Classic Style ~ Modern Story

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The Unanswered Question: My review of Savior Complex.

What: Savior Complex
Type: 3 Part Documentary Series
On: HBO Max
Worth Watching: YES. Complex and nuanced it brings up a lot to think about and discuss about Missions, Christians, and their victims.
Quick Take: If your god tells you to give medical care to children – maybe your god is saying, “go to college.”
A friend of mine who works in IT once told me, “The problem isn’t the old lady who says ‘I don’t know anything about computers.’ The problem is the young person who THINKS they know about computers, gets into the programming and messes everything up.”
Never was that more true than the specific case of Renee Bach, and the larger issue of Christian mission work across the globe. A white, privileged, 19 year old homeschooled girl with no formal medical training opens a church funded medical clinic in Uganda and acts as a nurse, doctor, and savior. What could go wrong? 105 dead children. (Yes, most of them would have died anyway, but Bach’s actions added needless suffering to the process).
The documentary focuses on both sides of Bach’s rise and fall in a balanced way, which must have been hard considering the facts. It doesn’t say “Renee was a bad person.” It shows Renee as a young person with a good heart who got lost in the twin towers of ignorance and arrogance while riding the magical thinking school bus.
There’s been controversy about allowing Bach to share her side of the story, which comes off as wildly self-pitying and revealing. At one point, she tries to read a critique and cannot even pronounce the word “colonialism” nor does she know what it means. She quips, “Maybe I’ll look it up. Later.” (I’m guessing she never did).
So a white girl going to another nation taking her religion and her way of helping them without consultation or respect for them can’t explain colonialism but you know what she can do? Put in IV’s. Give blood transfusions. Diagnose diseases. Prescribe, dose, and administer medications she can’t even pronounce. Why? Because God. And money. God’s money.
While Bach cries about the unfairness of her expulsion from Uganda, the real unfairness is to the mothers of dead children in Uganda, the people of Uganda, and the many organizations who carefully, intelligently work WITH and support indigenous efforts with cultural competence and dignity.
There’s a barrel of blame to go around: The American church culture that glorifies mission workers while dehumanizing and infantilizing nations and communities without asking hard and important questions. The “No White Savior” group – which also had a good heart and bad practices – who is so desperate to shine a light on the damage they inflate the truth into a lie to get enough “clicks” to make a difference. The failure of people giving money to this organization based on heart-tugging photo ops to investigate exactly what their money was going toward.
In all the carnage, there are two amazing people that inspire and are absolutely worth watching. The young nurse (with an actual license and education) who shows up to help and says “WHOA… This is wrong, wrong, wrong.” and the Ugandan lawyer who has such clarity, and power to separate the story from the fact, focus on the victims, and work solely for them – not herself, not fame, not anything else.
The only thing that bothered me was the one question no one ever seems to ask Renee. – not her church, not her parents, not her funders, not the people at the clinic, and not the documentarians.
Why didn’t you just go to school and get an education to properly do the work God called you to do?
If her church can pay for her to pretend to be a medical person, I’m pretty sure they could have paid for her to go to nursing school. But that’s not as blog-worthy or heroic, is it? Maybe the lesson for Christians is – we need scholarships before mission trips.
Savior Complex shows a story with no easy answers and should be talked about in churches as they consider both the help and the damage their “good hearts” can do. Watch, talk, and explore.

Fall of the House of Sackler…um…Usher. No Spoiler Review

Fall of the House of Sackler…um…Usher. My no spoiler review.
What: Fall of the House of Usher
Type: Limited Series (8 Eps) Horror
On: Netflix
Worth Watching: YES – particularly if you are a Poe fan.
My Score: 4 perfect Ravens and 1 missing its wings (4.5 out of 5)
Mike Flanagan can tell one hell of a story. Of course we knew that from the elegant brilliance of The Haunting of Hill House. Through ups and downs, he’s gotten to be a better writer and grown (or recovered) as a director. He’s learned from the only complaint about the thoughtful Midnight Mass (the glacial slow burn start), and the volume of complaints about the terribly boring Midnight Club (dreary backdrops and moody teens are not enough to carry a series).
Fall of the House of Usher starts with a bang and never really stops – it is interesting, visceral, visually stunning and gnarly, and while it doesn’t really give us a faithful Fall of the House of Usher (other than to use it as a frame) – it brings up many of Poe’s works to give something more than an adaptation – it gives us a modern example of what Edgar Allen Poe wanted us to know (about lost loves, guilty acts, devilish secrets and the plight of the rich and the poor) and how he wanted us to feel.
The writing and directing thrives with a wealth of good decisions including:
* The homage to Poe throughout, using his poems, stories, characters.
* The modernization/antiquity balance. Characters start their speeches with the same poetic etherealism Poe used, but about 3 sentences in revert to modern speak and common language. They have their Poe names (Prospero, Napoleon, Victorine) but quickly revert to names we can deal with (Perry, Leo, Vic). Best is the siblings changing of Frederick to Frauderick which fits his duplicity perfectly.
* Giving each of the kids their own Poe story/episode to explore their death, while stringing Roderick (the stand-in for Poe) and Lenore through each episode.
* Sticking with the Flanaverse Cast – Henry Thomas, Kate Siegal, etc. Carla Gugino as “Verna” (you can work that anagram out for yourself) is brilliant, alluring, hypnotic and creepy.
*The Soundtrack – perfect.
* The use of intelligent and thought provoking monologues. Best in the group is Roderick’s “When life give you lemons” speech (note: Make lemonade is not the Usher answer), and Camille’s “We don’t really make anything” discussion of how the wealthy don’t do any of the actual “work” of their riches.
The only bad choice was turning the Ushers into the Sackler family. When using Fall of the House of Usher as a frame, the story drives forward about the Ushers getting obscenely wealthy off a drug that they claim is non-addictive but is, of course, ruining countless lives. Between the many fictional movies and documentaries about the Sacklers, it just seems like a retread.
Do we love the idea of the Sacklers paying for their inhumanity in supernatural ways? Yes. Does the backstory of young Roderick and Madeline doing dirty pharma deeds make the series better? No. By midway, every time a flashback would take us to the younger days, I was instantly bored. And why is Annabel Lee so homely and dull?
My favorite Eps were Masque of the Red Death and GoldBug.
It’s got some jump scares, some deep thoughts, eye popping visuals, and it is worth the time you give it. Come for the comeuppance, stay for the Raven.

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