Thursday, July 3, 2008

One Review of the Disturbing Return of the Daughters

Here's my second attempt at posting my first comment here on Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkin’s new film, The Return of the Daughters.” (I sent my first attempt into cyberspace oblivion.) There are so many things about the film that are disturbing to me, and I was amazed to see how “emotionally engaged” my very logical husband became when we viewed it together. We were both disturbed for a wide variety of reasons, probably because the general premise of young women desiring to live godly lives to impact society is such a desirable premise. But like so much of Vision Forum influenced ideology, “you get much more than you bargained for.” I actually thought at one point, that it might be nice to have Dave Letterman’s blink counter set to sound whenever “Biblical” was used as a modifier.

Vision Forum’s description of this film states:

This highly-controversial documentary will take viewers into the homes of several young women who have dared to defy today’s anti-family culture in pursuit of a biblical approach to daughterhood, using their in-between years to pioneer a new culture of strength and dignity, and to rebuild Western Civilization, starting with the culture of the home….. As the home goes, so often goes the church, and society at large. Learn along with Anna Sofia and Elizabeth, the fulfilling, exciting life of impact and accomplishment that young women can and should have. Discover the power of
the family unit and a picture of the biblical home as the center of dominion work — a vibrant center of education, ministry, evangelism, culture, entrepreneurialism, and hospitality.

Certainly, this film represents great ideals, and many of them are vital to Christianity, representing core Christian principles. The film presents a vignette of the lives of several young women that either work for their fathers in their own place of business, volunteer or work from home to generate income to help support the vision of the father. What is more subtle is the reason why these young women are portrayed as shining examples of “Biblical womanhood” that is not directly and obviously stated in the film. The film doesn’t argue their point for the sole purpose of singing the glories of staying at home but as a positive support of their narrow, legalistic interpretation that this is the only acceptable “Biblical” standard for all unwed women.

In keeping with the patriocentric doctrines and practices taught by Vision Forum and the FICs, I think that a more appropriate name for the film would be “The Return to the Fathers,” because I found the focus of the film to be the glorified ideal of the father-daughter relationship. Brothers get a plug in the Extras section, but mothers barely appear on camera. After the focus on the first young woman and her family, there were few mothers on screen. I do specifically recall the mother of one of the girls appearing in the film, but only in portrait where she is shown embracing the girl’s father. If examining the content of the film, the focus is not on family or home, so the “Return of the Daughters” calls really for a return of daughters -- to return home to their father’s vision for them.

The Bodkin girls stare hypnotically into the camera with come-hither gazes, and everyone else is interviewed in documentary style, looking away from the camera’s eye. There’s been discussion on some blogs about the disturbing nature of some of this technique, especially when some interviewed demonstrate some unnatural lack of eye movement. Some people are trained to control eye movement to conceal information about the truthfulness of their statements, although this might have been due to the use of a teleprompter. This is a great distraction in the film, especially in the Extras sections where Geoff Botkin and Doug Phillips explain the “Biblical Foundations” for the belief system that they advocate in the film. The Visionary Daughters website posted a clip of this section online, but it was coincindently removed after only a day.

My husband was quite incensed over some of the poorly chosen language used in a particular clip within the “Courtship and Marriage” section, also included in the Extras on the DVD. If anyone has an opportunity to watch it, I would like to hear feedback on that section specifically via private correspondence. My husband was actually offended by some of the just poorly worded commentary in that section. In fact, I think that it’s so disturbing, unless interpreted with previous knowledge of the subject of courtship and within the mindset of the Christian community that embraces the courtship model, I will not present the transcript of that section here. I interpreted that section with understanding of the intent of the speaker, but I have grave concerns that those outside of patriarchy’s influence would not be so kind in evaluating it.

Read some of the discussion HERE.