The Sex Scandal That Brought Down the Falwells

Ben Friedman


Seedy Miami businessmen, a U.S. president, Tom Arnold, and the leader of the most prominent Christian university who masturbated in a speedo five feet away from his wife having sex with a pool boy -- the Falwells’ fall from grace is ridiculous. Yet, in its absurdity lies something far more sinister: implications of power run amuck that would one day cumulate in resurgence of Christian nationalism.


Billy Corben’s God Forbid: The Sex Scandal That Brought Down a Dynasty gives a firsthand account of the seven-year sexual relationship between the Falwells and the infamously dubbed “pool boy” Giancarlo Granda. Here, Giancarlo details his first encounter with Becki while working in Miami. He chronicles his relationship with Jerry, meeting the Falwells’ children, becoming a business partner with the family, and his realization of the power the family held over him.


In the documentary, Giancarlo leans into self-deprecating humor. He admits that this all began due to his desire to have sex with a “cougar” and soon became enticed by the Falwells’ wealthy lifestyle and influence. Through Giancarlo’s openness, Corben is able to capture an authenticity grounding the documentary in Giancarlo’s journey of self-discovery.


The filmmakers and Giancarlo embrace the absurdity of the Falwells’ fall from grace. There is something undoubtedly funny about the visual image of Jerry Falwell Jr. standing creepily in the corner watching his wife have sex with a young, handsome 20-year-old Miami pool boy. The documentary believes this too, and it relishes in its comedy. As Becki and Giancarlo engage in sex for the first time, a very on the nose needle drop of “Tonight” by Trick Daddy is played to wonderful comedic effect.



Director of Anchorman and Don’t Look Up, Adam McKay serves as executive producer. McKay’s flashy sensibilities influence Corben’s directing. Fast cuts, re-enactments, and an abrasive soundtrack all showcase the enticing lifestyle and allure of the Falwell family. Yet, Corben never loses sight of the malicious danger of the Falwell dynasty.


God Forbid portrays Jerry Falwell Jr. as a Trumpian leader atop a religious moral high ground. The film casts Falwell’s endorsement of Donald Trump for president as the catalyst for January 6, the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and the rise of Christian extremism in the United States. To achieve this, the film explores Jerry Falwell Sr.’s crusades against Civil Rights, homosexuality, and feminism, as well as the on-campus culture of Liberty University. Yet, in its branching historical exploration, the film can often lose focus, simplifying its argument down to “The Falwells are awful people.”


While God Forbid may fall short of its goal of explaining the rise of Christian nationalism, it succeeds in showcasing the role of the Falwells’ influence on the movement. It presents the underlying danger of evangelical nationalism, all while offering a brilliant expose of how the rich and powerful may weaponize their influence. While the film takes fun in ridiculing these individuals, it is a stark reminder of the power and influence that stupid people have in American society.


Author Bio:

Ben Friedman is a freelance film journalist and a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine. For more of his reviews, visit, his podcast Ben and Bran See a Movie, or follow him on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube: The Beniverse


For Highbrow Magazine



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