What Would Jesus Buy?
by Serena Norr
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The new film What Would Jesus Buy? chronicles the plight of Bill Talen (aka Reverend Billy) and the stop shopping choir as they attempt to save Americans from their eternal debt that is particulary rampid during the holiday season. This self-inflicted consumerism is highlighted as the group embarks on a cross-country mission to save Christmas from what they deem as the “shopocalypse” (the end of humankind from consumerism, over consumption and the fires of eternal debt).
This docu-comedy marks director Rob Van Alkemade’s first feature length documentary that follows the beginnings of Rev. Billy as he preaches with his portable pulpit through the throngs of commerical driven Times Square. BIlly was inspired to take action when he was infected by the loss of his neigborhood. Taking watch from sidewalk preachers around him, Billy donned a white collar, bleached his hair and became Reverend Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping. He begins by targeting such companies as Disney as he passionately asking consumers to “Stop Shopping.”
The film, seeped in semi-comedic undertones serves to highlight our weaknesses as consumers by illustrating our shortcomings during the holiday season. One of the most colorful and illuminated aspects of the film is the chronicles of Billy and his choir through their cross-country stop shopping mission. This expedition takes us through the seriousness of our addiction to shopping as he preaches to various churches across the country with his unique method of convulsing and shouting which reminds us that we have lost the true meaning of Christmas in exchange for shopping. The journey also follows the groups trip to a graveyard as the mourn the lose of millions of small towns across America that have been killed off by commerical giants such as Walmart. The group also embarks to Walmart where they exorcise the demons of commericalism to taking over the center stage at the Mall of America in Minneapolis and then finally heading to Disneyland on Christmas.
The film serves to highlight the seriousness of the root of the holiday through past stories of people who simply didn’t receive anything in the past to the future where families are drowning in debt just to have the perfect Christmas present. Through all of Rev. Billy’s theatrical preaching it is clear that his mission is genuine. He takes an approach that grabs the audience’s attention that tells us not only to stop shopping but to be conscious of where we shop from; suggesting that we need to shop local and buy products from America. His divine force is not to be missed and allows us to question how we really spend the holidays while reminding us that even though we have been “hypnotized and consumerized” we still have a chance to save ourselves this Christmas.
Serena Norr is a writer and film critic living in New York.
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