controversies, lessons learned, Police, true crime, YouTube

Maryland cops mimic kindergartner’s temper tantrum with one of their own…

A few days ago, The Washington Post shared an article about two cops in Montgomery County, Maryland, who have just been part of a lawsuit stemming from their actions on January 14, 2020. A five year old boy at East Silver Spring Elementary School had a meltdown shortly after lunch. He became upset and threw a clipboard at a teacher and a fellow student. Then he ran out of the classroom, outside of the school, and toward a congested section of Silver Spring, Maryland. Having been to Silver Spring myself, I know that this is basically a suburb of Washington, DC, and there’s a lot of traffic.

School officials called the police, and officers Kevin Christmon and Dionne Holliday arrived on the scene. They quickly located the boy, who was hiding nearby. At first, the cops were pleasant toward the boy, but when he refused to cooperate with him, the police officers became very controlling and, many would say, abusive. Christmon’s voice turns stern as he demands that the boy look at him, then asks why he’s out of school. When the boy doesn’t willingly emerge from his hiding spot, Christmon grabs him by the arm and yanks him toward the other officer. The boy starts screaming “No, no, no, no…” as the police order him into the back of their squad car. By that point, an assistant principal had arrived, and managed to get the boy to calm down enough to get into the car.

Bodycam footage was released on Friday, hence the news article I read. I watched the raw footage, and I was pretty shocked by the way those “peace officers” were berating that child. According to the Washington Post, the following exchange occurred:

“I don’t wanna to go,” [the boy] said, his voice shaking and coughing.

“I don’t care!” the officer replied. “You don’t make that decision for yourself!”

Holliday spoke to the child through an open door. “Does your momma spank you?” she asked, adding, “I’m going to ask her if I can do it.”

Naturally, the harsh words and threats served to upset the boy even more. He screamed and cried. The officers described his behavior as “headstrong” and “defiant”. Christmon said that he felt his actions were justified, because the boy was being “non-compliant.” Holliday said that she threatened him to “get him to shut up.” Both officers screamed at the boy, trying to overpower his screams with their voices. At one point, Holliday “primal screams” a couple of inches from the boy’s face, which only served to cause him to scream louder.

This is a news report from March 2021 from NBC news. It was aired before the outcome of the lawsuit was revealed.

At one point, Officer Christman holds the boy down in the chair for 80 seconds. Later, Christmon puts a handcuff on the boy’s wrist and tells him that handcuffs are what people who don’t want to listen end up wearing. The cops call the boy’s mother, who later comes to the school and complains that she has trouble disciplining the child. She says she fears using corporal punishment, because she doesn’t want child protection services to take him away. Officer Holliday then advises the boy’s mother on the level of corporal punishment that will not result in his being removed from her custody. She tells the mom, “We want you to beat him… All I can tell you is to beat that ass.” At one point, Holliday also made a comment about how “animals should be crated”, adding that that’s what should happen to boys who want to “act like a little beast.” And she referred to the child as “a shepherd for the devil.”

I wasn’t originally planning to write about this case, as I’ve found that a lot of times, people involved in these situations go looking for opinions and then get angry or upset when they disagree with mine. Regular readers might recall that I recently disabled my official Facebook page for this blog because someone contacted me through Facebook with abuse, threats, and insults because they didn’t like an old blog entry I reposted. I have a feeling that this case could inspire similar attempts to berate me, simply for having and sharing an opinion.

However… against my better judgment, I’m going to write about this. My heart broke for that poor kid, even as I have empathy for the adults who were trying to deal with him. I was never as out of control as that boy was, but I do remember being very small and emotionally immature, crying and screaming, and being threatened, bullied, and hit by some of the adults in my life– particularly, my father. I don’t remember anyone ever speaking to me calmly and trying to redirect the tantrum– which is a pretty normal thing for kids to have, by the way. I remember hyperventilating and being terrified. And when I saw and heard that boy’s screams, it took me back to that place, many years in the past.

Not surprisingly, the boy in this story had nightmares in the wee hours of the next morning. He woke up at 3:00am and cried to his mother, saying that he was afraid the police were going to shoot him. The mother filed a complaint with the police department and later sued. Her suit was settled out of court for $275,000, which according to Dr. Todd Grande, who also analyzed this case, the boy will get when he’s an adult.

I liked what Dr. Grande had to say about this case. He’s very astute.

Dr. Grande notes that the police, who are trained to “take control” of a crime situation, lost control in dealing with this child. Cops, as I have observed from watching many Bodycam videos on YouTube, are used to being able to get as physical as they need to with non-compliant adults. But this is a five year old child, so obviously, it would not have been appropriate for them to wrestle him to the ground, put him in handcuffs, and Taser the shit out of him. Instead, they tried to act like “stern adults” and browbeat the child into submission with screaming, yelling, threats, and insults. But, as we can all see, that technique only made things a lot worse.

Christmon later said, having watched the video footage, “Honestly, after looking at this, we should have dropped him off and left,”

I agree. Because it’s clear that these two officers don’t have much expertise in talking to children, and their methods were abusive and inappropriate for a young child. I believe that, even though I have worked with children myself, and I know that dealing with them can be frustrating. Kids don’t have the same situational awareness that adults have, and they often lack self-control. This child, who apparently has a record of acting out in school and at home, needed someone with more experience dealing with troubled children. From what I saw in the video footage, it appeared that the cops weren’t behaving much better than the boy was. However, the boy has his age and maturity level as an excuse.

The two officers did face discipline for the way they handled this case. Officer Christmon was suspended for almost two weeks. Officer Holliday got four weeks’ suspension. Both suspensions occurred without pay. The officers were also administratively charged with a number of infractions, including neglect of duty and failure to be courteous.  The police officers agreed with the punishments, did their penance, and the matter was closed. Both remain employed as police officers today.

Many people seemed to think that these two cops should be fired for their bad conduct, especially since it’s cost the county $275,000. I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. It does sound to me like the officers recognize that they did wrong, and handled the situation poorly. They seem amenable to learning from the incident and doing a better job in the future. I’m not a big fan of canceling people’s livelihoods for one mistake, even when it’s a whopper like this one. In this case, the boy suffered significant mental distress that he’ll probably remember from now on. But no one was physically injured or killed, and it does sound like some learning happened.

I am not a fan of “beating children”, as most of my regular readers probably know. I had a teacher in the 80s who employed corporal punishment. He once carried it out on me, in front of my entire class of peers. Forty plus years later, I still haven’t forgotten it, and it still really pisses me off to think about it. That punishment was inappropriate. I also had a father whose methods of discipline involved force, yelling, insults, and physical abuse. He’s been dead for eight years, and I still have bad feelings toward him. That kind of “discipline” doesn’t teach anything but fear, and tends to make things much worse. Sadly, some school districts in the United States still use corporal punishment. At this writing, 19 states still allow corporal punishment in schools, although happily, my home state of Virginia no longer does. The state of Missouri has just now brought the method back to schools, reportedly at the request of some parents. 

I understand that inflicting physical pain on someone who is out of control with emotion can sometimes “shock” them into compliance, especially when they are young children. However, in my experience, relying on that method of discipline leads to laziness on the part of the adult, and is ultimately disrespectful to the child, who is a human being and worthy of basic respect. We would never advocate for a husband slapping or spanking his wife when he became angry with or frustrated by her behavior. Many people would consider that “domestic violence.” And yet, a lot of people think it’s perfectly fine for a much larger human being to terrorize a child with threats of being hit or beaten, personal insults and comparisons to animals, and screaming and yelling. I promise, yelling and screaming at children doesn’t tend to inspire them to calm down and be quiet.

Police officers have a very difficult job, dealing with dangerous people who carry weapons. This was a case of a small child, obviously unarmed, and clearly much smaller and weaker than the cops were. The level of control the officers tried to inflict on the child was inappropriate, and clearly, very abusive. The boy wasn’t a threat to them. He was simply having a tantrum, which young kids often do. It seems to me the appropriate thing for the cops to do in this case was simply to see that the boy got back to school safely. And then, they should have allowed a professional who has much more experience working with children handle the boy’s meltdown. I don’t know if either of these cops have children, but their conduct offers a glimpse at how their children could be disciplined. It’s disturbing that one of the officers advocated for “beating” the child, even if she meant it in the vernacular. It’s really not a good look.

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condescending twatbags, ethics, Ex, modern problems, rants, social media, social welfare

I got your “cog dis” right here, lady…

Warning… this rant probably makes me seem like a complete bitch. I don’t care.

Happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans. July 4th isn’t a holiday in Germany, but Bill gets the day off, because he works for an American company. So he’s got big plans to cook ribs on the grill, and as I write this, he’s putting the sheets on the bed that I washed after we got up this morning. We have beautiful weather again today, so it would be fun to go do something, but I think the dogs would be pissed off if we ventured out again. Besides, it’s Monday, and a lot of restaurants and shops have their Ruhetag on Mondays. After I’m done writing this post, I’ll probably practice guitar and then try to read more of my latest book, which is about Roe v. Wade. When I started reading it, the ruling hadn’t yet been overturned. It’s surreal to read about how the law came about now… and the story behind Norma McCorvey, who was “Jane Roe” in the famous 1973 lawsuit that led to American women having the right to get abortions.

I don’t really want to write about abortion again. I’m tired of writing about it, arguing about it, and reading the really disgusting, misogynistic, disrespectful comments from “pro-birthers”. And yet, I feel kind of compelled, since we’re all kind of saturated in this mess right now. It’s Independence Day, but I know a lot of women don’t feel very “free” anymore. Last night, as I was reading more comments on Twitter, I was reminded of a post I wrote in 2019 about a truly creepy Trump appointee who pushed his pro-life views on migrant women and refugees. In that post, I asked if we were now living in 1970s era Romania.

I’m sure a lot of people don’t know what I’m referring to when I mention 1970s Romania. Younger people who weren’t around when the Eastern Bloc was still communist, and the Soviet Union still existed, might not have heard of Romania’s Decree 770. From 1967 until 1989, women in Romania were basically forced to give birth for the state. Women were strictly tracked by gynecologists on a monthly basis. Those who were 40-45 (depending on the year) were expected to have four or five children. Contraception and abortion were outlawed for the vast majority of women. And a WHOLE lot of babies ended up in orphanages, not because they were actual orphans, but because their parents couldn’t afford to take care of them.

Many of the unlucky children who landed in orphanages became institutionalized. They weren’t held enough, did not receive love, and that affected their mental and emotional health. A lot of those babies were also in poor physical health; they received blood transfusions, some of which were tainted with HIV or delivered with used needles. Consequently, a lot of Romanian children in orphanages contracted AIDS.

I’m not saying that this is what will happen in the United States. Obviously, we know a lot more about HIV and AIDS now than we did in the 1980s. There are also a lot more drugs available to treat AIDS and HIV infections. But I do think that a lot of issues mentioned in this article from New Europe will come to pass. Romanian families were severely impacted with the pressure to birth. A lot of women were reluctant to have sex with their husbands, which resulted in family strife, abuse, abandonment, and general unhappiness.

People who are cheering about this loss of rights for women most likely haven’t thought very long and hard about how we will all be affected by forcing women to have babies they don’t want, can’t afford, and aren’t ready to parent. Oh, but there’s always adoption, right? Right… except there are already about 400,000 kids in foster care, waiting to be adopted. People are eager to adopt healthy infants. They aren’t so interested in the older kids who languish in the system until they age out and find themselves on their own, often without a lot of life skills other than street smarts.

I imagine that adoption could become big business again, with lawyers and private agencies brokering babies, just as they did in older times, when women didn’t have the right to choose. Maybe those adoptions will turn out okay for some kids… or maybe they’ll be tragic, as some people find out they aren’t equipped to raise another person’s child.

Once again, I give you Ex’s example. She went on a public Twitter tear last night, as Mark Hamill did what a lot of celebrities are doing right now. He tweeted a picture of a cartoon couple with the caption, “We will adopt your baby.”

Har de har har har…

Someone angrily tweeted back to Mark Hamill that she was an adoptive mother and she was offended that people were attacking adoptive parents with this trend of derisively sharing photos of couples offering to adopt.

Ugh… I hate it when people call other people “hon”. It’s so condescending!

Several people pointed out to this person that people weren’t attacking adoptive couples, they were attacking virtue signaling “anti-choice” people who want to force women to birth, and then actually WON’T adopt a child.

Glad you ended up with a child who is healthy and happy… and I hope you DO honor your son’s bio parents– especially his bio mom. It was her body that took a beating so you could be a parent.

Ex follows Mark Hamill, and she was adopted, so naturally, she chimed in. I couldn’t believe some of the bullshit she was peddling. I mean, it sounded “good”, but I know about a lot of what goes on behind the Twitter account. For twenty years, I’ve been sitting here watching and experiencing the “aftereffects of Ex”. And well, I gotta say, there’s clearly a lot of “cog dis” going on.

It’s no secret that I despise my husband’s ex wife for many very valid reasons. However, I also recognize that she did legitimately suffer horrific abuse when she was a child. She did NOT land in an adoptive family where she was loved, cherished, and taken care of as all children should be. The end result is that she visits her hellish childhood on anyone close to her, and engages in some pretty serious “cog dis”. Her tweets sound good in theory, but the reality of how she actually behaves is something entirely different, which is easy to verify, if you know where to look.

I give you Ex’s tweets on this subject. Her comments are italicized, while bolded comments are from other users, and my comments are in parentheses.

I’ll admit… I would never, for any reason have an abortion personally. But I would never choose for anyone else what they should do either. It’s that whole being an American and being a Christian thing… judging others or commanding others doesn’t sit well with me. (she wouldn’t, because she’s 55 years old now, and her sweet bird of youth has flown… and also, children make excellent weapons against her ex husbands and their families… Truthfully, though, I would not be surprised if Ex would NEVER abort, even if it might save her life to do so. She likes attention.)

You’re doing what we all should do if we can… changing the life of one child at a time. I’ll tell you; I could never ever have an abortion. Not for anything in the world. I just refuse to believe that I have the right to tell anyone else what to do. (except she doesn’t mind telling her husbands and children what to do– and anyone else with a connection to her children, even if doing what she wants them to do is unhealthy, unwise, or financially disastrous… Woe be unto anyone who defies her, too. She will retaliate in twisted and horrible ways.)

Well, I could add that by continuing to have a poor class of people, the 1% could maintain power over the country easily. (I don’t disagree with her here, although she doesn’t do much to prevent poverty in her own home.)

Mark, adoption is a wonderful option. My own father was adopted when he was a skinny, sickly, weak infant (about 1939-1940). My grandfather’s first wife went to adopt and she said, “Show me the baby who is in the most need of care.” That baby grew up and at age 30, became my dad.

This is a wonderful story!!! So happy for you and your father. If only everyone who wanted a child felt this way we would not have 400k children in foster are. I was adopted, also. I’m grateful for my life, but it has been so very hard to know I was an accidental bastard child. (Ex was responding to the tweet I bolded. I find it interesting that she refers to herself as an “accidental bastard child”, when she’s also referred to herself as a descendent of a famous Scottish clan. I don’t know if her ties to the famous Scottish clan are through her careless bio parents who had an affair, or her terrible adoptive parents, who severely abused and neglected her when she was a child. I was an “accident child”, too, but my parents were married. I was also abused, though not as badly as Ex was.)

I know abortion debate rages. I was adopted… living hell… sexually assaulted for 7 years by my STEP father (mom married 7 times). I am glad I wasn’t aborted, but, all these “I will adopt your baby.” folks make me angry. They want only perfect babies; that isn’t always possible! (If she had been aborted, it would have spared a whole lot of people significant pain and grief… But, in fairness, Bill is enjoying getting to know younger daughter again, after being denied her company for 15 years. Too bad she wasn’t my daughter, so she could know her father better.)

It is so sad you posted this. You have 3 kids and worth $20M. Do you even understand a) how hard it is and b) how much it costs to adopt a kid? My wife and I looked into it and it is impossible. So many great people out there that can’t have kids that would be great parents.

There are countless children waiting… desperately in need of good parents, their lives being wasted in the foster care system! These couples who will adopt only babies are selfish and not the kind of people who should be parents. Being a parent requires unconditional love! (again, a response to someone else… and unconditional love is not something she has shown to her children. We know this because Bill witnessed it, and others have told us about the lengths she went to as she tried to maintain control of her offspring. One time, she reportedly attempted suicide as a way of keeping younger daughter under her thumb. But, in fairness, I doubt the vast majority of people are truly capable of “unconditional love”, even regarding their own kids.)

Children in the foster care system need good parents more than anyone. They desperately need to be loved and properly cared for. (true… and I’m glad it doesn’t appear that she’s trying to adopt a foster kid.)

People only want to adopt newborns. Countless children grow up parentless in the foster care system. (and some end up in hellish foster homes with “parents” who are only interested in money, and exploit the children for their own use and gratification… sounds like someone else we know.)

Exactly! 500k children who need a loving caring forever home but people will not adopt them because they are not perfect little baby packages of joy. EVERY CHILD deserves to be loved, no matter what! When we have no children in foster care I will believe “we will adopt” signs. (true enough, I guess… but I don’t know that she should be speaking about this, given her track record of parental alienation and irresponsible behavior.)

Not to mention the fact that Pro-life folks want to BAN CONTRACEPTIVES. How irresponsible is that? (does she have much experience with using contraception? Other than pressuring her husbands to get snipped for her?)

What a totally false and reprehensible thing to say. I was the victim of sexual assault by my step father for 7 years. My mother knew; I told her. She did nothing. What would you have said to me as a 9 year old child if I had become pregnant? That I was irresponsible? (again, true enough… and I’m so sorry that happened to her, because that abusive treatment contributed to turning her into the person she is now.)

I know it seems like I’m being super hard on Ex. Like I said, I know she has suffered greatly in her life. She’s not the only one, though, and plenty of people have been abused and not turned into parental alienators, liars, and exploiters. She puts on a perfectly reasonable public facade on Twitter, but behind closed doors, it’s a totally different story. And if you watch what she does, you can see that she’s quite full of shit… and cognitive dissonance.

My perfectly lovely and kind husband was denied the right to be a father to his daughters, and his ex stepson, whom he basically raised, because his ex wife is so damaged by her crappy childhood… a childhood she spent with adoptive parents who were, in no way, equipped to be good parents. Her pain has caused a lot of ripple effects to innocent people, including yours truly. I never got to know my stepdaughters because of her selfishness, nor was I able to have my own children, due to her greediness and irresponsible, impulsive behavior.

Personally, I think that sometimes, abortion is the most humane and responsible choice there is. It would have been a blessing to many people to have access to it prior to 1973. Not having access to it beyond 2022 is going to cause many, many problems… problems that I don’t think the pro-birth set have considered. I do hope that some people who agree with outlawing abortion will take up my challenge and read about Romania’s Decree 770. It might be an eye opener, that could serve to cut through some of that “cog dis” that is clouding so many people’s judgment right now.

And, just to end this post on an outrageous note, I just spotted this totally disgusting tweet by a man who thinks a ten year old child can consent to having sex…

I didn’t think it was possible, but Twitter is even more horrible than Facebook is…

Immediately following the creep’s tweet was this moronic comment from a woman in North Carolina. I probably shouldn’t follow “Bad Medical Takes”, because there are some pretty infuriating retweets there. I can’t believe how delusional some people are… Cog dis abounds!!!

I doubt this idiot is a doctor, but my mom was 10 when she started having periods. Bill’s mom was 9. It totally is possible for 10 year olds to conceive. It’s called “precocious puberty“, and these days, more girls are experiencing it than ever before.
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religion, true crime

Louisiana Christian school leader gets arrested for “cruelty to juveniles”…

It always amazes me when I read or hear about certain “Christians” and their brand of Christianity. Some of them are capable of astonishing cruelty, particularly toward children. I have mentioned before that I was raised Christian myself, and the version of Jesus Christ I was taught about was a kind, compassionate, forgiving, wise, and loving leader. And yet, in today’s world, so many “Christians”, particularly among men, turn out to be mean-spirited, unforgiving, hateful, and cruel.

This seems to be an inappropriate reaction.

This morning, I read the story of 60 year old John Raymond, who worked at the headmaster of Lakeside Christian Academy in Slidell, Louisiana. On March 18, 2022, Mr. Raymond reportedly decided to use packing tape to tape the mouths of three 13 year old male students who were sent to him for discipline due to their alleged “excessive talking” in class.

According to a police report, Mr. Raymond wrapped the packing tape around the children’s heads, then sent them back to class for about 45 minutes. Another administrator, apparently uncomfortable with Raymond’s unorthodox punishment method, decided to remove the tape. Because the tape was wrapped around the children’s heads, scissors were required to remove it properly. The students stated that they had trouble breathing and the removal process was painful. I’m sure that getting the tape out of their hair hurt, because as we all know, adhesive sticks to things. If this happened the way it’s been reported, the kids probably lost some hair during the process.

What’s he got to smile about?

Mr. Raymond smiled for his mug shot, which can be seen on the Facebook post I linked. He’s also posted a lengthy “personal statement” with “facts” on the school’s Web site. According to his statement, the incident actually happened on March 17th, and involved five students. Raymond writes that the teacher was in tears, and threatened to terminate her employment, due to the students’ “disruptive” behavior. The students’ behavior had been problematic on many occasions in the past, and Mr. Raymond writes that he has had to “address” the class many times. Raymond writes that he gave the students the option of either calling their parents and suspending them from school, or wearing the tape on their mouths to “learn” how to be quiet in class.

Raymond explains that he didn’t wrap the tape around the children’s heads, nor was their breathing affected in any way. He claims that he asked them if they could breathe properly, and if they were in any pain. According to Raymond, the students did not indicate that they were in any distress; in fact, he claims they could have simply pulled off the strip of tape by themselves. Also, according to the headmaster, the tape was on their mouths for no longer than ten minutes, rather than the 45 minutes claimed in the students’ version of the story. Two weeks later, Mr. Raymond was arrested, when three of the students’ parents called to report the punishment to the police. The other two students have been attending school as usual.

Now… I don’t know exactly where the truth lies. It probably rests somewhere in the middle of this wild tale. It does seem crazy to me, however, that Mr. Raymond felt that taping the children’s mouths was a good idea in this day and age. Public humiliation of children is never a good look, nor would I say that it’s a particularly “Christlike” thing to do. It seems to me that the best course of action would have been to simply call the children’s parents, because obviously, they were going to get involved, anyway. Did Mr. Raymond really think that all of the parents of these kids were going to think his brand of punishment was appropriate? Now he’s being held criminally liable. I would not be surprised if there’s a lawsuit, too.

Honestly, shouldn’t the parents be notified if their children are causing so much disruption that a teacher is threatening to quit her job? This is a private school, yes? So why tolerate repeated disruptions in the first place? Disruptive kids don’t have to go to a private school. It’s supposed to be a privilege. I don’t condone allowing students to bully their teachers, but I do think that if students are so lacking in discipline that they make their teachers cry, their parents should be involved. And if the parents can’t effectively address the problem, then maybe they should find an alternative solution to educating their children. It isn’t fair to the other students to allow disruptive students to interrupt class. But in no case do I think it should be up to a principal, headmaster, or teacher to use physical punishments on students. It’s not their place.

I know a lot of people might not think this kind of punishment is a big deal. Personally, I am against teachers publicly humiliating kids or using “physical” means to discipline them. Back in 1980s era Virginia, I had a teacher who publicly paddled children in front of their peers. It happened to me once, and although I don’t remember the “paddling” to be painful, I do remember how very upsetting and traumatizing it was. In fact, when I think about that incident 40 years later, it still really pisses me off. I wish my parents had cared more that a man took it upon himself to paddle their nine year old daughter in front of other nine year olds. It certainly didn’t teach me “discipline”.

I don’t know what the laws are in Louisiana that pertain to how kids can be disciplined in school. It wouldn’t surprise me if corporal punishment is still okay down there (ETA: actually, this issue just came up in Louisiana and yes, corporal punishment is still allowed). However, from what I’ve read, most places where corporal punishment is allowed require parental consent. Moreover, psychological studies show that corporal punishment isn’t helpful or effective in getting children to change their behaviors. It does, however, teach them that might beats right, and authority figures are to be feared, rather than respected. There is a big difference between fear and respect.

Another fun fact about Mr. Raymond is that he was once a contestant on the reality show, Survivor. There are many telling Facebook comments by people who live in the community Lakeside Christian Academy serves. He appears to be a rather controversial figure who has a lot of local power. Many people seem to think he’s a real jerk. In any case, it always amazes me when I hear a so-called Christian say they “love” someone, but then they use pain, humiliation, and fear to teach them right from wrong. That’s not the way Jesus Christ would have handled a situation like this. Or, at least, the version of Christ that I learned about in my mainstream Presbyterian church when I was growing up, would not have handled a disciplinary situation in this way.

Isn’t it insane that an assistant principal in Mississippi gets fired for reading an awesome children’s book about butts to kids in school, but this “headmaster” in Louisiana is allowed to tape children’s mouths? I don’t envy the parents of today. Our schools are truly a mess.

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movies, narcissists, reviews

Repost: My review of Mommie Dearest, the film… 

I wrote this review for Epinions in October 2007.  We were living in Germany the first time and I needed stuff to do.  So I watched Mommie Dearest and reviewed it.  Here it is reposted for your perusal, because I mentioned it in today’s fresh content. I have not edited this review from its original incarnation.

I wonder how many kids dream about growing up the child of a movie star. On the surface, it seems like it would be such a sweet life of untold indulgences. After all, movie stars don’t have problems. They all live in mansions and never have to think about money or consequences for their actions. They’re surrounded by people who come at their beck and call. Surely it must be the same for their children, right? Of course not. As CNN shows us with its daily reports on Britney Spears’ legal troubles, stars have their problems, too. And their children often have to deal with the aftermath.

Christina Crawford is the late Joan Crawford’s adopted daughter. In 1978, she published a tell-all book about her experiences having Joan Crawford as a mother. The 1981 film Mommie Dearest, based on Christina Crawford’s book of the same name, is the dramatized story of what Christina endured growing up in Hollywood’s glare. Mommie Dearest, the book, made quite a controversial splash back when it was first published. Three years later, the film version, starring Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford, made a very different kind of splash. Even though a lot of critics panned Mommie Dearest, it still gets regular airplay today. Certain audiences, most notably homosexuals and transvestites, love this film and have made it a cult classic.

I have seen Mommie Dearest dozens of times, first on HBO, then on regular cable, and finally on my own DVD. I recently purchased the Hollywood Royalty Edition of the Mommie Dearest DVD. At $9.95, it was a steal and a great way to kill time until my husband and I can move out of our German hotel room and into our new home. I watched Mommie Dearest again last night. Every time I see it, I notice something new.

Thanks to Crawford’s book and Dunaway’s over the top portrayal of Joan Crawford in the movie, Joan Crawford has become sort of a poster child of child abusers. Indeed, there are several infamous scenes in this movie that can be, depending on how the viewer takes it, either very disturbing or hilarious. Take, for instance, the “wire hangers” scene, the scene for which Mommie Dearest is perhaps best known. Dunaway, as Crawford, comes into young Christina’s room to say goodnight to her sleeping daughter and make sure that everything is in its place. Wearing cold cream and a headband, Joan goes into Christina’s closet and starts thumbing through her clothes, all neatly hung on satin hangers. Suddenly, the movie star comes across a dress on a wire hanger. Enraged, she snatches the frilly creation off the rack and cradles it in her arms. Then, at the top of her lungs, she screams “NO WIRE HANGERS, EVER!”

Sure, lots of people make fun of that scene. Dunaway’s cold cream mask and wild hair make her look like an outraged modern day Michael Jackson. She tears all of the clothes off the rack, dumps them in a pile, and forces Christina out of bed. Then, completely out of control, she starts beating the crying child with the wire hanger. The scene is totally over the top and yet it always sends a chill down my spine. When I look in Dunaway’s heavily made up eyes, I see fury that makes me believe that she’s an angry, abusive mother and Mara Hobel, very impressively playing the young version of Christina Crawford, is her terrified little girl.

Diana Scarwid, who plays the teenaged and adult Christina, is also very compelling in her role. Somehow, she’s able to convincingly demonstrate the paradox that affects children of abusive parents. She hates her mother, yet she also loves her. As she grows up and her mother inevitably starts to lose power over her, viewers still see that love/hate struggle. She knows her mother is crazy, yet she can’t bear to lose her. She faithfully puts up with her mother’s insanity, seemingly unable to cut the ties. Then, when Joan Crawford dies and the will is read, Christina and her brother, Christopher, learn that she didn’t leave them a cent “for reasons well known to them.”

Mommie Dearest was produced by Frank Yablans and directed by Frank Perry. Yablans also wrote the screenplay. According to the special features that are included with the Hollywood Royalty version of Mommie Dearest, Yablans originally meant for Anne Bancroft to play Joan Crawford. But Bancroft’s Joan Crawford didn’t seem to be working. Faye Dunaway wanted the part and when she was made up, looked just like the star. I wasn’t around when Joan Crawford was a big star, but I have seen pictures of her. Dunaway is a dead ringer. Moreover, the makeup and costumes in this movie are fantastic. The sets are also incredibly authentic. Whenever I watch this movie, I often forget that it was made in 1981. It really does evoke the glamour and style of the 1940s. It’s not until the very end of the movie that I remember that the film adaptation of Mommie Dearest was made less than thirty years ago.

Despite the fact that I love this movie for its sheer camp factor, there are a few things about it that I don’t like. First of all, the movie isn’t entirely true to the book. Of course, Mommie Dearest is a dramatization based on a book, but it leads viewers to believe that Joan Crawford only had two children when, in fact, she had four. Her adopted daughters Cathy and Cindy wanted nothing to do with the film, so they aren’t mentioned at all. Also, Dunaway’s performance is often really outrageous, so much so that it draws attention away from the very serious topic of child abuse and almost turns it into a joke. Is it funny to see Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford so outraged by being called “box office poison” that she feverishly destroys a rose garden with a pair of hedge clippers? Sure. But imagine being a child in real life watching something like that. Dunaway’s performance is so crazed that a lot of audiences react with laughter instead of shock.

Ditto the scene in which Dunaway, as Joan Crawford, brings Christina (played by Scarwid) home from her boarding school in a snit because Christina got caught kissing a boy. When Christina openly defies her mother, declaring that she’s not one of her fans, Dunaway, as Crawford, tackles the girl, grabbing her around the neck and choking her. It’s a grotesque, disturbing scene that, again, is so over the top that people make fun of it. It turns what should be a tragic scene into something that’s funny. While I agree with comedian George Carlin’s assertion that a person can make a joke out of anything, somehow it seems wrong to do it with child abuse.

The Hollywood Royalty version of Mommie Dearest consists of the movie, which is rated PG and runs for 128 minutes, commentary by campy filmmaker John Waters, three features that explain how the movie was made and include interviews with the movie’s makers and actors, a photo gallery, and the original theatrical trailer. Although I saw this movie many times when I was a child, if I were a parent, I would probably think twice about letting a young child see it. Although I counted only two swear words (including one use of the f word), there are several violent scenes that involve children that might be frightening for them.

Loved or hated, Mommie Dearest is rarely ignored or forgotten. I’m proud to have it as part of my personal movie collection. And, after watching this, I can’t help but remember that movie stars and their children have problems too.

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Ex, France

The seaglasshole is at it again…

Special thanks to my hilariously witty friend, Nicole, for inspiring today’s title. I’m going to try to keep this entry short and to the point, since we have a lot to do today, and I still need to get dressed. I’ve been sort of looking forward to and dreading today. It’s the first time I’m going out in “public” since, oh… about early January? I think the last time I left the neighborhood was January 5, when I got my COVID booster. It’s not that I’m afraid of the virus per se. I just find the rules confusing and annoying, so I opt to stay home.

Today, we’re going to go to the dentist’s office, all the way down in Stuttgart. We’ll get cleanings, then head into France for a few days. I don’t know what we’ll see or do, but I am hoping to have some fun, or at least take some new pictures. I think we can accomplish that.

Last night, Bill and I were hanging out, listening to music. I did a little snooping on Ex. It’s funny, because I didn’t used to voluntarily look for information about her. But now I kind of unabashedly follow her, because I know she’s done it to me… and because sometimes, she’s alternately entertaining and scary.

I gazed at her public Twitter account and noticed she had posted a fundraiser for herself— as in she posted it a minute before I saw it. Once again, she’s allegedly trying to raise money for her son, who is evidently afflicted with severe autism. She says she wants to erect a fence for her yard, and that she’s been unable to secure grants… so online crowdfunding is the only way she can pay for it. She’s also been clamoring for a certain kind of service dog for people who have autism. She has a specific breed in mind, though… one that isn’t typically used as a service dog.

After years of seaglasshole watching, I suspect that these pleas for money aren’t actually for her son. It’s my guess that she has bills to pay, and her shopping obsession has left her short of cash. So she’s counting on the kindness and generosity of strangers. She claims her son likes to run away, and due to his disabilities, doesn’t have a keen sense of danger. But he’s fifteen years old, and probably getting close to being fully grown. Does she really think a fence will contain him? And why didn’t she put one in ages ago?

Some of the stories I’ve heard about this situation are very alarming. Along with the tales Ex posts on her crowdfunding campaigns, she also incessantly posts about movie stars, and her fantasies involving them. Most of the time, they’re about money, but I think she’s also obsessed with fame. I remember when the older kids were younger, there was a lot of talk about trying to get them into the movie industry. But those ambitions were apparently overcome by events.

I’m sure it’s not easy taking care of a teenaged boy with severe autism, especially since she claims she has two other autistic children, one of whom is my husband’s estranged older daughter. Older daughter was not “diagnosed” until she was 21 years old. I’m sure that’s not uncommon in milder cases, although I do remember that older daughter was often described by Ex as “troublesome”. She used to call her the “Dragon Baby”. Given that, maybe people can see why I doubt her sincerity when she expresses love and concern for her youngest kid, who apparently needs much more help that she and older daughter can give him. I’m assuming #3 is still around, too, but she never posts about him.

Anyway… once again, I’m shaking my damned head… Leave it to me to fall in love with a man whose ex wife is batshit nuts. On the other hand, being married to a man with a nutty ex wife kind of makes me look a lot better than I might otherwise.

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