For the past few weeks, I was wondering how I was going to broach the monstrous topic that is my atheism. No doubt that this will come as a shock to people who follow me. Though I did previously post atheistic content in Memory of the Star’s pre-journalism class days, those posts have since been deleted. They will not be missed, as they were never read by anyone and never discussed.
I have much to discuss on atheism and issues tangential to it. But, I want to start with something comparatively low-stakes. This way I can get my feet wet without trying to kick the hornet’s nest of controversy.
Who wants to watch the Christian Mingle movie?
ChristianMingle is based on the online dating service of the same name. It’s exactly what it says on the tin, a dating site aimed at Christian singles. Perhaps Tinder didn’t get greenlit as a movie concept. But then again, it would probably consist of an hour and a half of a woman swiping left on all of their match’s profile pictures because they just couldn’t be bothered to keep their shirts on or put away their vapes for the photo.
The most noteworthy feature of the film is its lead actress. Lacey Chabert is known for playing Meg Griffin on Family Guy, Eliza Thornberry on the Wild Thornberries, and Amanda Becker in Not Enough Teen Movie.
However, Chabert is not without her career lowlights. For whatever reason, it was decided that her acting skills would be best suited as the human love interest for a cartoon hedgehog in Sonic ’06. Many years later, she became attached to this movie.
The plot synopsis reads as one would expect. Through the power of Christian Mingle, a single woman finds both love and God. Does that make the relationship polyamorous?
Chabert’s character, Gwyneth Hayden, is fairly interchangeable. She serves as an audience surrogate, but nothing more. Her characterization is paper-thin, and I would be hard pressed to sum up who I thought she was.
It perhaps serves as the best encapsulation of the pervasiveness of product placement in modern media. The Christian Mingle website serves as an omnipresent and invasive force, reminding both her and the audience what the true purpose of the film is.
I have trained my eyes to pick out product placement, including ones that go over the heads of the average moviegoer. I felt like the usage in this movie was a scene ripped from “The Truman Show”, but whereas that implementation was a sharp critique of the practice, this film plays it completely straight. It advertises the website in the most attractive way possible.
The Holy Miracle of Courtship
The audience is not given much context to her dating history. She is seen on a single bad date from an unknown source, though she later alludes to other bad dates near the end of the film. No word on if the date in question was set up by another dating service or a friend, though given that the man contacts her friend after he strikes out that seems like the greatest possibility.
The movie takes significant liberties with the process of online dating. Love is found in her very first match. The cavalcade of failed matches is absent from the screenplay. This is likely intentional. To do otherwise would imply that not every match on the site is fit for each other. Given my experiences with online dating, I found their rosy depiction deceptive. Truly, instant success awaits at Christian Mingle in their eyes.
Dramatically, this also damages the narrative. The audience doesn’t see her struggle with dating and persevering until the end when she does find Mr. Right. We can’t relate to her struggle because it isn’t there. She does struggle, but from a narrative logic point of view it doesn’t make sense.
The love interest Chabert’s character is given in the film left a foul taste in my mouth. He broke many of the unwritten rules of dating, specifically when it comes to first impressions. He shows up late to the date without even so much as a text to let her know he would be delayed. He openly admits that he is terrible with time management and wasn’t late for a good reason. He also admits to being manipulative about his profile picture, which he took over ten years ago. His conversational skills are sorely lacking, as he quickly mentions how awkward this whole situation is. While it may indeed be awkward, bringing it up only calls attention to it. He attempts to pressure her to eating a cookie when she clearly doesn’t want one and politely declines.
Does she serve him his comeuppance? Does she throw her coffee in his face for his unacceptable behavior? Does she even object in the slightest, politest way?
No! She says “sold”. She takes the cookie despite her concerns about it contributing to weight gain. She lays it on thick when it comes to praising him through prayer. Where are her standards?
He clearly doesn’t respect her or her time, because he has no trouble wasting it. He doesn’t communicate well. He only makes the situation more awkward than it needs to be. He does not respect her boundaries, nor her desire to remain healthy.
In all fairness, taking a cookie isn’t the biggest deal. If this were several dates into the relationship, this would be acceptable prodding that occurs between partners. But his first impressions were clearly poor, and the image the audience receives is not a positive one.
It only gets worse from there, too. In a grand display of his inexperience with sushi, he stabs it. He says he won’t kiss her goodnight when she says no, but kisses her anyway.
There’s a subplot where she leaves her job as an ad executive to become a teacher in Mexico because she was assigned to work on a product that was deceptive. Her character arc in this respect is fairly straightforward.
The abyss that she falls into is when she begins to question her faith. The film treats this as a problem to be rectified. In the internal logic, the presence of atheism is a blight and must be quashed.
In response, he begins seeing a woman whom he earlier stated was only a friend. Once Chabert’s character transforms into a woman of faith, he drops his current relationship to come crawling back to her.
There really isn’t much else to comment upon aside from the narrative itself. The visuals are utilitarian, as is the soundtrack. It had low goals for itself, but even those couldn’t be managed. Some people on IMDB have claimed that the Bible scriptures referenced are wrong, which honestly wouldn’t be surprising. The film as a whole is very cynical, clearly calculated to serve as a signpost for their website.
Profitability of Prophecy
Given that the film was released to video on demand, was produced with an estimated $650,000 budget, and only grossed $19,836 on its opening weekend, it’s safe to say that this was a bomb.
While movies such as “God’s Not Dead” and its sequel, “God’s Not Dead 2” were critical disasters, they still managed to recoup their costs. Naturally, the original performed better than its sequel.
However, there’s an oddity to Christian Mingle. Why did it fail, even by the low standards set by the Christian film industry? Was it because God’s Not Dead managed to get a theatrical release and marketing to push it forward? Most likely. Other atheists discussed God’s Not Dead, but barely a mention about Christian Mingle, as far as I know.
Despite this flop, however, Christian Mingle’s website keeps humming along. I hope none of them, however, have taken the plunge into this movie. Otherwise, their expectations will be unrealistic. In particular, women may internalize the subtle calls to submission that the film promotes.
Perhaps I’m making a mountain of a molehill, but that was the main thing that bothered me throughout my experience.
Hopefully however, it will remain floating in abyss of Netflix. It will occupy a space next to Adam Sandler’s career remnants.