Film Review John 3:16

Sam Pawlett rsp at
Tue Aug 31 15:39:48 PDT 1999

[I wrote this a while ago, but haven't seen any reviews, so here goes.SP]

John 3:16

"For God so loved the world

that he have his only Son,

so that everyone who believes

in Him may not perish but have

eternal life"

--John 3:16

John 3:16 is a biographical look at "Roland" the "superfan" who became instantly recognizable as the tall bespeckled fellow in a rainbow-colored wig who appeared on Monday Night Football, the Superbowl and other heavily televised staples of American working class culture. The film is a scathing attack on the lust for fame and recognition so central to the American dream. The idea that to "be somebody" one must be recognized and famous. The film shows a complete failure on behalf of American life and culture to provide lasting meaning and satisfaction to an individual's life.

The film documents Roland's start as an "ordinary" American and chronicles his descent into madness and oblivion. Roland began as an "average" American in a mid-western town graduating from high-school, the only thing separating him from others his age is his bottomless appetite for watching television–he would watch up to 8-10 hours of TV a day.

After high school Roland began working in an auto-parts shop and subsequently becomes its manager. Roland quickly becomes alienated and grows disillusioned with middle class life. While watching TV one night, he comes up with the idea that he can become famous by appearing on camera at televised sporting events around the country.

He sells his business, his home, abandons his family and takes to the road going from event to event living out of his car. His dream becomes reality as cameras across the country begin to recognize him and point their cameras at him beaming his smiling face and rainbow-colored wig across national television.

Roland grows bored and disillusioned with his new, adopted TV persona; the "superfan." His TV habits continue and he starts watching TV evangelists up to eight hours a day. He converts to an evangelical outfit called "Church of the Avenger" which interprets scripture literally and advocates replacing the U.S. constitution with Old Testament laws. Roland becomes convinced of church doctrine and comes to believe that the end of the world will take place in a few years time. On his televised appearances, Roland can now be seen holding up a sign that says "John 3:16" and babbling evangelical slogans into the camera instead of the usual cheer for the home team.

Roland finds a partner in the evangelical movement who accompanies him on his impromptu TV appearances and travels with him around the country in their refitted station wagon. We see a snippet of Roland's new wife as she appears in the front row of the popular daytime TV game show "The Price is Right" wearing a T-shirt with "John 3:16" emblazoned across the front. A pre-Grecian formula Bob Barker (the host) asks what the gag is about and she responds with a short stock evangelical speech explaining how the end of the world is coming and all sinners are going to go to hell. Barker is not amused at being used as an asset for evangelical propaganda.

Roland and his wife eventually part ways and Roland, broke, traveling from stadium to stadium, living out of his car becomes increasingly desperate, confused and disillusioned. He relies on people to give him tickets into the sporting events as they recognize the rainbow wig outside the stadium gates. After watching TV evangelists for up to 10 hours a day, he becomes so convinced of evangelical doctrine and so desperate that he decides he alone must do something to warn the public of the coming apocalypse. Roland begins a series of self-termed "revelations" –placing small home made bombs in strategic places to help publicize the fact that the apocalypse is coming and all sinners are going to burn in hell for eternity. He becomes a fugitive wanted by the FBI and appearing on such prime time stalwarts as "America's Most Wanted."

The bombings continue until Roland consummates his terrorist career by taking a chambermaid hostage in the Sheraton Hotel at the Denver airport. Out the window, he hangs banners with evangelical slogans on them and demands a national press conference on NBC, ABC and CBS to announce the coming apocalypse. After six hours the SWAT team swoops through the window, rescues the chambermaid and arrests Roland on a series of felonies. Roland is unrepentant about his actions and leaves the courtroom cuffed, shackled, screaming biblical scripture and speaking in tongues.

We last speak with Roland as he serves his life sentence in a federal prison. He delivers his last sermon to his cell wall, unrepentant to the end. The ultimate denouement to this poignant and powerful tale of a uniquely American tragedy.

--Sam Pawlett

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