Southern Baptist Sissies

by Michael Cox

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday November 13, 2014

Southern Baptist Sissies

Del Shores' debut as a writer and director of feature films was recently released to Blu-ray: "Sordid Lives" (a black comedy about white trash) is the screen adaptation of his play and features a charming cast of colorful characters. The film became a cult classic, particularly within the LGBT community.

Breaking Glass pictures gives us the opportunity to experience another Del Shores play on DVD, though this one has not been adapted for the screen. "Southern Baptist Sissies" features many of the same supporting cast members who appeared in "Sordid Lives," including the incomparable Leslie Jordan. But this filmed play leaves you wishing that you had seen it performed live.

First of all, if feels painfully long, because there are many tangential stories that don't come together until the last 20 minutes. Second, the presentational style leaves the audience feeling as though we're always being preached to, whether the characters are fundamentalist Baptists or those who oppose them. And though the Evangelical revival feeling may be thrilling when live and in person, it's tiring when it happens on a screen.

This recorded play is worth seeing (in installments) for the great comic writing of Del Shores and the brilliant nuanced performance of Leslie Jordan. Though some of the one-liners are absolutely hilarious (and betray Shores' extensive history of writing television comedy), the moments of heartbreaking honesty provided by Jordan are this DVD's biggest take-away.

Four Southern Baptist boys discover their sexuality and make different choices based on their religious beliefs. These stories are juxtaposed against two barflies getting very drunk and lamenting the choices they've made in their lives.

The narrator, Mark (Emerson Collins), looks back ironically on his adolescence and comes off far more didactic than his fundamentalist contemporaries who actually struggle with their faith and sexuality. His jaded, sardonic attitude undermines the sincere, confused feelings of his younger self.

The main plot line, featuring the Baptist boys, has the formula of countless gay narratives. Adolescents discover their sexuality within an atmosphere of homophobia and repression (showing a lot of flesh in the process). Two of the characters fall in love, but one of them is unable to handle it. In the end, something devastating happens that warns the audience of what becomes of small minds that are left unchecked.

As captured on video, the performances of the younger cast members remain "stagey."

As captured on video, the performances of the younger cast members remain "stagey," in part because they are the only characters to break the fourth wall, and in part because they "act" like twelve-year-old boys while possessing the strong handsome bodies of adult men (often scantly clad).

The true beauty of this production comes from the subplot, and these scenes never feel "acted." In this, a dyed-in-the-wool Southern Baptist woman, Odette Anette Barnett (Dale Dickey), who has left the church after having trouble with alcoholism, wiles away her evenings in a gay bar with a small, self-detesting Southern man, Preston "Peanut" LeRoy (Leslie Jordan).

The coming-of-age-story-cut-short is not nearly as harrowing as the honest regret and truthful realizations of the older couple who come together under the haze of alcohol.

There are no special features, nor even a menu, on this DVD.

"Southern Baptist Sissies"


Live play videorecorded / 138 min.