“Anything happens to my daughter, I got a .45 and a shovel; I doubt anybody would miss you.”
-- Cher's dad in Clueless
All macho jokes aside -- even before I discovered such concepts as the Purity Ball and Evangelical Abstinence Only programs like Silver Ring Thing -- the role a father still plays in the sexual maturation of his daughter gave me the creeps. Yes, in theory it may be a nice idea to request a father's permission before proposing marriage to his daughter and it's still trendy to have a dad “give away” his daughter to the next man she's meant to obey in life – her husband – in a wedding ceremony.
However, when you really think about what these symbolic gestures mean in regards to a woman's worth or confidence in her own sexuality, the practices including the woman in white (while the grooms are all in interchangeable tuxedos) and the taking of a husband's last name are alarmingly sexist.
In most cases, we've been just going through the same motions for so long that we no longer give pause to consider what they really mean, just conforming with the rest as though we were all one big high school clique. But while these traditions may be standard, it wasn't until filmmaker Cassie Jaye introduced audiences to the aforementioned issues and even more backward phenomena regarding purity and abstinence that I became truly fearful about where we were headed as a country.
In her acclaimed, multiple award-winning feature length documentary debut Daddy I Do, Jaye takes an honestly fair and balanced look at the 1.3 billion dollars in government funding given to abstinence only curricula that include merchandising with the popular silver purity rings (to be taken off on one's wedding day).
By weaving a compelling narrative thread in looking at all aspects of the timely situation by interviewing families, women, organizers, sex education experts and more, she avoids even so much as a hint of where her own personal feelings regarding the situation lie.
To this end, more than an hour of the documentary deals with Christian organizations that have been fighting the battle against comprehensive sex education by pleading their case in church and home, dubbing fathers the “protectors” of their daughter's virginity by throwing lavish balls that dads escort their daughters to as if taking them to a centuries old dance.
While dowries aren't included and no marriages are arranged at the increasingly popular balls held in 48 states and 17 countries, obviously there's something vaguely creepy about the desperation of the ball that you need something that lavish to try and promise girls that one day they too can “marry their fathers” or knights in shining armor, just like in the fairy tales.
And whether she's interviewing a devoutly Christian family or a staunch feminist, Jaye ensures that the documentary is never bogged down by her beliefs on either side, presenting the facts in an enviable way that makes Daddy I Do not simply worthy of sex education high school viewing but also the type of handling of the subject that news organizations fail to capture on a daily basis.
In the film, she moves from fact to an interviewee's hypothetical belief to fiction to the real thing with some heartbreaking interviews with women who have had roughly a half a dozen babies by their mid-twenties or one who's recently aborted and still unsure whether or not she did the right thing.
While we do spend perhaps a good five or ten minutes too long with the Silver Ring Thing organization, the movie is bolstered by plenty of facts – both ironic and/or devastating – along with a few interviews that have to be seen to be believed like the frat boys who blame all of their encounters on lascivious females and boast about sleeping with over fifty-five girls (um, maybe a one-on-one interview would've been best there) before graduation with little concern about STDs or pregnancies.
Daddy I Do is an astounding achievement for a director of any age, let alone one who's only in her early twenties and doubly more impressive for being Ms. Jaye's first feature length filmmaking effort.
And the work, which is playing 2010's Cannes Independent Film Festival, is sure to become an even greater sensation when it reaches DVD and hopefully is played as part of our country's sex education, whether it's in the abstinence or comprehensive side.
For throughout the roughly ninety minute running time, Jaye proves that she's an intelligent enough director to trust that you're able to evaluate the facts and make up your own mind as to who really should be in charge of an individual's virginity and why education in all aspects is so vitally important.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.