Sound of Freedom was released July 4th, 2023 by Angel Studios, a Christian-based distributor. The film targets a far-right audience and perpetuates numerous QAnon conspiracies involving child trafficking and the Illuminati. Its star, Jim Caviezel, is a member of the QAnon conspiracy group and a MAGA member.
On the surface, Sound of Freedom appears simply a mediocre police procedural in which the “brave cops” (such as the main character, cishet white male, Tim Ballard) save children from “the evil criminals.” Typical Blue Lives Matter propaganda.
However, when you look deeper, the true message emerges: a call to violence against queer and trans people. The movie delivers this mainly through the three antagonists of each of the film’s acts.
The first, Ernst, is an allusion to Allyn Walker. His character design shares many elements, such as the hair, glasses, and even manner of dress. The movie makes a major plot point in the book Ernst has written on social justice, an allusion to Walker’s own work.
There are frequent contrasts between Ernst and Tim. Ernst is queer coded, portrayed as effete and weak, contrasted with Tim’s toxic masculinity. Ernst’s main character flaw is portrayed as his willingness to trust others even under dire circumstances. Tim exploits and turns this against Ernst, similar to how many fake allies will infiltrate the subvert queer organizations.
The message here is clear: those who write in defense of social justice and topics related to queerness are all child predators. And only the incorruptible police can save us from them. And that’s why we should be fine when cops infiltrate our organizations and sabotage efforts to bring about change that threatens their fascist masters.
The second antagonist, Giselle, is coded as a trans woman. The film visually portrays her as an otherworldly beauty, scenes are shot with her as the center of attention, and they make clear she was a former beauty pageant winner. These reflect the way cishet men will treat trans women as “exotic” and fetishize them – the movie is exploiting their lust for trans women and depicting it as evil. It’s also a reference to the recent spate of victories for trans women beauty pageant winners.
That Giselle is also Black brings in another trope, one that is openly racist, the “magical negro.” This is when dark-skinned characters are handled as having magical or mystical natures, while having little character or agency of their own. The film has Giselle enter people’s lives like a Fairy Godmother, evoking Disney movies. We learn only bare facts about her history. There is nothing to her character beyond “she does evil things and is pretty.” She has the magic of the Pied Piper and casts a spell on parents and children. Giselle ultimately just serves as a plot device for the white main character to find the damsel in distress. The lesson behind showing her in this way and then making her sinister is to teach the audience to embrace a jingoistic rejection of the other.
The third antagonist, El Alacran, reads like a caricature invented by MAGA: a Latin American BIPOC Communist Revolutionary. And of course the movie portrays him as a pedophile, as a nod to the popular alt-right propaganda that arose from Kyle Rittenhouse’s murder of two BLM marchers.
Up until this point in the movie, Tim has only used deception and infiltration as tactics. It is here, in the third act, that the movie imparts its main message: in a scene played up for tension and cathartic release, Tim murders Alacran in cold blood. Tim suffers no consequences for this, nor does he wrestle with the morality of taking a human life. If anything, the movie suggests it would have been better if he’d killed Ernst and Giselle, too.
The lesson is clear: trickery and lies are not enough. QAnon supporters have to resort to murdering those in their way if they want to “make America great again.” And the people they need to kill are BIPOC queer activists and their allies. Their only way of countering recent victories for human rights is to begin killing us outright.
QAnon supporters of the movie raise the counterargument that, since Giselle and Ernst are based on real people, the traits are just reflective of reality. This argument ignores the obvious artistic choices by the writers and directors. And this argument is countered by Alacran, who doesn’t exist. Ballard has admitted the entire third of the film never actually happened. That means the writers specifically chose to portray murder as heroic when they didn’t need to.
The intentions of this movie become clear in light of the history of sexual misconduct of the real Tim Ballard, executive producer Paul Hutchinson, and major funder Fabian Marta, who kidnapped a child. Those behind Sound of Freedom are not actually concerned with stopping violence against children. They are the ones doing the harm.
The real goal here is to vilify the people saving children’s lives. They know that queer couples and drag queens are safer for children than any cishet white male. They are promoting violence to stop us as a last resort. It’s not a coincidence that the hate in the movie aligns with groups like Atomwaffen and others.
We need to double our efforts. We need to get every kid in the country access to queer books, queer mentors, and queer events that will save their lives. We need to teach them to shatter the fascist brainwashing behind this movie. That will be actual freedom.
Laura Reyna (They/She) is a queer neurodivergent Latinx finding their authentic self. They are sex positive, kink positive, and sex worker inclusive, and they long for the day when every aspect of colonialism, patriarchy, and fascism are dismantled.