Jesús Ángel García is the author of badbadbad. Stories adapted from the project have been published or podcasted in 3:AM Magazine, Monkeybicycle, The Good Men Project, The Nervous Breakdown, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Orange Alert, and Inside Higher Ed.
"An exhilarating and frightening book, badbadbad is about the laying of hands — to heal, to arouse, to end — a weird, funny, fucked-up love letter of love and violence from a Son to a son. Jesús Ángel García's protagonist was made in the likeness of God, and God is an animal."
"A dark, erotic and fun adventure . . . a momentum-gaining rollercoaster of faith and desire which spirals into the most entertaining kind of destruction."
"Jesus Angel Garcia blows religion up blimp-size and lights taboos like Molotov cocktails tossed on a manicured, Christian lawn in his biblical, technologically charged landscape . . . bursting at the seams with fascinating women who are outrageous in their demands and crackling with desire."
Jesús Ángel García is nothing if not ambitious. A poet, musician, novelist, stage performer, documentarian, and arguable sociologist, he pretty much participates in every form of art there is. And, judging by his Facebook page and the official site for his debut novel, badbadbad, he’s also the king of self-promotion.
But then again, if you’re proud of what you’ve done, why not tell everyone you can about it? And the entire multimedia project that is badbadbad (more on that later) is definitely an incredible accomplishment. A provocative, humorous, musical, and ultimately poignant adventure, the entire endeavor equates to a sum more brilliant than its parts, and it’s a great example of how García’s artistry is vital to the current literary landscape.
Before tackling the other components of the package, the novel itself deserves attention. Perhaps taking a page from Vonnegut (specifically, Breakfast of Champions), García places himself as the protagonist (and thus, blurs the lines between fiction and reality, author and character). Narratively, the story unfolds as García recounts events to his brother (whose fate is suggested by never officially specified), and story-wise, well, there’s a lot going on.
Essentially, badbadbad tells the story of a man who balances sin with salvation as he tries to bring order to his life and help others in need. By day, García is the webmaster of a website devoted to a cult run by an elderly, clueless reverend and his Southern Belle wife, codenamed Good Charlotte. However, behind the scenes, the website is really home to “fallenangels,” a sort of dating site for sexually/morality-deprived individuals. Throughout the misadventures of redemption, partying, religious encounters, and sex, we’re constantly told about García’s ex-wife and infant son, whom she kidnapped and is keeping from García. With motivation that’s equal parts paternal, vengeful, and homicidal, we watch as García inevitably gets closer to settling the situation.
There are several reasons why badbadbad appealed to me. Firstly, it’s covered in obscure musical references, which, to a music journalist, is inherently fascinating. Somewhat akin to American Graffiti, almost every scene in badbadbad features music in the background, and the way García refers to people by code names brings Green Day’s American Idiot and The Who’s Quadrophenia to mind.
Naturally, as García commits sinful acts at night and represents God during the day, he is interested in criticizing the way we let religion affect so much of our lives. He fills the novel with concise commentary, such as when he observes how similar various Christian institutions are. He says:
They sparred over public policy, moral values and what seemed to me like nitpicky differences of opinion on how to read the same damn book.
Also, and perhaps most importantly, the majority of badbadbad examines how social media allows us to masquerade under false personae and replace true intimacy and connection with fantasized, immediate gratification. García becomes a self-righteous savior as he sets out to show damaged, perverse women how valuable they truly are. Now, as someone who prides himself on being a true romantic, I can appreciate García’s notion that conversation and comfort are even more special than mere copulation; however, ironically, he really only serves to enhance the problems that these girls have by indulging in their insanity, which definitely makes him a more rounded and complex character.
Beyond the novel, Jesús Ángel García realizes his badbadbad holy trinity fully with a complete soundtrack and documentary. The former is an interesting companion to the novel; composed and performed by García alone, it’s a rugged rock opera on acoustic guitar (think Led Zeppelin III with George Thorogood on vocals). While the songwriting isn’t spectacular, García’s musicianship is (he’s a fantastic guitarist), and it’s very cool to hear musical references to themes and characters in the novel.
The documentary is broken into five parts (“Fear,” “Hypocrisy,” “eIntimacy,” “Sexual Morality,” and “Self Destruction”), and it features interviews with a few dozen people at several locations. It’s truly fascinating to hear their honest opinions and brutal confessions on topics that the novel addresses, such as social networking, Americanism, sex, drugs, altruism, self-actualization, and pain. Most of all, it effectively conveys how united we are as a species; we share many of the same hopes, fears, and experiences, and it’s easy to feel connected to the interviewees as they speak. Really, this film is an award-worthy artifact about modern social issues.
More than anything, the badbadbad project represents a progressive movement for what constitutes and contributes to art. While each of the three elements is worthwhile independently, the way they complement each other is very special. Also, the way García challenges the conventional structure of a literary work (primarily, that it exists alone, without involving multimedia accompaniment) is an exciting innovation. There’s plenty of good within badbadbad.