If you are relatively sane and not prone to low-watt brainwashing, you may be unaware of the vast library of Christian propaganda films out there. One of America’s most profitable and least-known cottage industries, these micro-budgeted religious epics had their heyday in the 70’s and 80’s when Midwest-based Mark IV Productions created their twelve-year Thief in the Night quadrilogy, a series of end times films featuring dead-eyed, polyester-clad actors moping their way through The Rapture. These films were shown to impressionable kids at Bible study classes and probably turned thousands of otherwise normal humans into conservative, sex-negative Jesus zombies. Made for pocket change, these films grossed millions. They are still be shown and sold today and paved the way for the even more profitable Left Behind series a couple decades later.
Christian propaganda films loved warning teenagers about the dangers of basically everything. Satan lurked on every corner, always looking for a way to break into the lucrative teen market. Sex, drugs, booze and the perils of disobeying your parents were popular subjects, but even listening to the radio was cause for concern. Which brings us to 1982’s awkwardly titled Rock: It’s Your Decision. Directed by John Taylor (not the Duran Duran guy, obviously, but how great would it be if it was?), Rock tells the story of Jeff, your average American teenager who goes to school and church and does whatever society tells him to. His only vice is the bullshit generic MOR rock he blasts on his stereo. But even that is too rebellious for his mom, who snitches on him to his church pastor, who challenges Jeff to give up rock n’ roll for a month. The pastor gives him a few choice tapes from his Christian pop collection to tide him over, though.
A glimpse into some of this film’s action-packed moments.
Once Jeff gives up rock music, he starts to realize just how fucked up and evil it was all along. How? By misinterpreting Santana lyrics (it goes “You’ve gotta change your evil ways,” dummy) and audience reactions (Jeff thinks swaying along to the music is some kind of thought control). He throws his best bud out of the house for digging Billy Joel and Lynyrd Skynyrd too much, and refuses to take his feather-haired blonde girlfriend to the unnamed “rock show”. He even heads down to the record store to bully people out of buying tasty rock n’ roll jams. What a jerk! In essence, Jeff becomes an insufferable asshole without rock music. He’s even worse to his mother now, accusing her of hypocrisy because of her soap opera addiction, and his climactic anti-rock rant at church even throws some homophobia (and Barry Manilow and fucking Captain and Tennille) into the mix.
“What about your soap operas, Mom? Would Jesus approve of that?”
Somehow this is supposed to lead us away from long hair and loud guitars and AC/DC, but if hanging out with this self-righteous blowhard is the alternative, I’m gonna stay on the Highway to Hell. Dumb fun with so little self-awareness it’s basically a parody of itself.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
‘Christianity is Stupid’: Negativland takes on religion in ‘It’s All In Your Head’