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Dec. 4 2009 - 4:44 am | 769 views | 5 recommendations | 19 comments

Glenn Beck’s ‘Christmas Sweater’: A Viewer’s Guide

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The Christmas Sweater may seem to be the same kind of run-of-the-mill holiday tale of redemption and hope that we see every year about this time. But considering that the climax involves right-wing talk-show host Glenn Beck, in the guise of a 12 year old version of himself, crying on the stage floor in the fetal position while a large black woman sings hymns to him, I think it might leave viewers with a few more questions than the usual family fare.

With that in mind, I’d like to offer my services. Being True/Slant’s resident expert/masochist regarding Mr. Beck’s artistic side projects, I was naturally drawn to the multiplex to check out the live-action version of his debut novel. I also convinced my wife to accompany me to the show, and I’m thoroughly confident that she’ll start speaking to me again by at least the beginning of next week. I can’t answer all of these questions, but maybe seeing your confusion in print will help calm your inevitably shattered nerves.

1. Why Does It Look So Damn Cheap?

Glenn Beck is a lot of things, but hurting for money ain’t one of ‘em. He reportedly pulls in around $18 million a year from live events and his TV, radio, and book deals. So why does the production budget of The Christmas Sweater look like it topped out at 11 bucks and change? I’ve seen small-town Christmas pageants with better production values than this thing. OK, so there’s a small orchestra onstage and a singer to add an extra layer of schmaltz to the ‘story’ from time to time. But the only real value they bring is the joy in watching their pained expressions while Beck mugs and shuffles beside them.

The bulk of the evening consists solely of Glenn Beck acting out every role in his hokey story, with only his limited repertoire of accents and pantomime filling out the ‘cast’. Sure, there are a few TV’s behind him on stage, but they only show, at the most, ten or twelve still photos the entire time. And they couldn’t even get that right. Despite only needing a few sound effects, I counted several missed cues, and near the end, Beck talks to the wrong camera for a solid minute. I’m at a loss as to how someone so media-savvy could put out something so aggressively half-ass.

2. How Can One Man Expel That Much Liquid From His Body?

If Barney Frank and Michael Moore ran a marathon train session on Rush Limbaugh, I doubt it would produce the amount of sweat Glenn Beck expels in five minutes. Not even counting the words coming out of his mouth, I’m amazed at the amount of disgusting stuff that exits this guy’s body on stage. Spittle, sweat, and tears ooze of out of him constantly; I think I counted four shirt changes in an hour and a half. Nipples, shoulders, neck, stomach: every part of Beck’s body is a soldier in his sweat army. I was in constant awe at Beck’s inability to stay even moderately dry for more than two minutes, and my perpetual scanning for new leaks to spring probably meant I missed some gems of wisdom to share with you, and for that, reader, I apologize.

3. What The Hell Was the Point of All That?

OK, so I guess I have to do a capsule summary of the utterly ridiculous story at the heart of The Christmas Sweater. Keep in mind all roles are ‘performed’ by Glenn Beck.

Eddie – a 12 year-old kid that is/isn’t supposed to be young Beck – is traumatized when his father kicks it at an early age, and quickly becomes an ungrateful twerp to his newly-widowed, now-poor, mother. Posing young Glenn Beck as a nasty, petulant little shit is probably the only believable part of the whole narrative. So, anyway, little Eddie wants a shiny new bike for Christmas, but the family’s heavily reduced income puts the kibosh on that plan. Cue the saintly single mother’s knitting skills, and soon enough the titular sweater sets the whole saccharine scheme in motion. Obviously, like most spoiled kids, Eddie regards handmade as almost as lame as second-hand, giftwise. He tries to feign gratitude for the sweater while at the grandparent’s house, but does a piss-poor job of acting (foreshadow of Grown Beck?), and Mom nixes their plan to stay the night there since he’s being such a brat. She decides to drive them home, in the rain, despite being pretty tired. See where this is going? Yep: Smash Crash Mommy Go Bye Now.

Now Mommy and Daddy can hang out in Heaven! Except, oops, now little Eddie doesn’t believe in it, or God, anymore. A more accurate title would’ve been Little Glenn Beck’s Atheist Summer, but something tells me the marketing guys would’ve 86’d that. So, Eddie’s now living with the grandparents, hating God, and just generally acting like an all-around insufferable twit. Almost out of spite, he befriends a mysterious farmer neighbor, Russell, who, like most of the adult characters, speaks exclusively in cornpone cliché. But forget that guy for a second, because Grandpa’s ‘bout to drop a bombshell. They bought Eddie his bike!

Or they did, back at Christmas. But Eddie was being such a jerk about his other gifts that they decided to “punish” him by sending him home sans bike. And, of course, that means they also ended up sending him home sans Mom. Naturally, Little Orphan Eddie is pissed at hearing this, and soon runs away on his ‘new’ bike. But then he gets lost in a cornfield during a storm, wrecks his bike, and is basically screwed. (Re) enter Russell, who delivers the least-believable monologue in stage/movie/anything history, the gist of which is something like this: “Be a man and walk through the storm because all of life is storms and rain and thunder but also God and your mom and love and something something strained metaphor.” So, naturally, Eddie grows a pair and hikes back home, lesson learned. The End? NOPE. Turns out, he spent the night at the grandparents on Christmas and dreamed the accident and everything after.

4. Wait, Wait, Wait! The Whole Mommy Dying Thing was a F@#$%ing Dream?!?

YES. SOMEHOW, YES. BECK ACTUALLY DID THAT.

Incredibly, beyond all belief, diving way below even the subterranean expectations I had for Glenn Beck as a dramatist, this guy, this hack, this joker, actually wrote a “The Whole Thing Was a Dream” story. Actually, worse – he wrote a “Half of This Thing Is a Dream” story, making the half that was painful the part he could take back. So, Little Eddie gets to keep his bike, his mom, and his hard-earned life lesson. Yuck Yuck Yuck. But wait, it gets worse.

When it cuts back to the live portion of the program, Glenn Beck reveals that Simon and Schuster told him to make the ending happier, and that’s why he came up with the whole dream sequence twaddle. He tears up (for the 434th time), and says, “In real life, Mommy never came back.” So, in summary: Glenn Beck decides to honor his real-life dead mother by 1) exploiting her death in the most cloying and heavy-handed way, with a story so obvious and manipulative it wouldn’t make it past the pitch stage at the Hallmark Channel and 2) change the most important fact of the story (the mother dying) the second the corporate overlords tell him to lighten it up for mass consumption.

I don’t usually presume to judge how people grieve, but, then again, most people don’t choose to grieve through two-and-a-half hour therapy sessions in the guise of a heavily promoted one-man show. Most people don’t choose to grieve by selling their crocodile tears by the truckload. Most people don’t choose to grieve by turning their own mother’s death into a object lesson for a bizarre mixture of conspiracy-loon Libertarianism and Prosperity Gospel hokum – which leads us to:

5. Isn’t It Creepy That the Political Stuff Is Mostly Subtext?

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Damn right it is. For example, after the taped portion of the story is told – and right before he lets some fans share their own, uh, Sweater stories – Beck expounds on the moral of the whole production, which he has handily encapsulated in a hand gesture:

[Making the peace sign]

“Before you can find peace, you have to go from being a Victim to a [turns hand around to make the Victory sign] to being a Victor.”

I can’t argue with his point – ‘In life, it’s not so much what happens to you as it is how you handle it’ – in the abstract. But you’d have to be pretty ignorant of him and his audience not to realizing how much ideological baggage is riding along on such a seemingly banal statement. He could’ve also worded it “Pull Yourself Up By Your Own Bootstraps”, “Better a Hand Up Than a Handout”, or more colloquially, “F*ck The Poor”, but he knows those are tainted phrases. He’s out to create his own set of proverbs and fairytales. What separates Glenn Beck from a Rush or an O’Reilly is that he’s outgrown mere politics. He’s into mythmaking, because that’s where the real power lies. He knows you can’t argue with tears or debate a fable. He’s tapped into the reptile brain, the collective unconsciousness of Us and Them, Dark and Light. In one of the more disturbing parts near the end, Beck relates the storm of the story to the turmoil our country is facing. I’m paraphrasing from memory here: “A storm is coming in this country. You better know who you are.” My wife knew little of Glenn Beck before this show. She left the theater genuinely terrified.

6. Did Glenn Beck Really Tell That One Lady That Her Daughter’s Death was a “Blessing In Disguise”?

Basically.

7. What Ethnicity was Glenn Beck’s Grandmother Supposed to Be?

Given the accents he alternated between, I’d say she was either Southern Scots-Irish, just-off-the-boat Italian, Romanian Gypsy, or life-long New York Jew.

8. Why Did That One Guy At the End Say He Started Using Heroin?

Because he watched 9/11 footage on television.

9. What Word Did Glenn Beck Comically Misuse?

Irrevocably [he meant inevitably].

10. Why Did My Husband Subject Me to This Unending Parade of Horrors?

Sorry, honey.


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  1. collapse expand

    Hilarious! I wish my co-workers would read this – but they love this guy. I don’t get it, hope I never do.

  2. collapse expand

    Sounds pretty entertaining, though. I mean, you can’t make this stuff up right? Or can you…? Hmmmm.

  3. collapse expand

    Masochist is right! I think you’re right about Beck being beyond Orally and Limbugger… it’s kind of like the whole Sarah Palin phenomenon… to quote The Taibbi, “Sarah Palin is the Empress-Queen of the screaming for screaming’s sake generation… She has staked out, as her own personal political turf, the entire landscape of incoherent white American resentment.”

    Well, then, Glenn Blech must be the Emperor King of that crowd.

    Oh, and one more thing… i’m not sure if i interpreted the following passage correctly:

    If Barney Frank and Michael Moore ran a marathon train session on Rush Limbaugh, I doubt it would produce the amount of sweat Glenn Beck expels in five minutes.

    Considering the meaning i grew up with regarding the phrase ‘train session’ i very nearly regurgitated the entire volume of my morning smoothie because of the mental image that was conjured. Thanks!

  4. collapse expand

    I prefer Emmett Otter’s christmas wash tub..

  5. collapse expand

    Thanks for taking a hit for the team and seeing that. And sharing it with everyone. Is it bad that I know want to see it? They are playing it at movies theaters. I think it would only be better with Junior Mints and popcorn. And open laughing.

  6. collapse expand

    A most entertaining review, thanks!

  7. collapse expand

    The saddest and most pathetic part about this whole tearing up about his hardest memory thing is that his mother died in a boating accident, in what was rumoured to be a suicide.

  8. collapse expand

    I wasn’t going to post a response to this. I realize that you shouldn’t put yourself out there if you aren’t willing to take criticism.

    You see, I am that recovering heroin addict in Glenn’s program. I didn’t start using heroin after 9/11- though I did use it that fateful day. I had been an addict for several years prior.

    I am an independent thinking artist, brother, uncle, son, and friend to many. While I was once 120 pounds of bone and skin with track marks up my arms- today I love life. Not because of Glenn Beck, or even his book. In fact, I have been clean and sober for 6 years- because of family, friends, God, and making new choices in life.

    Most people who know me think I am liberal. And maybe I am- but not the type of liberalism that I see today- the hateful, spiteful, and quite frankly soulless liberalism. I am a Libertarian- can’t stand Republicans or Democrats.

    I have gotten to know Glenn behind the scenes and I will say he is a “freak of nature” in the media and entertainment world. There are things that the viewers will never know- and that is ok. But it is those exact things that will elevate truth to the top.

    We all can disagree about policies, politics, and what style of music we listen to. But when we start tearing people down over things we all share- love, pain, redemption, forgiveness, and friendship- we all lose.

    Backstage at Glenn’s show there were people of all backgrounds. I, myself, was even surprised at how many liberal friends Glenn actually has- lol. Gay, straight, black, white, artists, musicians- we all were there together for one reason and only one reason- to experience something that for once, wasn’t about left or right.

    I am not proud of my past- but today I use my story to help others who suffer with the exact thing that almost left me for dead. If that can help just one person then that is all I can hope for.
    Remember- we can tear each other down and become part of the problem, or build each other up.
    Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday.

    • collapse expand

      well i think it’s pretty obvious ol glenn has decided to be part of the problem…

      In response to another comment. See in context »
    • collapse expand

      I hope you have a wonderful holiday, too.

      Forgive me for saying this, but you sound like a tool. You are not hearing what Glenn is saying, you are loving Glenn.

      I can’t say whether or not I love Glenn but I’m guessing I would not because I have a rational mind and when he calls a black man a racist, claims that OnStar is spying on you, that AmeriCorps is a government plot to put an armed secret police force on the ground in the US with a budget bigger than the Pentagon, when he puts Vapo-Rub under his eyes to make him cry for people like you… well, my rational mind won’t accept it.

      It’s funny, the only person I know (and this is a true fact) who listens to Glenn Beck and believes him, the ONLY person… is a recovering cocaine addict. He must have special meaning to addicts, and if he helps you stay straight, that’s great.

      Glenn Beck is a Cleon Skousen brand Mormon, which means that he’s to the right of the John Birch Society and he believes that the Mormon cult will someday control the US government. Maybe you believe that, too, but I think it’s a load of hooey. I guess that theocracy BS is OK for some of you, but I can’t abide by it because I actually believe in the First Amendment.

      One thing I will say, however, is that the Mormons are dangerously close to losing their tax exemption because of their political activities, notably blocking civil rights of LGBTs. Step carefully, because more and more of us know that the “Jesus Christ” in the Mormons’ preferred name is fraudulent. Just like their leading front man Glenn Beck.

      -Wexler

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  9. collapse expand

    So wait — “The Christmas Sweater” isn’t a joke?? I mean, obviously it’s a joke (as in, ‘what a joke!) but it’s a real stage production??

    I was happily reading along thinking, ‘ha ha, this is funny, making fun of Glenn Beck’ as it usually is (as easy as target as he is) and I thought that was it. Then I went to youtube to view the other videos and they’re GLENN BECK’S own videos on Glenn Beck’s own youtube page!! This is for real. Good God in heaven.

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    As a young boy growing up in a small rural town in western North Carolina, I had one simple dream: getting the hell out of a small rural town in western North Carolina.

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