Based on a True Story from the Early 1980s
Mary Griffith, a very religious, ‘Bible-believing’ mother (played by Sigourney Weaver) discovers that her 16-year-old son, Bobby, thinks he might be gay. Immediately, she begins to do everything she can to change him back to his former purity.
Among her efforts are constant discussion with her son on the evils of homosexuality and the need for him to resist it, placing written Bible verses all over his spaces in the home, and taking him to a very non-supportive counselor. She encourages him to pray to God for healing and restoration.
While Bobby tries his best to deal with his situation, his mother is unrelenting in trying to lead him away from his gayness. At one point she tells him pointedly, ‘I will not have a gay son!’ Soon after this, Bobby moves away from home, and out of his mother’s reach, to live with a cousin who is more sympathetic.
In the new city, Bobby meets and develops a relationship with David; but at the same time he continues to feel the pain and rejection from his mother. Finally he goes to an overpass, jumps to the highway below, and is struck and killed by an 18-wheeler. His last thought is his mother’s words: ‘I will not have a gay son!’
The self-righteous and insensitive comments of the minister who officiated at Bobby’s funeral made me absolutely furious.
Bobby’s story is over. He was 20 years old.
But Mary Griffith’s story is not over…
After receiving Bobby’s effects, Mary finds a journal Bobby kept and realizes the struggle he experienced. She also finds a handout from the local MCC (Metropolitan Community Church) that accepts gays and where Bobby visited a couple times. She visits the pastor and is upset with him for telling young people lies about God accepting gays as they are.
However, this becomes the beginning of a search, difficult at the beginning, to consider whether her ‘biblical’ understanding about the Bible’s condemnation of gays is valid. Eventually, she determines that they are not and that she was wrong all along. Her response, at one point, is ‘I killed Bobby!’
Mary goes on to become a strong friend and advocate for gay and lesbian youth.
About the Movie
This movie is based on a true story; there was a Bobby Griffith, and his mother was Mary. These are real people, and the events did occur. David died at the bridge in 1983. But this is not just one true story; the struggles, family rejection, and even suicide are parts of a story experienced by untold numbers of gay youth every day.
This was a very emotional film for me, and you might find yourself fighting tears at some points. As a progressive evangelical, I can attest to the accuracy of the way the conservative evangelicals in this film are portrayed. It is not fabricated or exaggerated.
Keep in mind that this is a TV movie (Lifetime-2009), so don’t expect a big-screen theatrical production. But with that being said, I think the movie is exceptionally well done. The characters were well-played, and Sigourney Weaver deserves the award nominations she received for playing Mary (two Primetime Emmys and a Golden Globe).
The 1996 book is also available at Amazon.
The Real Mary Griffith: A two-minute YouTube video
And a quote…
“Before you echo ‘Amen’ [to gay condemnation] in your home or place of worship,
think and remember…a child is listening.” ~ Mary Griffith
Thanks to reader IntellectualWithHeart for recommending this film to me.