Monthly Archives: May 2014
The next day (or possibly two or three days later; who knows), Belle is wandering around Eric’s house, muttering “Where is he?” Um, at his out-of-town business meeting, right?
Nope, Belle sees him out the window, wandering his ground (Eric really has a thing for hanging out in the cold outdoors). This is all pretty awkwardly set up—we have no indication of how much time has passed.
Belle takes this opportunity to head into Eric’s office, sit in his chair, and read the files he has laid out on his desk. Geez. Belle, that is Eric’s stuff—leave it alone!
She’s so enthralled (and so inconsiderate of other people’s stuff), that she takes the files into the kitchen, so she can read and snack under the watchful eye of Mrs. Haygood (I know I kept calling her Mrs. Higgin in Part 1, but IMDB confirms that she is Mrs. Haygood. I’m sorry, but when the actors say the name, it sounds like Higgin every time!)
Oh, and Mrs. Haygood is unpacking groceries, including a carton of twenty-four eggs. Holy crap! Look, only Eric and Mrs. Haygood (maybe) live in this house. I’m starting to feel like Eric is another Jordan Scoville, cursed of a sensitive tummy, with the added problem that everyone around him keeps trying to force-feed him. Remember that humongous breakfast?
Eric does not take kindly to Belle butting into his business, though I can only assume we’re meant to side with her during this exchange:
Belle: Eric, it’s my job—
Eric: Your job is to do what I tell you.
Belle: You know, despite what you may believe, I can think for myself. And if you really want a decent assistant, let me do something besides running errands for you.
*they establish the fact that Belle actually knows that Eric is a consultant, and move the fight into the office*
Belle: Look, you might as well let me do something more useful—you only have so many shirts I can take to the cleaners.
Eric: I can buy more!
Ha! I really like this guy.
Belle: What do you have to lose? I’ll still do all the menial stuff; just give me a chance to show you what I can do.
Eric: You’ve been here a couple of weeks, do you think I trust you with anything of impor—
Belle: If you want a real assistant, then yes!
Okay, as shitty as it was of Eric to threaten to call Belle’s dad’s boss if Belle didn’t work for him to pay off the debt, Eric still has a point. He is her boss, weird and wrong though this situation is, and he calls the shots. And she’s doing personal-assistant-type work: coordinating his schedule, making his life easier by doing business chores. I mean, it’s not like he’s calling her an “assistant” and then making her scrub the floors and clean toilets (not that there is anything wrong with such work: I’ve done it today myself!).
My point is, Belle is acting like this is her MBA internship or something, and thus that she deserves to be involved in the actual workings of Eric’s business. Which she doesn’t. At all.
Nevertheless, Eric hands Belle a bunch of files…
Eric: Fine. Read all these. When you start to understand what you’re really dealing with, then we’ll talk.
He stalks off, and Belle gets a “ha-ha, I won” smirk on her face. As you would.
After a long morning of reading files and doing zero real work for Eric, Belle wanders into the “staff kitchen,” and just straight-up asks Mrs. Haygood why Eric is the way he is. Which seems a bit rude since he just gave her exactly what she wanted.
But Mrs. Haygood turns out to be quite happy to divulge the private details of Eric’s life to a relative stranger!
Eric used to be married and had a successful business with a couple of his friends, and…
Mrs. Haygood: He went to church, strong as everyone else.
I’ll just cut in here to say that I find that a weird turn of phrase. Eric went to church strongly?
Beauty vs. Belle Change!
Mrs. Higgin: He went on a mission to…um…oh, someplace in Europe.
[This line is cut.]
(I wonder where Belle’s brother is? Africa? Orlando?)
Mrs. Haygood: Then his wife died. Sarah was her name. It was an accident, but Eric took it very hard.
Wait, so if someone you love dies in an accident, you usually don’t take it hard, the hell???
Mrs. Haygood: He blamed God for it. Stopped going to church, then he started drinking.
Belle: So that is true.
This bit about drinking plays out the same in both versions, and in a rather different way than I would have expected. After all, the idea is that Mormons don’t drink at all, ever, and there is certainly a strong strain in conservative Christianity these days that also says that any good Christians…never drink, ever.
In light of this, it’s interesting that, despite Belle’s initial reaction, the real problem is that Eric’s drinking became problem drinking, not merely having a glass of wine with dinner.
Mrs. Haygood: Alcohol affected Eric so much that his business partners…his so-called friends…ousted him from his own company. He was alright financially, as you can see. That just made matters worse. He was drinking so much that his whole life was out of control. … Got so bad, he eventually checked himself into one of those rehab clinics. Hasn’t had a drink in five years.
That’s…really cool of Eric. That’s a lot of tragedy in a short amount of time, and he handled it all himself.
Which…I’m not sure that’s a great point for a Christian movie to make. Problems come along in life, or you even create them yourself? Why, solve them yourself! With no help from family, friends, the church, or God!
But of course, Eric is still mean. Which sucks and all, but is not like being a creepy stalker. And hell, apart from not paying his former assistant for her last two weeks of work, he’s mostly just kinda snappish, which lots of people are who haven’t gone through widower-hood in his early twenties.
(I’m guessing as to the age. Mormon boys usually go on missions at age 19 or 20, and missions last two years. And Mrs. Higgin seems to place the mission and the death of Sarah very close together in time, which makes it seem like Eric got back from Europe and almost immediately got married. That would also fit with the fact that this all happened ten years ago, putting Eric in his early thirties, which is how old he looks.)
(Then again, it is often risky to guess a man’s age. I’m always reminded of the line from All About Eve:
Margo: Bill’s thirty-two. He looks thirty-two. He looked it five years ago. He’ll look it twenty years from now. I hate men.
Gorammit, I love that movie. Haven’t seen it? Watch it!)
Anyway, Mrs. Haygood philosophizes on Eric’s attitude:
Mrs. Haygood: Everybody takes hard times differently. For Eric, he still blames God. And all those rumors don’t help, either.
I know, right, what with the church using him as a Sunday School lesson and all!
That evening, as Belle is reading Eric’s files, she gets a call from Craig, inviting her out to dinner or a movie. She semi-politely puts him off for “maybe this weekend,” and it all seems perfectly innocuous until the camera pans back to reveal that Craig called her from his car which is parked outside Belle’s house.
Weirdly, as Craig pulls away, light hijinks music plays. Because creepy stalking behavior is goofy fun, I guess.
The next day, Belle talks to Eric in his bitchin’ home theater about the files she’s read.
Eric: Tell me what you learned.
Belle: I thought your analysis was pretty good.
Eric: *rolls his eyes* That means so much to me.
I don’t blame him for the sarcasm here. It really does sound like she’s giving him a vapid compliment to avoid the question. And I like that Eric doesn’t just take every compliment and run with it, as his due.
Belle continues her compliments on Eric’s intelligence and insight, but of course finds that his fault is that he’s “a little harsh on them.” Because when companies hire a consultant to help them do better, they really need everything to be candy-coated, I guess.
(Not for nothing, but Eric just can’t keep the smile off his face in this scene, even when he’s supposed to be annoyed. Naturally, this does not lead to a reshoot. Don’t get me wrong, I like this treatment of the Beast as a basically decent guy who is mean to everyone, but really just needs a hug, but stop smiling when you’re supposed to be angry.)
Eric boots Belle out of the theater, and goes to work out. Say what you will about the guy, but he’s found constructive ways to cope with stress.
Later, at her real part-time job, Anna is a good friend to Belle again:
Beauty vs. Belle Change!
Anna: Is it really worth it? I mean, your dad could find another job eventually.
Belle: Nnnnn…it took him months to find this one. Plus, with James on his mission and Mike and Kelli…we need the stability.
Anna: Is it really worth it? I mean, your dad could find another job eventually.
Belle: Nnnnn…it took him months to find this one. Plus, with James away at school and Mike and Kelli…we need the stability.
(Interesting naming scheme for the kids in this family. The girls are Belle and Kelli, two sorta-popular, “modern” names that sound similar. The boys are James and Michael, two very popular, classic Bible names. Of course, Belle must be Belle, but it’s still interesting to think about.)
Short scene: Mrs. Haygood tells Eric dinner is ready and to hurry or it’ll get cold. He’s nonplussed by the news. Totally the reincarnation of Jordan Scoville. After the tense day he’s had, he’ll probably have tummy troubles all night long.
Eh, maybe I was wrong, because turns out Eric was catching a cold. The next morning, when Belle comes into his room to drop his clean clothes, she catches him still in bed, miserable and coughing. But he’s also in better spirits than we’ve ever seen him:
Belle: I’m so sorry, I thought you were already in the office. I should’ve checked…sorry.
Eric: *small smile* Good thing I wasn’t in the shower.
(At this line, Belle genuinely blushes. It’s actually pretty cute.)
Then Eric very sweetly apologizes—twice!—for his behavior yesterday, and gives her the day off. (Though how a day off would matter in the paying-for-the-vase scheme is left unsaid. Maybe he’ll just mark a credit for a day’s work.)
The next day, Belle seems emboldened enough by the apology to inquire about the (very weird-looking) bottle of liquor Eric keeps in a display box in his office.
Beauty vs. Belle Change!
Belle: Isn’t it kind of a temptation?
Eric: That’s coming from someone who would never understand. Have you ever had a drop of alcohol in your life?
Belle: No, and you knew that. But that’s why I’m asking. I really don’t understand.
Belle: Isn’t it kind of a temptation?
Eric: That’s coming from someone who would never understand. Have you ever had a drop of alcohol in your life?
Belle: *gives him a “c’mon, really” look*
This edit makes a lot of sense. In Beauty, Eric knows that a good Mormon girl like Belle wouldn’t touch alcohol. In Belle, Eric knows Belle is a serious Christian, but that’s no guarantee that she’s never tasted alcohol.
Eric explains that the weird bottle is “a reminder…to never go there again.” Eric kinda rocks. Also, all this talk of drinking is making me thirsty.
Hang on a minute.
Anyway, they both take different business calls, which culminates with Belle taking the fall for Eric forgetting to send out an urgent package yesterday (because he was sick). Eric is quite touched by this (though it’s implied that he sets the record straight with the client), and even asks Belle to edit his response to a client, to make it more “diplomatic.” Aww, she is thawing his cold, cold heart!
But it turns out to be a case of three steps forward, two steps back. When Eric reads Belle’s edits, he finds that she’s written things like “too harsh, too critical, too mean.” Eric gets ticked at this, and though this is supposed to be another instance of his beastly temper, I really don’t blame him. It’s not exactly constructive criticism.
He tosses her notes off the balcony, and goes to play some pool. I like this characterization of Eric—they’ve hit several times that he really needs a physical outlet when he gets stressed. And sure enough, after a few minutes, he feels remorse and goes down to help Belle pick up the papers. And I don’t even blame her here for being a bit ticked at him for running hot and cold.
He helps her up (this being, I think, the first time they’ve touched), and they go for a little walk together. Eric explains that his wife did all the gardening and landscaping, which I assume means that Eric grew up in this house, since he and his very young wife lived here as newlyweds.
Belle: How long ago did she pass away?
Eric: Ten years ago. But you knew that, didn’t you? Mrs. Haygood has a tendency to talk about my history.
Wow. I would have a tendency to fire the gossipy wench, if she talked about my history to everyone she met.
Eric apologizes freaking again, emphasizing twice that he appreciates her work. What a doll he’s turning out to be.
Interestingly, the next scene finds Belle doing her MBA homework in Eric’s living room. That seems…odd. Why not just go home and do it? Does she think he’ll be happy that she’s doing homework while on his clock?
I guess he is, because he starts to help her with it, aided by the romantic montage music.
It’s not a training montage, of course, but a Falling in Love montage, where they are shown working together, looking at the Bible or Book of Mormon together, playing basketball together, playing pool together.
One shot shows Mrs. Haygood watching them, smiling and nodding in satisfaction. Hate that gossipy bitch.
Just as things are looking up, though, here comes
Gaston Craig to spoil things. He shows up at Eric’s house while Belle is working. (Creepy!) He scolds her for not being available to him at all times, and Belle tries to be nice to him, but clearly this guy needs a kick in the ass.
He may be a creepy stalker, but he’s not a fool, and quickly discerns that Belle likes Eric. He’s more annoyed by the fact that Eric is rich than anything else, though he then brings up Eric’s “questionable” nature. But it’s when he calls Eric “beast” that Belle actually gets pissed and buggers off.
Oh, and Eric witnessed the whole thing (from the balcony above them)! (Kudos to the screenwriters for not having Belle say something that could be misinterpreted as mean to Eric, and making a “Big Misunderstanding” plotline. Eric only sees and hears that Belle is being fair and nice and that she won’t hear Eric be disrespected by someone standing in his freaking yard.)
I like that Craig is becoming creepier and creepier.
Next time: a kinda-sorta date! And Belle actually attempts to (re)convert Eric!
I’ve teased this puppy twice now, so it’s time for a bit of intro before we begin.
I saw Belle and the Beast: A Christian Romance on my local Christian station, and found out the fascinating history that followed: originally called Beauty and the Beast: A Latter-Day Tale, it was released in 2007, according to IMDB. Wierdly, though, IMDB shows the picture as the movie I saw, Belle and the Beast. If the DVD release dates on IMDB and Amazon are accurate, the Mormon references were scrubbed, and Belle came out on DVD a few months after Beauty.
The runtimes also show 92 minutes for Beauty and 91 minutes for Belle. I’m pretty sure I know what that Mormon minute was.
So here I am going to cover both Beauty (Mormon) and Belle (not-Mormon). A note before we begin: the subtitles of the movies notwithstanding, there are RTCs and others out there who do not think Mormons are “real Christians.” (They do the same with Catholics, as we’ve seen in the Left Behind and Underground Zealot series.) As far as I’m concerned, Mormons are Christians: they believe in Jesus as lord and savior, which makes them as Christian as any Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, or Anglican. So I’m going to try and avoid making reference to the “Christian” version versus the “Latter-Day” version, and instead do as follows:
Beauty = Beauty and the Beast: A Latter-Day Tale. This one came first.
Belle = Belle and the Beast: A Christian Romance. The edited version, shown on Christian television stations.
I will also note exactly where the two movies differ—what the edits are.
On with the show!
As we pan over what I can safely assume are the beautiful mountains of Utah, the narrator intones:
Once upon a time, in a land not unlike your own, there lived a beautiful young woman named Belle. She was kind and thoughtful, selfless and hard-working. Above all, Belle loved God and her family. Belle spent her time pursuing her education and working to help her family. She brightened the day of all who met her, with her cheerful outlook on life, a reflection of her faith. But in the same land lived one concerned with no one but himself. He had great wealth and lived in the utmost luxury. Yet no one envied him. He was a ruthless, cold-hearted man. His name was Eric Landry. Yet throughout the land, he was more commonly called The Beast.
A lot of this strikes me as stuff that could be acted out in the first act, not told, especially since we are dealing with a remake of a well-known tale. But what do I know?
During all this, we get a shot of Belle striding purposefully out of her (pretty nice) house and hopping into her car, then a pan of Eric’s cool, old-school mansion.
Then inside, where Eric’s housekeeper-cook (and apparently, his only help in this massive house), Mrs. Higgin. She is our Mrs. Potts substitute, I assume.
She slides Eric’s breakfast across the counter to him, like Eric’s house is a greasy-spoon diner or something. Now, granted, I am the kind of person who can barely look at food before noon, but this, to me, looks frakking disgusting:
Look at all that food! (And there are two eggs there—one is hiding behind the parsley.) Is this the only food Eric is allowed all week or something. Holy crap.
Eric, whom I immediately recognize as a man after my own heart, snaps that this is not breakfast, and Mrs. Higgin responds that she’ll toast him a bagel. Then she schluffs the whole mess into the trash.
What, lady, you didn’t think to ask him what he wanted before you set out on this mission to cook the entire house? I think this bit is meant to show that Eric is unappreciative of what he has, but to me, it just makes Mrs. Higgin look like an idiot. (It’s not like she’s new around here, either—it is implied that she’s worked for Eric for years. She should know his tastes.)
Meanwhile, we find that Belle works at an orthodontist’s office with her BFF, Anna. Anna has the makings of an interesting character, makings that are nearly destroyed because the director didn’t tell her to slow down when she speaks.
“Idunnowhatyou’regonnadowithanMBAanyway,” Anna says, so we know that MBA student Belle will be able to stand toe-to-toe with businessman Eric.
Anna is also Belle’s self-appointed wingwoman, and is trying to set up her cousin, Craig, with Belle. So we know who our Gaston substitute will be.
Back at Casa Landry, Eric is having an argument with his assistant, a very pretty young woman not granted the dignity of a name, right in front of the schlubby fireplace repairman.
The dialogue is so bad that I can’t tell who is right or wrong as far as the actual dispute goes, but it all culminates with this:
Assistant: Like you have a relationship with anyone.
Eric: You’re fired!
Assistant: Y’know what? Don’t bother. I’ve had my resignation typed up for weeks. *hand him the letter*
Eric: Well, then, judging by the date on this thing, I don’t have to pay you for the last few weeks, now do I?
Assistant: *stalks out*
Um…I’m not sure that’s quite how it works, Eric.
But never mind! The important thing is that one second later, the schlubby repairman stands up and swing around, knocking over and breaking a vase/urn type thingy.
Vase/urn type thingy, 0.224 seconds pre-breakage
Eric pitches a fit, which I can kinda understand. I mean, isn’t it the repairman’s responsibility to move breakables out of the way before he begins his work, precisely because something like this might happen.
Eric: This is worth the lives of ten people. Twenty, if they’re you!
Heh. I am actually sympathizing with Eric at this point. He really does seem to be surrounded by fools.
Eric informs Schlubby Repairman that he’ll be calling his boss in the morning, Schlubby Repairman whinily begs for his job, and Eric orders him out.
That night, Belle is fixing dinner for her tweenage brother and sister, Mike and Kelli. Mike serves no purpose whatsoever as a character, and his sole “trait” is that he snidely repeats other people’s words:
Belle: You’re lucky [that your teacher grades on a curve].
Kelli: Yeah, I know.
Mike: Yeah, I know.
Kelli: Mike, stop acting like a seven-year-old.
Mike: Mike, stop acting like a seven-year-old.
I don’t blame Kelli one bit. That would drive me crazy, too.
In Belle, this dialogue is simply cut out.
Belle calls her father to the dinner table. So, in both versions, this is the moment we find out that (gasp!) Schlubby Repairman is Belle’s father!
After dinner, Belle realizes that something is wrong, and gets her dad to admit what happened. There is a bit of subtlety here (or maybe I just want there to be): it is implied that Belle’s father is a chronic job-loser and generally a whiny, spineless wuss.
Again, I may be seeing what I want here.
Then again, the original Beauty and the Beast tale is kinda predicated on Belle’s father being a whiny wuss, no?
Belle’s Dad: The man’s a…a beast. … Mr. Landry is a powerful man, and a spiteful one. Everyone knows it: the church, the town, everyone.
Question: If everyone knows what a dick Eric is, why are Belle and her dad so certain that the boss will fire the dad on Eric’s complaint?
Oh, well. With a look that says she has walked this road before, Belle steps in to clean up her father’s mess (figuratively, at least; I assume Mrs. Higgin cleaned up the literal mess), and goes to Landry’s mansion. After being buzzed in by Mrs. Higgin, she wanders around the house to find Eric, who, for reasons best known to himself, is sitting outside on a bench in the snowy night, doing absolutely nothing.
I do not sit outside in the snow in the middle of the night for fun. But that’s just me.
Eric: So you’re the repairman’s daughter. You must be an idiot, too.
*snerk* I kinda like this guy.
Belle and Eric go back and forth on the issue, and the dialogue is not bad here. We’re probably meant to think of Eric as being really cold (and he’s out in the snow, har!) but to me, he makes a valid point that no matter the financial straits of the Watson family, Belle’s dad still frakked up and now he is out a vase.
Beauty vs. Belle Change!
Belle: Please, I have a sister and two brothers, one whom’s on a mission, and they need our support.
Belle: Please, I have a sister and two brothers, one who’s away at college, and they need our support.
Belle makes the situation seem a bit more dire. When boys are off on missions, aren’t their living expenses covered by the Church?
Either way, Eric suggests Belle’s mother find a job. Belle’s mother has been dead for years, of course, to which Eric responds, “lovely sob story,” which is a pretty good Dick Move. He’s also not impressed by the fact that, with only a part-time job, she complains about her family’s destitution, and I kinda get where he’s coming from, especially since she’s also pursuing an advanced degree. Not that she shouldn’t, mind you, but I see his point.
Naturally, they strike up the classic Beauty and the Beast deal, where she’ll work as his assistant until he feels the vase thingy is paid off.
The next evening, Belle has to blow off Anna’s setup of her and Craig, so she can work for Eric. And we get the first glimpse of our Gaston:
He kinda looks like a Made-for-Christian-Movies Matthew Lillard. Not a bad-looking dude, but also not very Gaston-like, especially next to the classicly handsome Eric Landry.
At Landry Mansion:
Eric: You have a name?
Eric: Good. When I ring, you come.
Belle: No, it means “beauty.”
Eric: *glances at her* If you say so.
Ha! Never change, Eric.
Belle is rather put out by the fact that Eric expects her to run errands, like picking up his dry cleaning. Clearly, she expects this job to be more along the lines of an internship, but more on that later.
Beauty vs. Belle Change!
Belle wanders around the mansion, trying to find Eric’s room so she can hang up his suits. She finds a Book of Mormon on a bookshelf.
Belle wanders around the mansion, trying to find Eric’s room so she can hang up his suits. She finds a Bible on a bookshelf.
Later, Mrs. Higgin serves up some pie for Eric and Belle. In a callback to Belle’s bookishness, Eric tasks her with organizing his books. Considering this is her first day and all, and considering the circumstances under which she is working, Belle does not take this request very well:
Eric: When you’re finished [with your snack], I want you to alphabetize the books.
Belle: Are you sure? I can do—
Eric: I want you to alphabetize the books.
Belle: You know, I can do more than filing and alphabetizing of you want; I’m pretty organized.
Eric: Well then, it shouldn’t be a problem.
Okay, Eric’s definitely done some dickish things so far, but this time, I’m on his side. Belle is the assistant, so it is her job to do what he asks. What’s wrong, Belle, is organizing the books beneath you or something?
That night, Kelli and Mike are making dinner, because they’re good kids (except for the repeating-people thing). But everyone wants to hear all about Belle’s day!
Beauty vs. Belle Change!
Kelli: Last week in Sunday School, Sister Robertson used him as an example of pride and anger. … She says that’s what keeps him from coming to church. That, and the alcohol.
Kelli: Last week in Sunday School, Mrs. Robertson used him as an example of pride and anger. … She says that’s what keeps him from coming to church. That, and the alcohol.
Belle at least has the decency to say that Sister/Mrs. Robertson is “not nice” to do that, and yeah. Seriously, this is how Sunday School works (I have no firsthand knowledge here): teachers just take people from the community and run them down to the children as a lesson? Not nice, indeed. Also not mature or loving.
This is also our first hint that Eric drinks. Which is obviously a big deal both from a RTC and a Mormon standpoint. But so far, we have only seen Eric drink milk and orange juice, like a good Mormon.
The next day, Eric is a bit short with Belle, and she finds out that he plays basketball with himself to de-stress.
After that excitement, we get to something a bit more interesting: the increasing creepiness of Craig.
He shows up at Belle’s house after dinner unannounced, and asks her out for ice cream. She (none too excitedly) accepts, and he reveals that he has already brought two pints and spoons, so they can eat on the porch and chat. Which…is almost kinda sweet, but swings a bit too far into creepy and pushy.
And considering that they haven’t even had one date yet, Craig turns out to be more than a bit presumptuous.
Craig: Maybe it’s time you settled down, find somebody to take care of you.
Belle: I can take care of myself pretty well.
Craig: You know what I mean. Like a boyfriend…or a husband.
Belle: *chokes on her ice cream* Just haven’t found the right guy.
Craig: Maybe he’s sitting right next to you.
Dude! Slow down! I mean, confidence is attractive and all, but geez!
Belle calls him on this, but Craig isn’t one for listening:
Craig: Sometimes you just have to trust your feelings. And if you’re not sure, you can trust mine.
Belle wisely calls it a night. (Unwisely, she tells Craig the location of her second job.) Damn, we’re not even a quarter into the movie, and already the romantic rival has been revealed as a creepy stalker.
The next morning, Belle arrives at the mansion early, to find Eric in the hot tub. He tells her to find a book if she likes, and read until he’s done.
Beauty vs. Belle Change!
Belle reads the Book of Mormon, Third Nephi.
Eric lets Belle read for exactly twenty seconds before calling her back, which is kinda funny, since he had just opened a book himself. We are then treated to far more skin that I am accustomed to seeing in a Christian film, The Passion of the Christ notwithstanding.
Hubba. Also, I love her sweater and want it for my own.
Of course, Belle carried the Bible/Book of Mormon back in with her, which sparks a fight. Despite the book being, in Belle’s words, “a nice copy,” Eric demands she “get rid of it,” and, when she refuses, he tosses it into the hot tub.
Question: Are there nice and not nice copies of Bibles and Books of Mormon? Because both books like quite ordinary to me. It’s not like they’re gilt-edged or family books, is all I’m saying.
Beauty vs. Belle Change!
Eric: It’s just a book.
Belle: No, it’s scripture.
Eric: It’s just a book.
Belle: No, it’s God’s word.
This change, more than any other, confuses the heck outta me. Don’t those two things mean the same thing? Couldn’t they be used interchangeably? Is this lifelong atheist missing something here?
Anyway, Belle demands that he not be so disrespectful as to toss the book into the water, to which Eric sensibly responds that it’s his house and his book, and he can do what he likes. Which, again, yeah.
Despite the previous disrespect Eric has shown her, it is this incident which prompts Belle to make a midday rant call to Anna. Anna is a really good friend to Belle, here, and if the actress didn’t rush every single line, I wouldn’t have to rewind five times to understand how good a friend she is. But, in a nutshell, she talks Belle down.
(Moment of Hilarity alert: While having this conversation, Belle is packing a bag for Eric’s out-of-town business meeting. She grabs a slipper, sniffs it, makes a face, then tosses it into the suitcase.)
That evening, another rather humorous conversation takes place, as Kelli theorizes that since Eric is a rich, mysterious bachelor, he probably has a Batmannish secret identity and, if Belle plays her cards right, she could be Batgirl.
Why, in Christian movies, are the secondary characters always more interesting and amusing than the main ones. Belle is okay, I guess (though I have yet to see any evidence that she “brightens the day” of everyone around her, and Eric is not great as a “Beast.” His anger is so forced, and he comes across as nothing so much as a nice person who just can’t act believably angry. And together, they have decent chemistry…but nothing like the electricity between these two:
So sweet it makes my heart hurt.
Will Belle melt the Beast’s not-really-all-that-cold heart?
Will she ever stop whining about her work?
Will Craig become even creepier?
Will I swoon some more over Once Upon a Time’s Belle and Rumplestiltskin? (Yes.)
On the plane back to the USSA, Jae reveals why she had no concern whatsoever about the fate about to befall her beloved brother:
“I do not believe this slaughter is going to take place. If it doesn’t, it will tell me a lot about your fellow believers and the effectiveness of their prayers. If it does, besides being the most shocked person in the world, I can’t promise how it will make me feel about God. I suppose I will have to believe He is real, but I would have a hard time understanding Him or liking Him much.”
Paul worried about Jae…
He’s worried about Jae??? Jae will be fine, Paul. How about sparing a bit of worry for your brother-in-law, a person you claimed to love back in Chapter 1:
“I know Berlitz is a strange bird,” [Jae] said, “but I love him.”
“And that’s reason enough for me to as well.” [said Paul]
But is a few short hours, Berlitz will die and be sent to an eternity of torture in Hell, for the crime of being raised in a secular world by secular parents, and having a brother-in-law who doesn’t care enough to warn him about the murders he knows are coming.
Let’s unpack the rest of Jae’s comment, though. She says that if the slaughter doesn’t come to pass, it will tell her a lot about believers and the efficacy of prayer. But that’s true either way, no? Jae already knows that her husband and thousands of his “brothers and sisters” are praying for the mass murder of millions of innocents, including children. (Granted, according to Jenkinsian “logic,” the smaller children would probably Pass Go and go straight to Heaven, but not the kids over the magical age of twelve.) Why do the murders not have to come to pass in order for Jae to know that these people are horrible sociopaths?
And then Jae says that if the murders do happen, she will be the most shocked person in the world. I doubt that, as almost every family in the world is likely to suffer at least one unexpected death. But whatever, I’ll forgive her hyperbole since she doesn’t believe it will happen.
And she will “have to believe,” but would have a hard time understanding or liking God. Overstatement followed by understatement.
Besides, Jae has already prayed to God, though she hasn’t “made the transaction” and prayed the sinner’s prayer. So she’s not officially RTC yet, though her attitude about her husband others like him show her most of the way there.
Oh, and Paul still could not give less of a shit about this whole situation. After noting that the slaughter will take place at midnight, Bern time, and that is 6:00 p.m. in D.C., Paul simply sleeps the sleep of the sociopath for the rest of the flight.
They arrive in D.C. in late morning, meaning Paul still has hours to talk to Berlitz, but he just could not possible care less. They basically do nothing all day until the kids come home from school and Ranold comes home from work. Berlitz and Aryanna are going to come over for dinner and celebrate.
In the meantime, Ranold offers Paul a drink, and I think it’s important to note that one of Paul’s final actions in this book is to tell yet another lie:
“I got a little shut-eye on the plane, but alcohol would probably put me out for a week.”
Liar. Paul slept for almost the whole flight, and won’t drink at all now, because good little RTCs don’t drink.
Paul is checking his watch again and again (superspy that he is), and Ranold notices (because he actually is observant) and thinks that Paul just wants to watch himself be the hero on the news again. So, with only a couple of minutes left until the mass murder, they plant themselves in the living room.
Paul drummed his fingers on the arm of the chair.
“Man, I cannot wait for everyone to croak!”
And he doesn’t have long to wait…
At six straight up…
DAMN, I hate that turn of phrase. “Six straight up”??? It’s six o’clock, you jerk!
…it was as if the power went off in the house.
And the power has gone out everywhere, all over the world. So God did a momentary blackout so he could carry out all the murders.
If there’s anything fortunate about this, at least God killed them quickly. The first death we see is the news anchorman, who is slumped over his desk when the TV comes back on, and then Aryanna calls from the car–
Margaret answers the landline, and when Aryanna tells her that Berlitz is dead, his poor mother faints.
(By the way, Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!)
Berlitz was driving, and slumps over when the lights go out (even the headlights of cars), and Aryanna, because she is apparently a FRAKKING BADASS, takes control of the car and steers it to safety.
Gorramitall, Aryanna, why isn’t this book about you?
Paul and Ranold both get skull calls, as the women, Aryanna and Jae, are left to handle the actual crisis.
Enzo Fabrizio has called Paul to gossip. As you would at such a moment.
“It’s happened, Paul. Are you watching the news?”
“Yes, Enzo, I’m just sipping a virgin daiquiri in front of the tube. Because this worldwide crisis has NO EFFECT WHATSOEVER on my actual life and the people I profess to ‘love’.”
Bia has called Ranold. Tai, her son in college, has died. It’s a sad commentary on Bia’s life that the only person she can call for moral support is Ranold, who is himself processing the death of his only son.
People’s actions (and inaction) here rather call back to the crisis of Soon, when L.A. is dessicated. Ranold is stopped for a moment by a panic attack, Bia springs into action. Paul does absolutely nothing.
Here, Ranold is paralyzed for a moment, the women do everything they can (Aryanna, you frakking rock) and Paul does absolutely nothing.
Ranold’s shock is short-lived, however:
“I’ve got to get to Berlitz and help Aryanna,” he said.
GOOD MAN, Ranold.
“Paul, will you come?”
Paul doesn’t even get the chance to say no; Jae says it for him:
“Let him stay with Mom, Dad,” Jae said.
Then Paul makes one of the bigger dumbass mistakes of his life: he tells Ranold RIGHT NOW what’s happened.
“Ranold,” Paul said. “it’s happened.”
You’d think Ranold would realize kinda what’s happened. Both his and Bia’s sons have died at the same moment. He may not think God is behind it, but surely he must think that the Christian terrorists are carrying out their evil plot.
“The curse. The plague. The warning from the underground.”
“Well, okay, not so much a ‘warning’ as it was the fervent mass prayer that millions of innocents die. Isn’t God just the best???”
“What? What?” Ranold looked wildly at everyone in the kitchen, his eyes finally landing on Connor. “But, but your son, your firstborn is fine!”
We’ll get back to this.
The kids burst into tears. Ranold stormed out.
Jae helped her mother into a chair and fanned her. “You kids help me with Grandma. Now! Get me a glass of water. Paul, you’d better check the news.”
Yes, five-year-old child, help me with a grown woman in shock. Paul, go do nothing.
Why does he need to check the news? They both know what’s happening.
(Let’s also note that despite Jae’s prediction that she would be “the most shocked person in the world,” she is handling this with aplomb. You go, girl-who-is-not-quite-yet-RTC.)
So Paul, on the advice of both his buddy and his wife, goes and watched TV. What a helpful dude. Of course, he immediately sees that this is happening all over the world, including to Ball Dangler, who lost his firstborn son.
And on that note, the book ends. Boom.
Much like the cliffhanger ending of Soon, which ended exactly post-“miracle.” So stylistically, I can’t fault the stories for that.
But that firstborn thing…
Ball Dangler’s eldest son (he has four sons and no daughters) is dead. Okay, makes sense. Berlitz is dead. Again, fair enough. He is older than Jae.
Why is Ranold shocked that Connor is alive. Remember, Brie is two years older than her brother.
To my secularly-raised mind, Paul and Jae do not have a “firstborn son.” They have a firstborn daughter and a secondborn son. They have no child who could be affected by the “plague.”
But, I’ve been wrong before, so I checked with reliable sources.
According to my sister-in-law’s Sunday School classes (she was raised Catholic), Connor would be included in the plague. Because he is the first son in the family, and because daughters don’t count, don’tcha know.
It actually makes perfect sense to me that Jenkins/God would think this way. So, let’s roll with it.
So, that’s the children. What about their parents?
Because Connor is not in the crosshairs because Paul is a Christian.
But Jae is not. She might have prayed once and might believe in God, but she doesn’t actually come to Jesus “all the way” until Chapter 4 of Shadowed.
So, daughters don’t count, and mothers don’t count.
Everyone’s shocked, I’m sure.
This is also driven home by the fact that Paul himself is spared the plague. His mother was an atheist and his father was a Christian. Then again, this could also be because both his parents are dead. (Chalk it up, once again, to my secular upbringing, but I just think that people are still their parents’ children, even when the parent is dead.)
(On that note, I was really worried for Ranold earlier in the book, as it is strongly implied that he is an only child. But, presumably, his parents are dead, so he is also spared the plague.)
In conclusion, in order for God to bring the Hellhammer down on your sorry ass, you need to be the oldest boy in the family (but not necessarily the oldest child, and your father must be an alive non-Christian.)
Another note of interest: I know that Jenkins thinks that RTC-ianity is the only real religion, but perhaps even in Atheistopia, there are secret underground Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists and pagans. Their firstborn sons are dead, too, and roasting in Hell.
So, that’s Silenced. Worse and even more depressing than Soon.
Before we move on to some awesome Christian movies, let’s have a secular moment of silence (or Silenced, if you will) for poor Berlitz Decenti. And a moment of respect for the awesomeness of his wife, Aryanna.
Okay, that’s done. On to Belle and the Beast!
Paul and Jae, after a near-sleepless night of debating the Bible, head to Bern and a lunchtime ceremony honoring Paul. Vibishana is there, though there is no mention of him receiving a medal, even though it was he and his team who carried out the actual operation. Bia is there, and, like Ranold (who is still in Washington) has been totally convinced of Paul’s loyalty by the death of Magnor.
Having wasted yet more hours before the slaughter, Paul finally asks for a private word with Ball Dangler. (Let’s remember that Paul has had the man’s private skull number this whole time. Mere hours before her only and beloved brother will die and go to Hell forever, and Jae tells Paul that her “role today” is to be “the proud, dutiful wife.”
Jae and Paul have agreed to use the bug Ranold gave her so that she can listen in on Paul’s and Ball Dangler’s conversation. I can’t really see that this is the hot issue, again, seeing as how Berlitz has mere hours left on this planet, but Jae only thinks:
Here was a story for her grandchildren someday.
“Hmmm, too bad my brother will never have a chance to have grandchildren, what with God planning to smite him and all. Oh well!”
Jae may not have Prayed the Magical Prayer yet, but I see that her RTC sociopathy is proceeding apace.
Paul weirdly assumes that Ball Dangler has a constant recording on in his office. Even more weirdly, Dangler does, “exclusively for my reference, specifically my memoirs.” Paul asks that the recording be turned off, though what that will get him is beyond me. Either he comes out as a Christian and is screwed whether the conversation is recorded or not, or he hides it, is still seen as a hero, and the recording is still moot.
Paul starts slowly, all things considered, explaining that Magnor “was not really part of the rebel underground and was even seen by them as a charlatan who gave their cause a bad name.”
Because their cause had such a good name when all they were doing was praying for the dessication of L.A.!
Ball Dangler, no fool, then asks the obvious question: if Magnor didn’t write the manifesto, who did?
Jae held her breath. Did Paul have to say?
Nope! Because Paul is well-versed in the RTC art of telling-not-quite-the-whole-truth.
“That came from devout members of he true underground, sir.”
“I certainly had no hand in such a thing! Perish the thought! Even though admitting it just might help convince you, given how much you respect me.”
Paul explains that the Christians think God will do the killing—that they’re planning on keeping their own hands clean as their thug does the dirty work. Okay, he doesn’t say that in so many words, but we all know that’s what’s really going on here.
Ball Dangler remains unimpressed:
“…with [Magnor] gone and the rest counting on God to do their work for them, need I worry?”
“Whether you worry or not is up to you, sir. I just felt it my duty to be sure you were fully apprised.”
This must be some strange new definition of “fully apprised,” of which I am unaware. Because in order to fully apprise Ball Dangler, Paul would have to admit that he is a Christian, has experienced a Real, True Miracle in his own life, was behind the dessication of L.A. (an event which actually happened), and that he penned the manifesto, not just “devout members of the underground.”
But no, Paul’s work here is done! He’s informed Dangler that the manifesto was authored by “devout” Christians (and how is it Paul’s fault if Dangler doesn’t immediately divine that it’s Paul, personally?), so, if anything, Dangler is even less concerned than before. Because Paul hasn’t said anything about the God that he knows dessicated L.A.
Eh, sucks to be a firstborn son, amirite?
Ball Dangler, having not been told much of anything by Paul (what, not willing to speak truth for your faith, son?), says:
“I have already announced that the threat ended with the death of Styr Magnor/Steffan Wren. I still believe that, and I would not want the world to needlessly fear otherwise. Would you?”
Sounds like Dangler is a man of honesty, conviction, and integrity. Let’s see if Paul is, too.
“Want them to needlessly fear otherwise? No, sir.”
“Find a way to keep ‘living a lie,’ without literally lying? Yes, sir!”
And on that note, having helped the evil atheists NOT AT ALL, Paul and Jae head back to the good ole USSA.
Coming in Part 2 of this final chapter—The Actual Mass Murder.
As we saw, Paul took his sweet time getting back to the wife he swears he is more devoted to than ever before (not that that’s saying much) but he is finally there.
Tired as he was, he was through playing games.
So, what, if he was less tired, he would continue playing games?
Jae was going to get it all, both barrels.
Perhaps not the best metaphor to use when thinking of the wife you’re abused for the last decade, Paul. Just a bit of advice.
Probably also not the best metaphor to use mere hours before your god (at your behest) murders millions.
She could turn him in, leave him, or whatever…
Gee, I can see how much he really cares about this relationship.
…but he was no longer going to live a lie with her.
What a stand-up Christian guy. Only took him seven months of living a lie to come to this conclusion.
Inexplicably, Jae immediately asks for an explanation—not of Paul’s religious views, but of the sting of Magnor. Exciting though that was(n’t), this just doesn’t seem like the hot issue to me. Nor, indeed, to Jae, who said a mere fifteen pages ago:
As soon as he walked through that door, she would put it to him. She wanted to know [whether he was a Christian]. He had to tell her.
But hey, what’s the life and death of her family when she could hear an exciting adventure story that she’s already heard twenty times on the news?
But, to give Jae just a bit of credit, she finally calls Paul on it. Directly!
“I know, you know,” she said.
She pulled back and nodded. “You’re a good mole, Paul. Maybe the best there ever was.”
“But you’re not that good. You’re turned, changed, flipped, haven’t you? You’re a believer.”
Nice work, Jae. Only took you 333 pages to say it to him. What an open and loving and trusting marriage you have.
“I know a different man when I see one.”
Not that different, c’mon. He’s not actually cheating on you anymore. Physically, at least. That’s it. He still wants Angela, he still thinks you don’t deserve honesty, and he’s still scared shitless of you.
Oh, and he carried the luggage once.
And because we all know that women are always more at fault than men, Jae apologizes to Paul for showing his dad’s letter to Ranold.
Forgive her? Paul nodded. Sure, he’d forgive her, but did she realize what that could mean for him?
Sure, he’d forgive her, but not really. But he’d kinda forgive her, since women do silly, stupid things sometimes. And don’t even realize what those silly, stupid things could mean for the important men.
But they quickly move on to the even more important issue: Jae wants to understand how Paul became a believer. So he tells her a totally untrue story, retconning Soon.
…the more [Paul] was exposed to [underground Christians], the more he persecuted and yes, even killed some of them, the more he wondered what was so wrong about wanting to believe in something beyond one’s self.
Actually, I remember Paul cheering on the beating-to-death of St. Stephen mere moments before he was blinded. After that, his only exposure to underground believers was Straight. So this was hardly a case of the beauty of Christianity slowly working on Paul. Indeed, the only conflict he felt was the discomfort that whole time was knowing his own lionized dad was one of those loser freaks.
Jae was amazed when Paul began quoting verses about salvation by grace through faith, and that it couldn’t be earned by works so no one could boast. The same verses had jumped out at her.
Ah, those verses about people being judged by the thoughts in their heads, and not their deeds? Yeah, those jump out at me, too. Probably not for the same reasons.
And Jae gets Paul to admit that he authored the manifesto.
And one of Jae’s last few sparks of compassion and reason flickers, as they discuss the upcoming mass murder that’s being prayed for by good Christians around the world.
“I need to tell you, Paul, that this alone is enough to make me doubt the existence of God. … I mean, besides sounding ludicrous, does it sound like a loving God?”
“I’m no expert, Jae. I’m new to this, and I don’t want to sound glib, but it sounds like a just God who has finally lost patience with a disbelieving and mocking world.”
You don’t sound glib, Paul. (And I’m not even sure if “glib” is even what you mean.) You sound like a hypocritical, narcissistic asshole.
Once again, let us remember that Paul had a personal medical miracle, plus unfettered access to the forbidden Bible, plus a Christian mentor who devoted himself entirely to Paul’s conversion. Three things the rest of the citizens of the planet have not had.
But it’s all okay, because with less than a day left until God’s threat is carried out, Paul tells Jae that he’s going to tell Ball Dangler that the threat wasn’t Magnor’s, but God’s. Because that is just the kind of guy Paul is. Much like when he gave L.A. less than a day to overthrow the Army before unleashing dessication on innocent citizens.
Oh, and he’s going to wait till the next day, so it’ll actually be much less than 24 hours.
They stayed up most of the night, reading, discussing, arguing. Jae was unable to get past the unloving, spiteful (her word) nature of the plague some believers were asking God to mete out to His enemies.
Ha! Gotta love that Jenkins gives us that parenthetical. Because only a silly, untutored atheist would ever think God spiteful. Just because he’s going to commit mass murder. Silly Jae!
And I find it hard to think of people who have never been exposed to Christianity as anyone’s “enemies.” Let alone the babies and small children who will die. (Though I can only assume that Jenkins thinks anyone under the age of twelve will go to Heaven.)
Next time, the very belated warning to Ball Dangler plus the actual plague/mass murder! All in one final chapter!