Thursday, August 28, 2014

Why Kevin Sorbo is so Angry

It's hard to miss just how angry Kevin Sorbo is in his recent interviews. Despite riding high on the success of his low-budget flick God's Not Dead, he's showing a lot of anger and animosity towards people he clearly does not understand.

How Kirk Cameron fits In

Sorbo blames his fall from fame on his Christian faith, accusing Hollywood of being "afraid" of God. His faith, however, is not what did him in professionally. To understand what happened to Sorbo, you first must look at Kirk Cameron. Parallels between the two men are natural. Both were successful television stars who are currently working in poorly written, saccharine sweet, low-budget yet profitable movies targeting the less discerning members of the Christian market. The key to understanding Sorbo's bitterness and anger is to examine Cameron's deliberate transition.

Kirk Cameron had a reputation as a holy roller while still on Growing Pains. He went so far as to have the actress playing his girlfriend written off the show because she'd once posed for Playboy. His religious demands did not, however, end the show. Quite the opposite. His insistence that his character grow up provided a level of character development and an overall story arc that was almost never seen in family Sitcoms of the period. Cameron's demands, while religion based, were largely beneficial to Growing Pains as a television program.

It's in their careers outside of their most notable television shows that we see the real divergence between the two men. In 1989, during the peak of his fame, Kirk Cameron starred in the film Listen to Me. In it, he essentially played a more mature version of Mike Seaver in a plot that ultimately provided window dressing for a pro-life message. While not a spectacular movie by most standards, it managed to insert a deliberately conservative Christian message into a mainstream film in a manner that did not turn off secular audiences. It also marked the point at which Kirk Cameron began to head deliberately towards explicitly acting for the Christian market. He began the journey to where he is now very deliberately.

The Andromeda Tragedy

This brings us back to Sorbo. After Hercules wrapped up, Sorbo got the job playing the captain on Andromeda. Any Star Trek fan who saw the show knew exactly what it really was, the story of the last Federation Starship thrown forward in time to a period where the Federation has collapsed. The Federation was renamed the Confederacy, but most the Andromeda species had clear Star Trek parallels. The show was essentially a reboot of the Star Trek franchise, with the ability to tap into the existing Trekkers while giving them the kind of "everything has gone to Hell" storyline the owners of the Star Trek franchise would never allow to happen. It even had writer Robert Hewitt Wolfe of Star Trek and Deep Space Nine fame, who had crafted an elaborate, multi-season story arc about rebuilding the collapsed confederacy. On paper, the show was poised to be the next big name in sci-fi entertainment, combining all the best elements of various Star Trek shows, Babylon 5 and dystopian sci-fi all wrapped up with a charismatic, well-loved beefcake actor playing the captain.

Too bad they cast Kevin Sorbo as the starship captain.

Sorbo's big problem was that he didn't understand the scripts he was given. It didn't take long for him to leverage his substantial star power to get Robert Hewitt Wolfe fired and replaced with people who would write simpler story lines he could understand. Sadly, this reworking trashed the show's primary premise, reducing it to just another episodic space show. After Sorbo's takeover, the show featured action flick level plots, without the "action" to make up for the lack of plot.

Andromeda was killed. The show was toasted, and, justifiably or not, Sorbo took the brunt of the blame. Perhaps the show was doomed anyway, perhaps it was the wrong time or the wrong market, but because he radically altered the program's direction and complexity for the worse, the fans and apparently the industry, ultimately blamed him. Even fan dreams of a reboot leave Sorbo out of the picture.

The State of his Career

Professionally this put Sorbo in a pickle. He had the ego of a genius director, but the talent of a guy who woodenly recited dialog while wearing revealing outfits. He did not have the talent to back up his ego. Even that was not enough to do him in. His fatal mistake was failing to recognize his own role in Andromeda's demise. Sorbo's recent ranting about being professionally sidelined by his Christian faith shows how he's never accepted responsibility for his own actions. He hasn't learned anything. His ignorant, even slanderous, depiction of an atheist in "God's not Dead" reflects the kind of simpleminded, stereotype driven storyline he can comprehend. Every role he's had since he killed Andromeda has reinforced the notion that he's simply not smart enough for anything more complicated than Hercules.

In light of his career, the way he humiliates himself trying to explain his irrational hatred of atheists is hardly surprising. The popular stereotype of an atheist is an intellectual, an egghead who has thought himself into not believing in the culturally dominant mythology. Truly stupid people often lash out at more intelligent or educated people. Some of them feel threatened, some of them are just scared. Whatever Sorbo's motivation, it's clear he'd rather lash out irrationally than try to learn about the people he finds so intimidating. It's the final piece of the puzzle. It shows us the ultimate reason Kevin Sorbo will never again experience mainstream success. It's not his Christian faith, it's not how he slaughtered Andromeda, it's his overt hostility to anyone with ideas different than his. His movies are so bad because he's incapable of taking direction from someone he disagrees with. The most promising project he has in the works is a Moonlighting clone for the Hallmark channel.

The Source of his Anger

That gets us down to the reason Kevin Sorbo is so angry and bitter while Kirk Cameron is so cheerful and jubilant. Both men are acting in low-budget movies targeted at the Christian market. Kirk Cameron chose this path out of religious conviction. Kevin Sorbo was stuck with it, as a result of forces he lacks the temperament to comprehend.

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