An otherwise pleasant opening weekend at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival ended with a small band of gay-hating zealots getting shouted down by a crowd of local high school students, with some help from pot-stirrer Kevin Smith.
Considering that Smith has cited Westboro Baptist founder Fred Phelps as an inspiration for his new horror film, “Red State,” which was making its world premiere Sunday, it’s hardly surprising that eight members of the church showed up at the Eccles theater to express their displeasure. In fact, the church has been talking up its protest for weeks beforehand, and Smith has been planning his retaliation for just as long.
"Red State" tells the story of three horny teens who respond to an online ad allegedly from a middle-aged woman interested in group sex. Instead of the time of their lives, the kids find themselves confronted with a terrifying monster that thinks its doing God's work
The church, which made a name for itself by having picketing military funerals with signs reading such epithets like, “God hates fags,” showed up around 2 pm at Eccles carrying signs and chanting, but were quickly swarmed by some 200 kids from Park City High, the school that is home to the theater.
"To me, it's offensive. It's unnecessary to shove it down people's throats," Grant Sanderson, a senior at the Park City High School told the Park Record.
A few Westboro folks showed up a couple hours later, shortly before the 6:30 premiere, where they were met by a smaller crowd carrying absurd signs of their own, saying things like, "God Hate Crowds," "Thor Hates Straights," and "God Hates Mewes" (a reference to Smith's frequent collaborator Jason Mewes). Smith himself gleefully grabbed signs and carried them with him on his way into the theater.
“This is just a beautiful preaching opportunity,” Westboro Baptist's Shirley Phelps-Roper told the Los Angles Times. “Kevin Smith can keep mocking and scoffing but we’re just going to climb on his back.”
The whole thing sounds like a publicist’s dream.