Fireproof: Part 7

We all seem to be on the same page re: the weirdness of Caleb confronting Flirty Doctor, not, yanno, Catherine, about the workplace flirtation.  It’s yet another example of Caleb treating his Marriage as a machine that needs to be fixed, not a relationship between two sentient humans.

All of which made me wonder something, so I went back and counted: it has been twenty full minutes of movie time between instances of Caleb and Catherine talking to each other.  The last time was their terse exchange at the hospital after Caleb was injured.  The next time is happening right now.

Following the montage, Caleb wakes up to see Catherine’s purse on the couch, instead of at the hospital with her, where it belongs.  Catherine isn’t feeling well and is taking a sniffly day in bed.

Caleb asks if he can get her anything, and she answers (firmly, but not unkindly) that she is fine.

Caleb nonetheless heads out to get her the two things everyone needs when they have a cold: medication and Chik-fil-A (Caleb no doubt started to like it the moment he converted).


Oh.  Yum.  Good thing Catherine didn’t get sick on a Sunday.

Catherine asks him the obvious question: why is he doing all this?  You would think the obvious answer would be, “Because I love you,” or “Because I care about you,” and/or, “Because I can’t stand to see you in pain.”  But oh no…

Caleb:  I have learned that you never leave your partner.  Especially in a fire.

Gosh, that’s…sweet?  Is it supposed to be sweet?

And so personal, too!  Nothing here about Caleb rediscovering his love for Catherine, loyal, big-hearted, funny Catherine.  Who has terrible taste in furniture upholstery, but that only makes Caleb love her more.

Nope.  Don’t leave your partner.  It makes Jesus cry.  Marriage is an institution, don’tcha know.

Caleb actually fesses up about The Love Dare (granted, I suppose he couldn’t keep it a secret forever), but Catherine…found the book yesterday!  And read it today, while sick in bed!

So, now Catherine knows that Caleb has been secretly manipulating her all these weeks.  Making nice not because he wants to, but because he was dared to by his old man.

She must feel so flattered.

Catherine:  What day are you on?

Caleb:  Forty-three.

Catherine:  There’s only forty.

Caleb:  Who says I have to stop?

I’m sure you’ll all be shocked, but there’s an undercurrent of smarmy in Caleb’s tone here.  I mean, he really wants a cookie for being almost-bearable to live with for three extra days.

Catherine:  Caleb, I don’t know how to process this.  This is not normal for you.

Caleb:  Welcome to the new normal.

Smug prick.

Catherine also calls Caleb out on the fact that he was faking it till he made it for awhile, and Caleb owns up to that, because he “didn’t know what love was.”

Which also must make Catherine feel so flattered.  They both got married for a reason, yanno?  And now Caleb is telling her to her face that when he said he loved her and when he proposed to her and when he married her, he didn’t know what love was.

In other words, their whole life together has been a sham from the start.

What an unbelievably smug prick he is.


(Actually, this scene reminds me quite a bit of the last scene between Walter and Skyler, when he tells her that his meth empire was the only thing that ever made him feel alive.  Except that we were meant to see Walter as a sociopath who was incapable of loving another human being.)


Anyway, Catherine takes this disgusting admission pretty well, all things considered, though she does tell Caleb that she is not ready to trust him yet.

And THEN the movie actually does one thing right.  One of the things we have been hoping for from the start.

No, Catherine doesn’t throw the bum out.  No, Caleb doesn’t get repeatedly smacked in the face.

What Caleb does do is get down on his knees and beg Catherine’s forgiveness.  I’m going to give you the whole thing, because never say I don’t give credit where it’s due:

Caleb:  I am sorry.  I have been so selfish.  For the past seven years, I have trampled on you with my words and my actions.  I have loved other things when I should have loved you.  In the last few weeks, God has given me a love for you that I had never had before.  And I have asked him to forgive me.  And I am hoping, I am praying that somehow you would be able to forgive me, too.  Catherine, I do not want to live the rest of my life without you.

Damn.  That is a pretty good apology.  Not best ever, but pretty good.

It is also too little, too late.  Not just for the Holt marriage, but for this movie.  Up until now, Caleb has treated this relationship like an object to be fixed.  It isn’t even Caleb and Catherine’s marriage, it is The Marriage.  Do the right things, follow the instructions in the book, and Generic Spouse will respond in the proper way because God wills it.  Caleb has changed his ways: where before he abused and talked over Catherine, now he simply works around her, maintaining the Marriage as he would a car, but never focusing on Catherine, the person.

If this speech had been the culmination of Caleb realizing that he has never really communicated with Catherine, it might have more power.  As it is, I suspect that the Day 40 Dare, which Caleb is a few days late on, is “Give Spouse Passionately Sincere Apology.”

(Speaking of, what have the Dares been for the past two weeks?  Isn’t Caleb supposed to be doing something new every day?  We haven’t seen any new stuff in the long time.  Unless “Sweep the Floor” and “Wash a Few Dishes” were on two separate days.  Guess we have to buy the book to find out.)

Catherine needs time to think.  As you would.

Recovered from her convenient cold, Catherine heads back to her favorite hangout, the hospital supply store, where she buys some sheets for her mom’s new bed.  This gives an opportunity for the receptionist to mention the Big Revelation: though Flirty Doctor contributed $300 to the Mom’s New Bed and Wheelchair Fund, Caleb paid the other $24,000.  And he did so two weeks ago.

Gotta say, it is still nice of Flirty Doctor to donate any money at all towards this cause.  And hey, why didn’t anybody ever think to organize a fundraising effort at the hospital to get Catherine’s mom the stuff?

Catherine once again walks out of the store in a daze, and dashes home to find her wedding ring.  Then she fixes herself up all pretty for Caleb.  Because once you spend money on your lady, she will reward you with the putting on of makeup and the fixing of hair.

Catherine shows up at the fire station, and tells Caleb she loves him and has forgiven him.  (Happily for us, if any happiness can come out of this trainwreck of a relationship, she does not use the word “respect.”)

But damn, it is such a quid pro quo view of marriage.  I’d reproduce the entire reconcicliation conversation, but it makes me ill.  I mean, he just paid for his marriage to continue.  They had $23,000 in savings, he spent it on his mother-in-law, she takes him back.  And isn’t this their money, not just Caleb’s?  Why has the thought of spending their savings on her mom never occurred to Catherine?

Biggest plothole in the movie.

Oh, and there is one more bit of grossness in this movie, but I’ll save it for next time, as I have a lot to say about it.

So we’ll close on this: Kirk Cameron infamously won’t kiss any woman but his wife.  Even though he’s, yanno, an actor.  So for the firehouse scene (the only time Caleb and Catherine kiss in the whole movie), they flew in Cameron’s wife (Chelsea Noble, who played Hattie Durham in the Left Behind movies), and shot the kiss part of the scene so that you can’t really see the actress’s face.


Not actually Catherine.

What more disgustingness could there possibly be?  Stay tuned–same atheist time, same atheist channel!

Posted on August 17, 2014, in Fireproof, Movies. Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. So pretending to be married to another woman for money is fine. Being an abusive asshole to her for for money fine. But a kiss? That’s right out! You’re only allowed to play tonsil hockey with your own wife, for money.

    I guess this is what happens when your moral code is based on a confused mishmash of arbitrary and conflicting rules, with no underlying themes running through it.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      But a kiss? That’s right out! You’re only allowed to play tonsil hockey with your own wife, for money

      Let me guess…
      Kirk Cameron movie, right?

  2. No wonder Caleb flew off the handle at Dr. I-Only-Have-A-First-Name. He just dropped $23,000 on this bitch* and he’s not going to allow some fancy-pants doctor without a last name to destroy it all by being “amicable” and “kind”.

    *the marriage, not Catherine

  3. RubyTea, I think one could also argue that Caleb confronts Doc Flirty because he’s the other man in the situation. Catherine is just the prize.

  4. Oh yes, nothing like a fast food meal when you’re feeling sick. Hope you don’t mind getting your kind gift projectile-vomitted back into your face Caleb.

    I have learned that you never leave your partner. Especially in a fire.
    And how has Caleb learned that? He never takes his partners with him in any fires, that was his whole problem. And please tell me how this whole marriage is supposed to resemble a fire in any way (other than that I wouldn’t want to get near it).

    That apology may be an improvement compared to his track record until now, but I still don’t think it’s good. It’s so incredibly generic. I guess he adresses his specific problem of looking at porn, but nothing about Catherine. I do not want to live the rest of my life without you? Why? What have you learned that is making you desire Catherine, specifically? I actually think we need to take his previous sentence literally: God hooked him up with an IV and pumped him full of love for the woman he married. Who that woman is is irrelevant, god only did it so that he himself could be satisfied that the institute of Marriage that he so cherises endures.

    Really, this apology has that same vibe for me as the pep-talk at the end of Second Glance. The protagonist hasn’t experienced anything that would make him appreciate the specific woman he decides to pursue, it’s just that he’s become a good Christian robot who’s going to stick with the woman who happens to have God’s stamp of approval on her forehead (either because she’s married, or because she’s a virign).

    Still, as long as Kirk doesn’t completely break character and gives us a scene where he speaks approvingly of the comming genocide of unbelievers during pillow talk, at least this story won’t take Soon‘s “Least desirable re-enkindling of a marriage”-trophy.

    • The speech reminds me of a time I was talking with a friend who was facing possible divorce. I asked him for a reason to stay with his partner and he couldn’t think of one. Not even one. And yet he was fighting hard to stay married.

      So basically, God finally gave Caleb the proper reboot code and now he and Catherine can finally be on their merry way.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      I actually think we need to take his previous sentence literally: God hooked him up with an IV and pumped him full of love for the woman he married. Who that woman is is irrelevant…

      Like the phenomenon reported on a lot of spiritual abuse blogs regarding Salvation by Marriage Alone — guys so desperate to have A Wife(TM) that the girl they date becomes nothing more than an interchangeable piece of equipment to achieve Being Married.

      Given the low status of singles in such a church culture, I can easily understand the desperation — when you finally get married, you get to sit at the grown-ups’ table with all the other grown-ups. You have Arrived(TM). And the singles become YOUR free labor pool instead of the other way around.

  5. So that important reconcilliation-conversation… Catherine isn’t feeling well, is in bed, and not dressed. Caleb brings her cold medication, and they talk. If Catherine didn’t initiate the conversation, then this has a slightly creepy-controlling-vibe to it, with Caleb picking the time & place of this exchange to be when Catherine is at a disadvantage, and less likely to retreat if things become uncomfortable.

    Catherine, I do not want to live the rest of my life without you.

    Can I also add that he’s saying this maybe a month after he entered a burning building without a partner or radio, discarded his safety gear mid-way through, and injured himself on the job. Taken in context this has strong shades of emotional blackmail; he’s just shown how capable he is of not living the rest of his wife, should his wife dare to leave him.

    About the money: if Caleb paid the $24k two weeks earlier, why keep it a secret from his wife? I mean, the answer is obvious: so you can throw it in her face if she tries to leave you, but I mean, is there a non-jerkbag reason?

    I know the movie wants us to see it as romance, but all I see is a pattern of emotional manipulation.

    • I’m not sure if telling Catherine immediately would have been less creepy though. She was already busy leaving him, so Caleb telling Catherine he’s giving her 24 grand does smack of an attempted bribe. Then again, that’s how it’s playing out right now too, so…

      A somewhat better way would have been if Caleb, y’know, TALKED to Catherine, LISTENED to what she had to say. Then maybe he’d have realized that she’s worried he’s putting on a nice-guy act to make out like a bandit during the divorce settlement. Then he could’ve given the money to her mother just to show that’s not what he’s after.

      But really, I don’t think there is a good way of just giving a sum of money that big to a person that you want something personal and intimate from, and who doesn’t seem inclined to give it to you. There’ll always be a hint that Caleb has decided not to pay monthly for porn site subscriptions, but is making a one-time lump sum payment for permanent gratification from Catherine. Doubly so because Catherine is in no position to refuse the money, as her very sick mother needs it.

      • I think you’ve pretty well nailed the issue.

        At least part of the problem definitely does seem to be the unilateral nature of the act. It’s not discussed beforehand, she is given no opportunity to decline, and his intent behind the act is murky at best.

        I like your approach because it asks the otherwise-unspoken questions about intent. If Catherine was worried about Caleb scheming for money in the divorce settlement, him dropping $24k in a grand gesture could easily be seen as “the cost of the divorce settlement plus lawyers would probably be more than $24k” pragmatism.

        In the movie I wanted to see, Caleb would offer to pay for the bed from a Solomon-like position: “After the divorce, I’ll only have enough money to buy half a boat, and you’ll only have enough money to buy half a bed. This way, we can do something good.” (Changed man alert!) But that’s not the movie we have.

  6. If Catherine questions if he’s really changed, the payment serves as proof that he has. If she goes forward with the divorce, that’s $23,000 taken out of the settlement. He wins either way.

  7. Have you ever been to the Love Dare forums? It’s incredibly depressing stuff, from people whose marriages are falling apart and putting their trust in this dumb book. I link you now to Day 32 (Love Meets Sexual Needs) because that’s probably the worst….

    Also, FYI: Day 37 = pray with your spouse; Day 38 = Ask what your “mate” would want if it were attainable and start a budget to buy it; Day 39 = Pray & then write a letter of commitment & resolve to your spouse and leave it in a place where your “mate” will find it; Day 40 = write out renewed marriage vows.

    • I took a look through some of the posts on that forum.
      It was lucky i wasn’t drinking anything when i read this one, from dust237:
      “Well I made myself available to her last night. She likes it when I get all cleaned up and shaven, so thats what I did. And it was apparent to her. However she was reading a romance novel, which I havent seen her do in a long time. Which was wired that she choose tonight to do it. I think it was called “50 Shades of Grey.” ”
      And it doesn’t seem to be a joke….

  8. I’m sure you’ll all be shocked, but there’s an undercurrent of smarmy in Caleb’s tone here. I mean, he really wants a cookie for being almost-bearable to live with for three extra days.

    Oh man. I can just hear it Every once in a great while my Hubby gets that smarmy tone for doing just slightly more than the bare minimum to keep the household going. It drives me nuts and generally leads to a big fight.

    At least Catherine didn’t cave immediately after finding out about the Love Dare. Also does Catherine have a come to Jesus moment? She doesn’t seem to be overly Christian and I don’t think we’ve seen her pray. Is that what is coming up?

    • Oh crap, yeah, it isn’t a happy end yet! I mean, the protagonist are fully happy (somehow), but one person doesn’t know Jesus Christ as her personal savior yet! She could get hit by the hypothetical bus right this moment*. Altar call ending, to the rescue!

      Well, Ruby did want to see more Christian romance where the man leads the woman to Christ. Let’s see if it’s going to be as troublesome as I think, with lots of entitlement and (ab)use of (alleged) power.

      *Actually, I know she’s already suffered enough, but wouldn’t it make for a really facinating story if Catherine DOES get run over and killed right after that kiss? How would Caleb square that one with his newfound faith, especially the part where he believes she’s now in hell? What does that say about his assumption that he was doing what god wants, or if that was really god’s love that he was feeling?

      It would force him to really investigate all those assumptions that he made so quickly, seeing how he simply converted after a few boilerplate remarks from his dad. Which is one reason why that won’t happen. In RTC movies, only non-Christians can have religious dilemma’s and uncertainties. Just like with Buck Williams, when inviting Jesus into his heart, Caleb got perfect knowledge of the bible and its meaning along with it.

      • Yeah, if Christian™-brand media were really a reflection of RTC life, there’d be a whole lot more stories about wondering whether you’re really saved, whether you had enough passionate sincerity when you said the magic words, and so on. That’s a side of it that, at least going by the window on it opened to me by Ruby and others, just doesn’t seem to get mentioned at all.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy

          Sounds like the Excessive Scrupulosity (OCD navel-gazing sin-sniffing) you find in all those 17th & 18th Century Massachusetts Puritan journals.

  9. inquisitiveraven

    Ruby, how do you feel about flash fiction? I kinda wanted to write some after Caleb’s confrontation with Flirty Doctor in the last post, but I figured I’d better finish the fire service critique first. It just keeps expanding. I’m thinking at this point that I’m gonna need to do it in three parts.

  10. Um … speaking as a survivor of abuse here, this strikes me as a faux-pology. Caleb is not specific enough about what he has done that was wrong and needs to be fixed, nor does he specify what actions he’s going to take to fix things (like group counseling, individual therapy to work on his anger issues … )

    The “apology” is all about him, his feelings, his forgiveness handed to him by his god, and won’t she pretty-please forgive him too? Not a word is spared for her feelings, how she’s been affected, what she wants out of a relationship, or whether being with him is the best thing for her. And something tells me that if she had pointed this out, not a garbage can would be left standing outside.

    The $23,000 “gift” from their savings account is also exactly in line with abusive behaviour. They abuse the power they have over their victims as much as possible, then when they realize that there is a chance that they won’t be able to anymore they go into the “reconciliation” phase, with its apologies that aren’t really apologies and its gifts that are kind of half-assed or even harmful to the recipient.

    This always leads to the abuse beginning again, until either the abuser or the victim breaks the cycle.

    Please, for the love of foxes and rice, point this out in your next installment. >_> People need to know how to recognize the cycle of abuse.

  11. Headless Unicorn Guy

    Caleb nonetheless heads out to get her the two things everyone needs when they have a cold: medication and Chik-fil-A (Caleb no doubt started to like it the moment he converted).

    Because Chick-Fil-A is CHRISTIAN(TM)!

    (Actually, I suspect it’s a Product Placement plug. I’ve eaten at a local Chick-Fil-A, and their stuff is pretty decent. Especially like the peach shakes. Their food could stand on its own without having to be plugged as an Act of Faith.)

  12. Headless Unicorn Guy

    So we’ll close on this: Kirk Cameron infamously won’t kiss any woman but his wife. Even though he’s, yanno, an actor. So for the firehouse scene (the only time Caleb and Catherine kiss in the whole movie), they flew in Cameron’s wife (Chelsea Noble, who played Hattie Durham in the Left Behind movies), and shot the kiss part of the scene so that you can’t really see the actress’s face.

    KIrk Cameron (AKA Greatest CHRISTIAN(TM) Actor of All Time) is considered highly neurotic even by Hollywood standards. He’s the poster boy for a type of OCD my church calls “Excessive Scrupulosity”, i.e. internal sin-sniffing phobia obsessed with avoiding anything that might be sin. (When he was shooting Left Behind and heard there were Heathens on the set, he barricaded himself in his dressing room trailer to avoid contamination.)

    Slacktivist theorizes that the GCAAT was an adult convert (bringing in baggage from a showbiz career) who was “catechized in primarily NEGATIVE terms”, where Holiness was defined entirely by “Thou Shalt Not”s. Result: Excessive Scrupulosity, obsessed with keeping his nose squeeky-clean to pass the Great White Throne and/or Rapture Litmus Test.

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