The Righteous Gemstones think they’re in an action movie. They are right

Background: Virtuous Gemstones (screenshots).  Foreground: Danny McBride (Photo: Ryan Green/HBO)

Context: Virtuous Gemstones (Screenshot). Foreground: Danny McBride (Photo: Ryan Green/HBO)
Graphic: Natalie Peeples

Jesse Gemstone (Danny McBride) thinks he’s in a movie. On HBO’s Prosperity Gospel Action Comedy Virtuous Gemstones, Jesse’s every act, every word, feels like he’s staging his own life on the fly. He stumbles over his lines in hopes of leaving the room on a perfect note: “Goodbye, Felicia.” Within his family of televangelists, Jesse imagines himself to be a Vin Diesel surrounded by Tyres, rising to the occasion and solving the case as firstborns have done since “the old days of the fairy tales”.

Except Jesse isn’t that. He’s an incompetent crackpot with advice from Reed Richards and bluster from Ric Flair. The most significant difference between him and every QAnon LARPer with an alarming amount of zippers: Jesse Gemstone is rich as hell.

McBride is no stranger to performing and writing Call of Duty veterans who see their lives as grand unfolding stories for the world around them. He and his frequent collaborators Jody Hill and David Gordon Green love to parody this type of modern American man, who thinks every problem needs a Van Damme to solve it: Foot Fist Wayit’s fredthen Pineapple Express‘ Redfollowed by East and downby Kenny Powers.

“A lot of the comedy started to come from the idea that [Kenny Powers] sees himself as this gigantic hero when he has none of the qualities of this shit”, McBride said Grantland in 2013. “We were getting into something dramatic and trying to figure out, ‘What movie does Kenny think he’s in right now? “”

McBride’s characters believe they’re Rambo at the start of First blood part II, waiting for a Colonel Trautman to call them into action. Emotionally, however, they stopped developing around, say, age 8 (if we’re being generous). When a blackmailer threatens his image in the first season of Virtuous GemstonesJesse holds an “Avengers Assemble” moment with his younger brother Kelvin (Adam Devine) in the Jason’s Steakhouse bathroom. “Don’t you remember when we were kids, and we wanted to be Dual Dragons? We said we were going to grow up and fight crime. Jesse pleads, “Kelvin, do you really care if that cocaine tape destroys the Gemstones once and for all?”

“Maybe it’s time for the gems to be over,” Kelvin says with the pomp and circumstances of Captain America’s breakup with Iron Man in Civil war.

This scene perfectly portrays the worldview that McBride and company are satirizing, a hypocritical view of the values ​​vocally embraced by the church. After all, the hyper-masculine perspective that fetishizes violence, guns, and big moral wars isn’t exactly Christian. (Much less a “cocaine sex party.”) And yet, that’s how gemstones solve almost every problem that comes their way. Aggression has become a flaw for the Christian right in Americawhy should gemstones be different?

Gemstones seem to take the “on steroids” cliché to heart. Everything in their world needs to be bigger, more explosive, and more representative of the 24-inch pythons they seem to think they have. The more Jesse and his siblings pose as capable humans, the more the show indulges and deflates them in equal measure. In season two”After I’m gone the wild wolves will comethe Gemstone kids ride in their Tesla to the Airbnb of journalist Thaniel Block (Jason Schwartzman), who, like in the previous season, has dirt on the Gemstones and threatens to destroy them once and for all. It’s like if someone found out the truth about gemstones they would lose their connection to God and more importantly their cash flow.

Set to a Tangerine Dreamy electronic score to hammer the Michael Mann-liness of the stage, gems can arrive in style to “break the case” and find out who’s shooting them, but they can’t nail the takedown. Once they discover they’ve entered a real action movie – with Block in a pool of blood inside the rental and a melted man in front – they panic and try to escape. Unfortunately, the leak is not in Schwarzenegger’s guide to weeding out dirty journalists, and the Tesla thwarts their release.

The writing and editing highlight just how silly they look, cutting between the interior of the car, where Jesse and his sister Judy (Edi Patterson) panic and flee with the car’s touchscreen, and exterior shots of the car’s automatic aluminum fenders flapping and spreading and refusing to close. The Gemstones would choose to drive a vehicle designed to look like the movie rather than one that can do the job. These are the precious stones. They don’t show up in a Sebring.

When you act like the world is a big one water world spectacular waterfall, you are going to need money. So the Gemstone patriarch Eli (John Goodman) picks up the bill for his children. Eli identifies his eldest son’s worldview after the attempted murder of Jesse and his wife Amber (Cassidy Freeman) in the season two episode “Never take revenge, but leave it to the wrath of God.” “You think it’s a fucking movie or something,” Eli says, dismissing the idea that the family is being attacked by a roving gang of motorcycle assassins, who Jesse dubs “cycle ninjas.”

But Jesse is not the only culprit of this behavior. The most ineffectual, sad and pathetic men Precious stones act that way, like Chad and Victor (James DuMont and Jody Hill, respectively), who leave their daily lives and cellphone belt clips at home to star in Jesse’s David vs. Goliath reboot. Eli’s sighting echoes a back-and-forth between Jesse’s son Gideon (Skyler Gisondo) and his first-season cohorts Scotty (Scott MacArthur) and Lucy (Virginia Gardner) as they attempt to rebuild their collapsing blackmail scheme. While filming a threat to Jesse, Scotty adopts an affected growl, but Lucy and Gideon accuse him of “trying to be a movie”. “It’s becoming a parody of itself,” Gideon says.

Gideon and Eli have a lot in common. They may spot a poser because they’ve spent a lot of time convincing people they’re violent. Gideon, a stuntman, and Eli, a former professional wrestler, embody the type of man Jesse thinks he is. Gideon’s precision on the dirt bike fulfills Jesse’s dream of pushing a cattle prod through the spoke of a ninja bike. And Eli is Jesse’s heavyweight champion of the world, supporting and protecting his family at all costs. Unfortunately, Jesse’s masculine ideal envelops him, and all he can do is nervously show off. He lives in the “fake it” phase of “fake it until you make it”.

And yet, it’s the show’s secret sauce. The more Jesse presses the gas, hits the NOS, and tries to enter beast mode, the funnier his failures become. The narcissism he and his siblings exhibit results from their father’s obscene wealth. “I was very lucky in this world to be born Gemstone,” Jesse says in season one.But the righteous will see their Fall”, just before ruining the lives of his friends by clearly revealing their videotaped exploits. “That’s about as close to God as it gets.” (Ironically, Tyrese Fast and Furious character comes to a similar realization in F9mirroring the family’s failure to get themselves killed in nine increasingly high-stakes films.)

Jesse’s attitude reflects someone who wreaks havoc but rarely, if ever, pays the price. And yet, around him, a real action movie is playing out. Thanks to his ruthlessly efficient right-hand man, Martin (Gregory Alan Williams), Jesse’s father has a private army at his disposal. But Eli is ready to get his hands dirty if pushed. He viciously breaks his son’s thumbs at the slightest hint of dissent and has a secret criminal history that makes him a Tony Soprano by way of Jim Bakker.

Eli is in a closed loop of violence. Riding a roller coaster ironically named “Exodus”, he weighs his options as the grave of his former manager and nemesis lies beneath him. The outstretched arm of the Lord will not free Eli from bondage. He is doomed to ride the peaks and valleys between kills.

John Goodman

John Goodman
Photo: Ryan Green (HBO)

In a world where conspiracy theorists attempt insurgencies, the market for grown men playing army guys is skyrocketing. But Jesse’s macho posture wasn’t born in a vacuum. He does this to prove he’s ready to lead the Gemstone Ministry – it’s just not the time yet. Eli must be a predator and a preacher to maintain his aspiration to the prosperity gospel. Thus, from his compound, he directs schemes that enrich themselves, overwhelming those who try to stop him with money or mercenaries. Turns out the righteous Gemstones are in an action movie. They just don’t know they’re the bad guys.


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