Fireproof: Part 2

The next evening, we get a scene cutting back and forth between Caleb bitching at his coworker about Catherine, and Catherine commiserating with her girlfriends over dinner.  Just to show how unbiblical the girlfriends are, they even offer Catherine a place to stay until the divorce is finalized.  Catherine declines, because “he’s the problem, not me.”  Which I suppose is the movie’s way of telling us that the scene we saw of the yelling and bullying couldn’t possibly be abuse, could it?  Because Catherine isn’t afraid to live in the same house as Caleb.  Sigh.

Caleb once again brings up the “R” word, and (as Catherine simultaneously predicts in the cut) opines that the marriage has been just fine for the last year or so, until Catherine “went off the deep end.”  Being a woman, Catherine is, of course, “emotional about everything” and “way too sensitive.”  (Cut to Catherine crying into her ice water over Caleb’s insensitivity.)

Ha!  Women and men, amirite?

(Catherine never does bring up the whole driving-her-into-a-corner incident.  Guess it’s just not worth mentioning.)


The next day, two cars of teens (two boys in one car, two girls in the other) flirtatiously drag race to the local pizza joint…with predictably disastrous results.  The girls (of course it’s the girls; don’t be silly) get their car stuck on the train tracks, and both are too injured to move.

Cue Caleb and his fire crew to the rescue, I guess to prove that he really is a rockin’ hero when he’s not terrorizing his wife.


Later, Caleb’s parents, Cheryl and John, visit while Catherine is out, and we really get to the heart of the issue.

Caleb: I mean, I walk in the door, and she’s mad about something.

Cheryl:  Have you given her a reason to be upset?  I’ve never known Catherine to be unreasonable.

Caleb:  I could have saved the lives of two people at work, and if I’m not here helping wash the dishes, I’m a horrible husband.

Cheryl:  But, Caleb, she needs your help here as well.  Doesn’t she help her parents out every week?  She can’t do everything around here.

Caleb:  Now you sound like you’re taking her side.

Cheryl:  Caleb, she’s working every day, and she’s trying–

Caleb:  Mom, I do not need you telling me I’m doing everything wrong!  I’ve got Catherine for that!  I am not the problem; she is.

Cheryl:  All I’m saying is–

John:  Cheryl, Cheryl, let’s hear Caleb out.  I want to know what’s going on with him.

Caleb:  Dad, could I please have a few minutes to talk with you?  Alone?

Cheryl:  Caleb, I just want to help you and Catherine—

Caleb:  *world’s most long-suffering look*  Dad?

John:  Honey, why don’t you let us take a walk?  It’s a’ight.

Cheryl:  Okay.

And so, Caleb and John head out for a walk, while Cheryl stays behind, alone, in Caleb and Catherine’s house.  Guess she can make herself useful and wash a dish or two, Mom, geez.

So, basically, if Caleb isn’t busy yelling at his wife, he spends his time running down his mother.

Two seconds later:

Caleb:  Dad, why did you have to bring her?

Caleb makes his mother sound like a particularly messy pet.

Caleb:  She—she—she just grates on me.

Speaking of grates, Caleb, you are an ungrateful dickweed.

Like I said, now we’re getting down to it.  Caleb hates women.  And feels the need to surround himself with nothing but men, both professionally and socially.  Gee, that couldn’t possibly be because he hates and fears the female of the species, could it?

John mentions that his and Cheryl’s marriage wasn’t always the best it could have been (Caleb agrees), and John, of course, credits God.

John:  The Lord did a work in us.

Caleb isn’t having any of that crap.  And by this time, they’re wandered onto a former Bible camp, complete with wooden cross, and John keeps on with the Jesus talk.  Caleb, making sense for once in his life, cuts off John, stating simply that the religion thing “Is not for me.”

Oh, but Caleb, the love of Jesus is for everyone!

(Because we all know that Christians never have marital problems.  Snerk.)

This is the point at which Caleb’s dad challenges him to hold off on the divorce lawyer for 40 days, so that he can do what his parents did to save their marriage.  John basically guilts Caleb into it, but Caleb strikes me as kind of a lazy-ass, anyway, so I don’t think he was in a hurry to get the ball rolling on the divorce.

(This scene is a bit painful to watch for a whole ‘nother reason, too.  This movie takes place in Georgia and both John and Cheryl speak with Southern accents.  Caleb, who has presumably spent his whole life in the state, doesn’t have a trace of an accent.  Now, I accept that not every actor can do accents, but since Kirk Cameron can’t, you’d think the solution would be to hire actors with his accent as his parents, and drop a line in about the family being transplants or something.)


Brief scene of Catherine and cute Dr. Keller having lunch together at the hospital cafeteria.  He’s coming on just a bit strong, though Catherine has ditched her wedding ring…


In most Christian films, there is a Smug Christian Jerk to help our hero on his path to the salvation of Jesus Christ.  Often, this Smug Jerk is a woman, like Noella Wright or Joella Ratchford or Kristin Reed.  Or even Jesus himself (sorta).

In Fireproof, the role is split in unequal parts between Caleb’s dad, John, and Caleb’s coworker, Michael Simmons.  Caleb’s dad isn’t so bad, really, but Michael’s smug jerkiness is almost on the Ratchford level.

Caleb explains (damn, you’d think by this time his family and coworkers would be so sick of hearing how awful his wife is) that he and Catherine are too different now to reconcile.

Michael:  Caleb, salt and pepper are completely different.  …  But you always see them together.

To illustrate his point, Michael superglues together the station’s salt and pepper shakers.  Ooookay, dude.  You just…do whatever you feel is right, I guess.

Michael:  Caleb, when two people get married, it’s for better or for worse.  For richer or for poorer.  In sickness and in health.

Yadda yadda.

Caleb, who, for once, might be thinking of somebody other than himself, tries to pull apart the shakers.  Michael stops him.

Michael:  Don’t do it, Caleb.  If you pull them apart now, you’ll break either one or both of them.


Caleb switches gears.

Caleb:  I am not a perfect person, but better than most.


Nah, Caleb, for all his faults, has actually contributed to saving lives.

Michael pounds the point home yet again, finally pushes Caleb to snap at him not to “abuse” the privilege of being able to speak so freely to his boss, and stalks away.

Well, yeah, Caleb, you are the resident expert on abuse.

I’m on the fence on this exchange.  On the one hand, Michael is being a smug jerk.  On the other hand, Caleb is the one who keeps yammering on and on and on about his marriage, so I can hardly blame Michael for having an opinion.


John’s gift for Caleb arrives in the mail.  (Question: why didn’t John just drive it over if it’s so important?  They live in the same town, after all.)

Looks like John handwrote this book, and it’s really kind pretty.  (Looking, I mean.  Not sounding.)  The Love Dare challenges Caleb to go one day at a time for 40 days, new challenge every day.  The first day’s challenge is to say nothing negative to your spouse.  Which I’m thinking shouldn’t be hard for Caleb to achieve—he should just call Day One a day when he’s on his 48-hour shift, ha-ha!

Naturally, a Bible verse accompanies the Day One plan.  James 1:19.

Day One

Heh.  “Slow to anger.”  Caleb will have a great time with that one.

But no, Caleb plays fair and does Day One on a day he’s at home.  He asks Catherine to take his clothes to the cleaners’, and she asks why he couldn’t have taken care of it himself.

And, um, yeah.  First of all, even if they were “together,” he had two days to do it himself.  And hell, they’re basically separated, living in separate rooms, and prepping for divorce.  Why does she still have to run his errands?

So, following the letter of the Love Dare, Caleb just stalks out in a huff, but doesn’t actually say anything.

What a man.

Day Two challenge is to do one unexpected nice thing for your spouse.  Caleb goes ALL OUT for this one and pours Catherine a cup of coffee before she gets to the kitchen.

Catherine:  I don’t have time for coffee.  *hurries out the door to work*


snl animated GIF

I kinda love Catherine at this moment.

Day Three is to buy something nice for your spouse.  Caleb cheaps out on a half-assed bouquet and bitsy box of chocolates.  (Though I have to say, he way overpaid even on that.  The flowers alone here cost twenty-five dollars.  I could have gone to Trader Joe’s and got something much prettier for less than half of that.)


Catherine doesn’t give a shit, anyway.


Comic relief at the fire station.  Hot sauce contest.  Caleb cheats because he is a dirty cheating cheater who cheats.  (He drinks tomato juice out of his hot sauce bottle and fools the rookie.  Big man.)


Caleb calls Catherine at the hospital to “check on you.”  Catherine is understandably confused and I am creeped out, but it is, of course, the Day Four challenge.

Call your spouse!  Damn, this Love Dare does not let up on the excitement!

Surely this will piece back together this horrible marriage.  I mean, who isn’t rooting for these two by now?

What will the next 36 days bring?  Stay tuned!



Posted on July 21, 2014, in Fireproof, Movies. Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. Um, isn’t the Love Dare for couples? Couples who have agreed to work on their marriage? Caleb is trying the whole Love Dare thing on his own without even telling his wife what he is doing or why, leaving her understandably confused and unable to participate in saving her marriage? Reminds me of the discussion on the last post about how “Marriage” is somehow distinct from the relationship between the two people involved.

    • Geez, the fact that he doesn’t even involve Catherine in his plan to save their marriage seems like pretty strong evidence that their marriage needs to end. Unless the twist ending is that he realizes this and starts to communicate with his wife like she’s a fellow human, but, heh, what are the chances of that happening?

    • I was thinking about this today–and I think it’s interesting that the people who are arguing for marriage as the entity Marriage are the men (John and Michael) and the people bringing up the fact that this is a marriage made up of two people (yanno, with actual personalities) are the women (Cheryl, Catherine’s friends).

      Though it certainly makes an eerie connection back to Caleb’s hatred of women. After all, Catherine’s friends, who are concerned about her as a person, not just as someone in a Marriage, are the ones encouraging her to leave the bum and offering her a place to stay. Those sinners.

  2. So Caleb not only cuts off and talks over his wife, he cuts off and talks over his mother, too — and his father approves and takes his side. Looks like Caleb learned a lot about how to treat women from dear ol’ Dad. What do you want to bet that John has shouted Cheryl into a corner a time or three, probably in front of their son?

    Also, so far the Love Dare is coming off as pretty damn manipulative and passive-aggressive. Is it too much to hope that Day Five will be “Talk to your spouse about the issues in your relationship, giving her words the same weight and value you expect her to give yours?” Yeah, it probably is too much to hope — parity in relationships is for namby-pamby hellbound liberals. Real Christian Real Mean know that a wife is a servant to be superciliously indulged from time to time, but never engaged as an equal.

  3. I personally think it’s interesting what Caleb’s responses to these challenges say about his relationship with his wife. First off, the fact that he’s clearly trying to half-ass these challenges say that he’s not all that interested in trying to save his marriage in the first place, at least not if doing so means he has to put in any actual effort.

    Secondly, seeing what Caleb actually does do shows the sorry state his and his wife’s marriage is actually in. Day 1’s challenge is to do an “unexpected nice thing” for Catherine . . . so he pours her a cup of coffee. Really? If doing just that counts as unexpectedly nice, I’d guess Caleb hasn’t done much of anything for his wife in a long time. And then a few days later, Catherine is confused and surprised when Caleb calls him at work, meaning he likely hasn’t done that for quite a while, either. But, of course, he expects her to cook for him and run his errands on demand nevertheless, even after they’ve ostensibly split up.

    But yeah, Catherine’s totally the problem, and Caleb’s a great guy, better than most. (sarcasm)

  4. Oh wow, that treatment of his mother is horrible. But I’m sure it’ll all be better once he gets right with god.

    So, my opinion on the first days:
    1: Walk away without saying anything when something annoys our thin-skinned husband (who’s he to complain about his wife being overly emotional?) wouldn’t appear any friendlier then starting a screaming match. Miss
    2: Absolute bare minimum effort. This “kindness” is actually less labor-intensive for him than all the things he demands his wife do for him as a matter of course. Miss.
    3: Least terrible one yet, but still woefully insufficient without any commentary. Near miss.
    4: Might have worked slightly if he’d told her you were trying to make up for your past mistakes. But in combination with the odd behavior of the previous days (walking out without a word, suddenly doing a small chore for her, leaving gifts with no comment) it would just make his wife he’s turning into a nice guy control freak. Now that divorce is looming, he suddenly starts behaving oddly, leaving miniscule gifts for her, and is now apparently checking up on her wherabouts. There’s no indication he’s loving or respecting her as a person, just that he’s doing a few minor nice things and is now checking up on here about why she come crawling back to him yet.

    And really, that’s the problem here. None of this shit is about really patching things up or fixing your mistakes. At best, the tips in this book are things you could do after you’ve expressed your regret about the troubles in your relationship and agreed to try and rekindle your romance. But to just unilaterally start doing this crap wouldn’t be viewed as particularly romantic to any spouse with a minimum of self-respect. And I can only imagine what the response of that spouse would be if he or she found out you were only doing those random pseudo-romantic things because a book told you to.

    I see this as support for the thesis I posted in part 1. Caleb’s dad got him to the point where he wants to try and fix the problems with his captial-M-Marriage, but he hasn’t given a single thought about the woman whom he happens to be a part of that marriage. He doesn’t really seem to have given any thoughts as to what she wants or needs, he just gives her a coffee or buys some flowers because the book told him to do so.


      The twist at the end is that Caleb’s dad didn’t do these things for his wife, his wife did these things for HIM. I was also under the impression that Caleb’s mom had written it, but it’s been a while and I hate romances, so my eyes had pretty much glazed over by that point. BUT, I do remember specifically that Caleb’s mother did the love dare, not his father.

      And yes, Caleb does come crawling back to her asking forgiveness at the end of the movie.

      Personally, while I do agree with his mom, I think she should’ve given Caleb a chance to vent and listen to him before she talked to him about it. Sometimes in a moment we just want people to listen to us, and when they don’t we can get more defensive than we normally would otherwise. Heh.

      • Oh gods, I thought there was no way to make this creepier, but apparently I was wrong.

        It’s bad enough if these are things John was doing for Cheryl; in that case, the subtext is “You don’t need to treat her as a full and equal partner: Just do small things to placate the wife and she’ll abandon her entirely reasonable complaints about your lack of respect and emotional intimacy will vanish.”

        But if Cheryl is the other of the Love Dare — if these are things she was doing for him — the subtext is even more horrible. “He doesn’t need to treat you as a full and equal partner: Just do small things to placate the husband and, well, that’s it really. Just keep him happy. He’ll still cut you off and talk over you, and encourage your son to do the same, but that’s okay because you’re a woman.”

        Both options are terrible advice, but the latter is a recipe for enabling emotional and physical abuse.

        • Hmm, I see your point, but I feel a bit troubled by the implication that the same actions are disrespectful to the woman, whether it’s the man or woman doing it.

          I don’t know enough about the exact problems between John and Cheryl back in the day to say if your fear applies in their case. If they were just growing apart, or it was Cheryl who said or did a significant amount of the things that were causing problems between them (which, in a normal relationship, wouldn’t be all that unusual), I have no problem with her taking the initiative and taking steps to fix their marriage. The steps in question still aren’t good, but they are not necessarily worse than if John took them.

          I agree that it is dangerous as a one-size-fits-all solution to marriage problems. In Caleb and Catherine’s case for instance, it is very clearly Caleb who is the problem and who needs to change, or at least should change first. If a RL pastor would give this Love Dare book to a woman in Catherine’s position as the solution to her problems, that would be enabling abuse. But without knowing John was as bad as Caleb, I don’t want to condemn the idea that Cheryl could have been the one to make the effort.

          (I’ll admit that John’s behavior when Caleb lashes out at Cheryl isn’t promising, but he might just be trying to get his son to complete his venting so he can talk him into actually fixing his relationship instead of grumbling about it.)

          • Hmm, I see your point, but I feel a bit troubled by the implication that the same actions are disrespectful to the woman, whether it’s the man or woman doing it.

            The problem is no matter who takes the “active” role with the whole “Love Dare” thing, it’s still not an attempt to communicate about your actual problems or treat your spouse as an equal. Men are explicitly in control in Real True Christian™ relationships; literature on the subject is full of glib gender-essentialist commentary about how men are designed to be Thinkers and Doers and Leaders, while women are designed to shut up and do what they’re told. A particularly pernicious example is “just as God is the head of the Man, Man is the head of the Woman” — in other words, a woman’s relationship to a man should be like a man’s relationship to God: Fearful, unquestioning obedience. Equality, parity, and mutual respect just aren’t in the picture.

            This power gap colors the actions of the Love Dare, regardless of who is following the checklist. It’s bad for the woman either way because she’s the one at a disadvantage in the relationship. The only way to fix that is to remove the coercive aspects of the relationship and make her an equal — not a “help meet,” not a domestic-servant-with-benefits, not even a valued subordinate, but as a partner and peer. And that’s not what the Love Dare is offering.

  5. inquisitiveraven

    Just to show how unbiblical the girlfriends are, they even offer Catherine a place to stay until the divorce is finalized. Catherine declines, because “he’s the problem, not me.” Which I suppose is the movie’s way of telling us that the scene we saw of the yelling and bullying couldn’t possibly be abuse, could it? Because Catherine isn’t afraid to live in the same house as Caleb.

    Yeah, it’s not like the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship is when the victim tries to leave, oh wait

    She’s better off than many victims in one way though; he hasn’t successfully cut her off completely from a support network.

  6. Somehow the salt and pepper analogy sounds very strange to me. If two people can’t get along and you say they are “like water and oil”, that makes sense since water and oil do react to each other in a particular way. Or if a person is attracted to someone potentially harmful, you can say they are “drawn like a moth to a flame”. You know, because moths actually do that sort of thing.

    But salt and pepper do not really react in any meaningful way. They neither attract nor repel each other. The only reason they are commonly found together is because they are used for the same purpose and therefore it is practical to store them in the same place. So Michael’s idea of perfect marriage consists of two people who don’t interact and stay together just for convenience?

    Also, if you superglue the shakers together, you make them useless for their intended purpose and you’ll just have to throw them away now. What was your point again Michael? Because I lost track. Oh, right: “What God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” Because marriage is all about pleasing God. You and your wife are just the Creator’s condiments, so don’t you go rearranging God’s kitchen cupboard.


    The way Caleb talks about his marital difficulties, there is something quite mechanistic about it. It’s like he considers his wife to be, not a person with thoughts and concerns, but some kind of machine that is mysteriously malfunctioning.

    “Good afternoon and thank you for calling the relationship help line, my name is James. How may I be of assistance?”

    “Well, it’s my marriage. It’s not working the way it’s supposed to. As soon as I walk in the door I get yelled at, everything is always my fault, nothing I do is good enough…”

    “Have you tried rebooting?”


    “Turn it off for a while and then turn it back on. See if that clears the issue.”

    “We’ve been sleeping in separate rooms for a while now, so that’s us being apart. Then last week I pushed her against a wall during an argument, so I’d call that being near to each other again. But it didn’t solve anything. I can’t get any respect, the romance is gone, there’s no spark left…”

    “How old is your device? If you have trouble maintaining a full charge, it could be that the battery has come to the end of its lifespan and needs to be replaced.”

    “Ah no, it’s not a mobile device. I took the traditional desktop “as long as you both shall live” model. And anyway, it isn’t a power issue. We have very loud arguments all the time, she’s constantly so over-emotional and gets fired up over every little thing…”

    “Well, if the system is overheating, it could be a ventilation issue. Make sure there is good airflow around the device and remove any dust that may have built up.”

    “No, that’s not it. Just yesterday she was yelling at me for not having been there to help with the vacuuming and how she had had to do it all by herself. So the dust is all removed.”

    “Are you using the latest drivers?”

    “I don’t know, probably…”

    “Try installing the latest drivers, see if that helps.”

    “Look, I don’t think it’s the drivers. I could be saving someone’s life and still hear about how I’m a horrible husband…”

    “Sir, I can’t help you any further until we’ve made sure you are using the correct drivers. It’s very simple: Just download the file, double-click on “LveDar_40d.exe”, and then follow all the instructions as they appear on the screen.”

    “Ok, ok, I’ll do that. But I don’t think it will change anything.”

    “If the problem persists, just call again and one of our customer service agents will be happy to assist you.”

    • I wish I had some kind of prize to give you, Meruror. That was perfect. Sadly I wonder how many conservative married couples do see themselves as basically existing side by side.

      Poor Caleb. If only he had bought the extended warranty for his wife-bot he could just get the manufacturer to fix it instead of having to put all that effort into thinking* of ways to be nice to it.

      *Apparently this consists of recalling mother’s day commercials, as none of the gestures are particularly romantic yet.

  7. (Catching up)

    Ivan, I think you’re absolutely right about the Marriage as a distinct entity. Under this model, a marriage can be “saved” by one person taking specific actions without consulting the other. (It’s the brain worms, I tell you. He fixes up the Marriage; the Marriage pulls the strings on Her brain worms.)

    Oh, silly RubyTea, good Christians don’t have marital problems. So if you’re having them you’re Not Right With God and will be tortured forever if you die tomorrow. Because you didn’t otherwise have an incentive to do anything about them.

    What this movie needs is a female firefighter. Caleb would explode, and everyone else would be happier. Well, maybe not his father.

    OK, I haven’t been in this situation, but if I were in a bad relationship and the other half of it started making this kind of gesture, stuff that takes basically no thought, I would start to be really worried. It’s simultaneously an admission that something is wrong and an attempt to buy off any opposition without actually making any mental effort.

    • Agreed, I also have the suspicion that any progress you might make by following this book’s tips will be undone when your spouse finds the book. It shows that, rather than being romantic, you were just working of an impersonal checklist.

      But perhaps the clue to how the RL book works is in that advertisement I reposted before. That promo-text was filled to the brim with RTC lingo (“This 40-Day journey equips you to melt hardened, separated hearts into an enduring love that can withstand the flames of fear, pride and temptation.”) and dogwhistles (“In a world that attacks, devalues, and redefines relationships every day”). So for all of that blurb’s claim that it’ll help you “hear more about the One who not only designed unconditional, sacrificial love—He illustrated it”, it seems that someone at the publishing house does figure there are good Christians with martial problems. Else they wouldn’t have marketed the book specifically to hardcore culture warriors.

      So how can the book help RTCs with martial problems? By appealing to authority and tribal boundaries. “We must fix our marriage, or the evil satanic seculars who hate real proper marriage between a man and a woman will have won. And look, Kirk Cameron himself approves of the method I’m using. So are you going to respond to my 40 days of minor acts of love with unconditional, sacrificial love, or are you some filthy apostate who’ll be left behind when Jesus comes to get me before I die?”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        So how can the book help RTCs with martial problems? By appealing to authority and tribal boundaries. “We must fix our marriage, or the evil satanic seculars who hate real proper marriage between a man and a woman will have won…


        • There certainly do seem to be RTCs who claim that homosexual sex is so much more pleasurable than hetero sex that, well, one try and you’re hooked for life; and therefore it is vitally important for a man to keep a strong marriage (i.e. keep getting laid) and never try it. Which is, well, an interesting explanation for what they were doing in that airport bathroom.

  8. Michael: Caleb, salt and pepper are completely different. … But you always see them together.

    Michael: Don’t do it, Caleb. If you pull them apart now, you’ll break either one or both of them.

    Yeah, you do often see salt and pepper shakers in the same place. But never super glued together, because that way they must always stay together, and produce a constant ratio of salt and pepper that is almost never the exact ratio that makes you happy. But then some jerk comes along and glues them together, and then whines if someone tries to pull them apart, because obviously the shakers are so imperfect that they will break quicker than the glue he only put on a minute ago. And of course that jerk ignores that the salt and pepper were perfectly functional until he insisted to stick them together.

    Great analogy: Casual relationships of convenience and friends with benefits are clearly the best option, it’s just those RTCs that insist on permanently binding people into marrying to the first person they think they might be interest in, then try to guilt those people into sticking together.

  9. Headless Unicorn Guy

    Now, I accept that not every actor can do accents, but since Kirk Cameron can’t, you’d think the solution would be to hire actors with his accent as his parents, and drop a line in about the family being transplants or something.

    But Kirk Cameron is the Big Name CELEBRITY Star!

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