As I watched Virgin Tales, a Swiss documentary about purity balls—dances where young girls pledge their virginities to their dads—I thought of my father often. Because the most compelling focus of the film wasn’t the events themselves, but the way in which one family’s dynamic can reveal so much about American culture and politics.
Filmmaker Mirjam von Arx follows the Colorado Springs-based Wilson family whose patriarch, Randy, invented purity balls. Von Arx focuses on one daughter in particular, Jordyn. (The Wilsons have five daughter and two sons.) Jordyn is college-aged but not in college. “I want to be a wife and a mother,” she says, “I would hate to go off and spend thousands of dollars on an education that I wouldn’t use.” She’s also the only one of the older three sisters who isn’t married—a fact that dominates her thoughts, given she believes the most important role she could have is that of a wife. There are often shots of Jordyn wistfully looking off into the distance, watching her married sisters’ wedding videos or staring at her doted-on sister Khrystian who plays guitar and always has perfectly coiffed hair.
Still, Jordyn says she’s happy being a dutiful daughter until she meets her future husband. “I am content here and I feel safe here,” she says.