t “act normal.”
After school (wow, that was a quick day!) Roy is working alone in the malt shop, and young Marian all but jumps him as they rejoice about the awesomeness of their youth group.
Local barber Ed shows up. Ed’s character bit is that he has a sick wife. Unlike mean ole Josh, however, Ed has taken Roy’s proselytizing to heart, and is planning to read the Bible and meet Roy’s pastor. He asks Roy’s help to find a verse, but Gert overhears and later gives Roy a talking-to.
“But Ed was asking for help!” Roy whines.
“Maybe. But Josh wasn’t.” Gert points out.
It’s well worth pointing out that Gert is entirely correct here, but Roy plaintively whines that he didn’t think he was “really bothering Josh.” I guess Roy is so used to people’s complaints that he literally doesn’t hear them—words like “lay off” and “I don’t want a sermon” don’t really mean that the listener wants Roy to lay off and stop sermonizing. Brat.
And no, he still won’t shut up, listen to his aunt, and let the issue drop.
Roy: Aunt Gertie, if a guy came in broke and hungry, wouldn’t you feed him?
Gertie: That’s entirely different.
Roy: *long significant pause, leans back, eyes Gert condescendingly* Is it?
I have to say, Gert is extraordinarily patient with Roy, pointing out again and again and again that he should just please listen to her, since it’s her damn business, thank you very much, and she has an obligation to do something when loyal customers like Josh complain about service.
The next day, Roy finds a new ear to whine to—the ever hopeful Marian. Marian (and I know you’ll be shocked at this) is firmly on Roy’s side, pointing out that, as Christians, “Aren’t we supposed to witness whenever we can?” Yup, even if it drives business away from the person and place that are supporting your sick mother. Asshat.
And then, Roy goes home to proselytize—to Gertie! Gertie is worried about the new malt shop, and Roy tells her that “I know the Lord would help you and Chuck…if you’d only let him.” Yeah, it’s your own dumb fault, stupid woman who’s taken me in and is paying for my mother’s medical care!
Ah, the fifties. Josh’s ulcer is still bothering him, and “the sooner they drop the bomb, the better.” Ha!
Roy starts to give Josh an actual apology (!) which Josh takes with a laid back fugedditaboutit. Now, the smart thing to do here would be to let the whole issue drop, but as we’ve learned by now, nothing can stop Roy’s mouth once he’s started. “I wasn’t preaching,” he whines at Josh, “but man can’t live by bread alone.”
Josh: “I’ll eat what I want, see?”
Okay, Josh rocks.
So once again, Gert has to yank Roy out of the malt shop and give him a talking-to. (She’s actually starting to get pissed now. And good for her.)
“I didn’t mean to upset him!” whines Roy.
Gert is about as sick of Roy’s antics as I am by now, and she actually lays down the law: no more religious talk to anyone while he’s working.
Roy once again finds Marian to whine at her. (I’d say they’re trying to pad out the film, but the film is only 29 freakin’ minutes long anyway!)
“You’re sure in a spot,” Marian commiserates.
“I just don’t know the answer…I can’t change the way I feel,” whines Roy.
Hmmm…this is a difficult problem. Let’s see, on one hand, you proselytize to people who don’t want to hear it, thus alienating them and driving business away from your aunt’s shop, the income of which provides the only means of support not only for your aunt and your cousin, but also for you and your sick mother. On the other hand, if you don’t proselytize while you’re working, you…um…feel bad?
Surely, this is a puzzle for the ages.
Roy prays about it, asking God to help him “know what to do.”
God: ROY, JUST STFU! YOU’RE A WHINY BRAT AND VERY DISRESPECTFUL TO YOUR AUNT, WHO’S BEEN SO GOOD TO YOU! ALSO, YOU’RE A DIMWIT IF YOU DON’T REALIZE THAT THE BRUNETTE CHICK WANTS TO RIP YOUR CLOTHES OFF!
Okay, that part didn’t happen. Still, it would be cool if it had…
Later, Ed the barber shows up. His wife isn’t any better, but he talked with the pastor, and thanks Roy for his “help.” Roy, trying to be obedient to his aunt (bit late to the party on that one, bud), rudely brushes off the thanks and runs away like a toddler. Brat.
Ah, but that’s not what this is really about, is it? See, Roy is right and Gertie is wrong! The proselytizing is helping people! Fuck Josh and his ulcer!
The next day, the malt shop is hopping! But there’s trouble afoot—the two guys who were persecuting Roy about his faith at school are there…to persecute him again! They ask Roy to bless their malts (okay, I admit it—I snickered), and then snatch his New Testament from his breast pocket! They sarcastically ask him to preach, but then calmly sit to listen when Roy (shockingly) jumps at the chance. Yeah, boy, that’ll sure teach him—letting him take the floor.
Roy whines out a little speech:
I suppose you think it’s pretty funny, my carrying my Testament around with me.
This book has the only answers as to why we’re here, and what we’re supposed to do with our lives.
Methinks Roy is just a tad unfamiliar with the world’s other religious texts.
That book says, “These things are written that you might believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, you might have life through his name.”
Quick proselytizing tip for Roy: quoting the Bible doesn’t mean a lot to people who don’t actually think it’s an authoritative source.
And Roy petulantly stalks out of the malt shop, never to be heard from again.
Hours later, Roy has not yet returned, and thus succeeded in worrying his aunt and cousin out of their minds. Gertie takes it as her own fault, because she “sounded off.” Yeah, Gertie, how dare you run your own business the way you want to! Bitch.
They’re just about to organize a search party when Roy wanders in, with no apology for worrying anyone. What a nice, considerate guy Our Hero is, eh? Roy has decided to martyr himself and leave his aunt’s home (Really, pal? And where do you think you’re going to go?). But Gertie has other ideas: “Chuck and I are the ones who should change!” See, Roy’s magical proselytizing has worked!
The Finale: Roy and Chuck are giving the malt shop a fresh coat of paint, while Gertie plays hymns on the radio. Josh walks in and comments that he’s not there for hymns and sermons, but for food. “Well, you old coot, from now on you’re going to get food for your soul!” declares Gertie.
Nice job #1, Roy: You’ve managed to turn your sweet, patient aunt into someone as obnoxious as you are.
And Nice Job #2, Roy and Gert: I’m sure Josh won’t take his business to the new malt shop. Or express his opinion on the merits of each malt shop when the customers of his cab ask for his recommendation.
So I guess that’s today’s fun lesson, kids: Preach at the customers, whether they want to hear it or not, until you have successfully driven them all to the competition! Because if you don’t, you make Baby Jesus cry.