movies, reviews

Yesterday, I watched Kate’s Secret; it almost made me puke.

I could totally write about all of the crazy stuff in the news about Donald Trump today… but I don’t feel like writing about the turd. I also don’t feel like writing about Anne Heche, who I have heard has passed away after her car accident last week. The last news I heard about Heche is that she was on life support, so that any viable organs can be harvested and donated. However, I also heard that there was cocaine in her system when she crashed, so I don’t know…

Anyway, I’ve decided not to write much about those topics this morning, because frankly I don’t feel like it. It would require more research than I feel like doing. If you read my travel blog post today, you know that I partied too hard at the wine fest last night. So, in the interest of what I was doing earlier this morning, I’m going to write today’s post about a 1986 made for TV movie called Kate’s Secret. This movie aired in November of ’86, when I was fourteen years old and kind of obsessed with eating disorders. At that time in my life, I engaged in disordered eating myself, although my behavior was never bulimic (binging masses of food and purging/vomiting).

Meredith Baxter talks about making “Kate’s Secret” and “The Betty Broderick Story”, another hot topic on this blog. Meredith says that people still come up to her and ask her about this movie. The interview is much more recent than the movie is.

Kate’s Secret is mostly about bulimia, and stars Meredith Baxter, who was then going by Meredith Baxter Birney and starring on Family Ties, which was a hugely popular hit sitcom. Baxter was, at that time, married to her second ex husband, the recently late David Birney, a fellow actor who starred with her on the 70s era show, Bridget Loves Bernie. Baxter is now married to Nancy Locke, having come out as a lesbian about ten years ago.

An upload of the whole movie.

Because I was so interested in eating disorders when I was a teenager, and I was a fan of Family Ties, I remember being very eager to watch this movie when it originally aired. Having watched it again yesterday, I kind of have mixed views. It’s pretty dated in a lot of ways. I’ll get into that in a minute, though. First, an obligatory rundown of the plot.

Kate Stark (Baxter) is a beautiful thirty-something California wife to a superstar lawyer who is busting his ass to make partner at his law firm. Kate’s husband, Jack (Ben Masters) works very long hours with a beautiful female lawyer named Monica Fields (Leslie Bevis). Kate tries to trust him, but her overbearing mother, Faith (Georgann Johnson), keeps nagging her about the threat Monica poses to Kate’s marriage. This constant riding by her mother about how she should look, and how she should be worried about Monica, makes Kate nervous and insecure. However, it’s clear that Jack loves Kate, and is disappointed at the beginning of the film, when she denies him sex so she can go running. Later, Monica hits on Jack, and he rebuffs her. So, while Faith’s instincts about Monica being a man stealing ‘ho are correct, her instincts about Jack being the cheating kind aren’t.

A short clip showing Kate’s secretive and damaging eating disordered behaviors…

The couple has a daughter, Becky, played by Summer Phoenix, who was about 8 years old at the time. Kate doesn’t let Becky eat sugar, and forces her to drink watered down orange juice. Becky is a Brownie, though, and her mom is very involved in the troop. She’s excited, because she’s about to become a Junior Girl Scout. At one point, they show Summer in a 1986 era Brownie uniform, which gave me a flashback. I, too, was briefly a Brownie in the late 70s, and I wore the 70s version of the uniform, which I hated. It was so itchy! These days, they don’t make girls wear those uniforms anymore. That’s a good thing, because they were very “extra”.

My uniform was just like this one. I was in Troop 819.
Becky’s uniform is a little different than mine was, but it appears to be accurate to what girls wore in the 80s. I hated wearing that shit to school.

Kate somehow manages to keep her bulimia a secret. She’s shown stealing food at the grocery store, buying huge fast food feasts in her car, using the excuse that she’s “surprising her daughter with a treat”, and gorging on party leftovers. Then, one day, while doing aerobics with her friend, Gail (Shari Belafonte, who was then styled as Shari Belafonte-Harper), she passes out. This causes her to miss Becky’s promotion ceremony, as well as missing getting to her husband’s law office in time to pick him up for the ceremony. She calls Jack from Gail’s health club, and he bitches her out for trying to squeeze in aerobics before their daughter’s ceremony, which she had nagged him to attend.

After Kate recovers from fainting, she goes to Becky’s school to pick her up. The child is understandably upset and sulks as she sits in the front seat of the car. Eight year olds in the front seat! Another dated aspect of this film. Kate tries to explain herself to Becky, but then passes out again and has an accident. She moans “Becky…” as she crashes the car, her face planted in the steering wheel, which had no air bag. Curiously, Kate’s face isn’t bruised or banged up after the crash.

Poor Becky is very upset and unable to call for help, since there were no cell phones. She cries for Kate to wake up, and all we see is Kate’s face planted in the steering wheel as the horn blows. Becky frantically tries to rouse her mother.

“Mommy, wake up!”

After the horn scene, we see Kate and Becky at a hospital, where the nurses all wear white dresses and have nursing caps. It’s hard to believe that they still dressed that way, even in the mid 1980s. It makes me feel so OLD. This is where Kate gets sternly chewed out by the emergency room doctor, who is astute enough to see that his patient has teeth marks on her fingers, swollen jaws, and bleeding gums. Seriously? He had time to do all of that evaluation while Kate was unconscious? She’s had lab work done and cardiac tests, and he’s had time to call Dr. Resnick, a psychiatrist played by the late Edward Asner. Resnick shows up just at the right time to confront Kate and tell her she needs to be locked up in a treatment center. She starts crying, moaning that they’re going to “ruin her life”. And of course, Jack doesn’t know what bulimia is, so Dr. Resnick explains.

Then Jack finds out the ugly truth… This scene really blows me away. This is all being discussed in the hall, and they act like she’s going to be compelled to go into the hospital. No HIPAA in 1986, of course, but I don’t think they’d be having this scene in a hallway, even in 1986. It makes for good 80s era TV, but it’s not really rooted in reality, even back in those days. Poor Kate gets confronted and dressed down, and Meredith really pours on the melodrama with lots of fake crying and moaning.

Jack is all pissed off, but agrees to let the good psychiatrist haul his wife off to the psych ward. Kate isn’t given a choice in the matter; it’s all settled by the men. Next we see Kate in the psych hospital, where a doctor is explaining everything. As she’s checking in Kate, she tells her about her roommate, a bulimic model named Patch (Tracy Nelson). Again, no HIPAA back then, so it’s okay to tell Kate about another patient’s medical problems. The doctor tells Kate that the bathroom door is locked, but she’ll open it whenever she needs it.

Then we’re introduced to a crew of other women with eating disorders, to include Dayna, played by Mackenzie Phillips. Mackenzie had plenty of her own real life psych and drug dramas to add to this role. The women give Kate the scoop on what is expected, then we see her bonding with Patch, who like Kate, has a troubled relationship with her mother. The group therapy session scenes are kind of cliched, as one of the women confronts Kate for not admitting her problems. The women are taken on a field trip to a local grocery store, where they are taught to shop for food.

And then Kate asks Dr. Resnick if she can have a “pass” to attend a party for her husband. Dr. Resnick says no, so Kate sneaks out, wearing one of Patch’s beautiful dresses. I’m surprised the dress wasn’t under lock and key, and I’m also surprised that Kate can fit into it, as Patch is supposed to be a model, and Kate is an average sized woman at about 120 pounds (per the obligatory scale scene). She’s talking about how she can’t fit into a size four dress at the beginning of the film. I would assume Patch would wear smaller clothes. Patch helps Kate sneak out of the hospital to go to the party, a decision that will cost both of them dearly (duh, duh, duuuuh!).

When Kate wakes up from surgery, she finds out that Patch overdosed after having to deal with her awful mother. Patch took all of the diuretics she stole and had a heart attack. Kate proceeds to have a huge meltdown and confronts Dr. Resnick, babbling about how no one cares about her unless she’s “good”. Then she has a breakthrough, wailing to the doctor that she’s terrified that her husband will leave her, because her father abandoned her. And her mother had blamed her for her father’s absence. Kate is very distraught to learn about her friend’s death, but Jack declares that he loves Kate and will never leave her. This seems to be when she decides to get well. Again… kind of unrealistic, especially when she says she’s been hospitalized for six weeks. She must have had some great insurance, but I guess her lawyer husband could afford the bills. The movie ends as Kate is seeing her meddlesome mother off at the airport… pre 9/11, so she was allowed to be at the gate as Mom leaves.

I love a good melodrama, and Kate’s Secret has a lot of it. I used to love movies of the week for that reason. In some ways, this movie is not terribly realistic and you have to suspend belief. However, for its time, it’s pretty well written and, of course, in those days, there weren’t any movies about bulimia. Anorexia nervosa was probably considered a more dramatic malady, and probably more compelling for viewers, since anorexics don’t tend to binge and purge (although sometimes they can). Watching someone vomit isn’t as visually appealing for most viewers as watching someone restrict food. I really like Tracy Nelson in this movie, too. I wish they’d made her Kate instead of Meredith. But I guess she was too young for the role, as she was only 23 at the time this was made.

Summer Phoenix, who played Becky, is the sister of the late River Phoenix and, of course, Joaquin (also known as Leaf) Phoenix. Their family is famous for its acting and musical talents, as well as being former adherents to the Children of God religious cult. You can search this blog for more information about the Children of God. The family left the cult in 1977, the year before Summer, who is the youngest child in the family, was born. Summer grew up to marry Casey Affleck, Ben’s brother, and had two children with him before they divorced in 2017.

I suspect a lot of people will read this post, because I tend to get a lot of hits on posts I write about eating disorders. But now it’s time to wrap it up and take an antacid… So I hope you enjoyed my recap/review/relook at Kate’s Secret. And please remember, kids, not to try this at home. Bulimia, that is…

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mental health, transportation, travel, true crime

The new harmful “delta variant” could also be an off duty Delta flight attendant…

We’ve been hearing about the dangerous “delta variant” of the coronavirus. On Friday, June 11th, 2021, another dangerous “Delta” variant emerged. In this case, it wasn’t a virus that was causing havoc. It was yet another passenger on a transcontinental Delta flight. And this particular “disruptive” passenger wasn’t just any rank and file person; it was an off duty Delta flight attendant.

A couple of days ago, I heard about the scary Delta flight that was forced to divert to Oklahoma City due to an “unruly” passenger. The flight, which had taken off from Los Angeles and was bound for Atlanta, went awry when the off duty Delta flight attendant apparently lost his shit mid flight. According to news reports, the unidentified passenger got on the intercom and told passengers to take their seats and prepare to use the oxygen masks. He reportedly attacked two flight attendants and threatened to bring down the plane. Naturally, that made people pretty tense. Next thing everyone knew, the captain made a request for “strong males” to help restrain a problem passenger.

In a widely circulated video, the aggressive passenger’s screams can be heard as several large men wearing face masks tackle him to the ground. A flight attendant asks everyone to take their seats so the man– likely now a former colleague– can be properly restrained.

Scary!

No one was injured in this incident. After the plane landed in Oklahoma City, law enforcement removed him and took him to a hospital. He was also questioned by the FBI. It’s being said that the flight attendant has “mental health issues”. Gee… you think?

This dude needs a medic!

Many people are reacting to this crisis by suggesting huge fines, lifetime bans, and jail time for passengers that freak out on planes. They reason that the reason there’s been a huge uptick in violent behavior on airplanes is because people are just “brats” who need to be punished. But I watched that video involving the guy on the Delta flight. To me, it looks like he has a mental illness. I doubt very seriously that the threat of a huge fine, imprisonment, or a ban on future flights would have prevented his outburst. Something is clearly medically wrong with him. He needs help from a competent psychiatrist, not a jail sentence or a fine.

Think about this. This guy was a flight attendant for Delta. He was probably on his way to work. Flight attendants often take “deadhead” flights to commute to their assignments if they don’t happen to live in the city where the flight originates. Maybe the guy lives in Los Angeles and had to work a flight originating in Atlanta. Or maybe he was on his way home after working.

The fact that the guy was a Delta flight attendant means he went through eight weeks of rigorous training. According to a 2018 era CNBC article, each year, over 100,000 apply to become Delta flight attendants, and less than one percent get hired. So that means he must have had something good going for him prior to that terrible flight during which he, hopefully temporarily, lost his marbles.

Double that in 2020 and 2021!

I have read that many flight attendants are on the edge of insanity right now, thanks to the huge increase of “unruly passenger incidents” over the past few months. Let’s face it. The events of the past five years have been unprecedented. I remember in 2016, I shared the above photo on social media. In 2021, I look at that photo about how “awful” 2016 was, and realize that we had no idea of what was coming. Seriously… the past five years have been an unprecedented shit show for a lot of people. Many folks who would ordinarily be perfectly calm, normal, law abiding citizens are losing their shit on a daily basis!

According to the Washington Post article I just posted:

The Federal Aviation Administration told The Washington Post this week that it has received about 2,900 reports of unruly passenger behavior since Jan. 1. Roughly 2,200 of those involved passengers who would not comply with the federal mandate to wear a face covering. The agency identified potential violations in 446 of those cases and has started enforcement action in 42.

Those numbers have grown over the past couple of weeks: When the FAA last released an update on May 24, it had gotten 2,500 reports of bad behavior with about 1,900 involving masks. The agency has not tracked the number of such reports from airlines in past years, but it said it investigated a total of 1,548 unruly passenger cases between 2010 and 2020.

Flight attendants are human too, and they are dealing with unprecedented violence and hostility from stressed out passengers. Is it any wonder that some of them are now dealing with mental health problems?

So… since January 1, 2021, there have been 2900 reports of “unruly passenger behavior”. Prior to that, from 2010-2020, there were 1,548 reports of “unruly passenger behavior”. That means that in just five months, there have been twice as many “unruly passengers” flying than in the ten years before! That is a HUGE increase.

This phenomenon can’t be happening because every single “unruly passenger” is an unlawful asshole who needs to be straightened out with fines, jail time, and a lifetime ban from flights. People are unusually stressed out and some are legitimately mentally ill. Thanks to the pandemic, it’s much more difficult for those people to access the mental healthcare they need.

Moreover, consider what a pain in the ass flying is even when times are normal. Airports are often busy, stressful places with crowds, noise, and standing in line. Now, everybody has to do that with a face mask on, and increased scrutiny and intolerance from others. I know a lot of people don’t think the masks are a big deal, but the evidence shows that not everyone feels that way. Those people, like it or not, are clearly demanding to be heard.

I have mentioned that I have no desire whatsoever to fly right now. Before the pandemic, we had to contend with high ticket prices, tight seats, inconsiderate recliners, seat kickers, bad food, delays, crowds, and uptight security agents. Now, it seems like there are a lot of people who resent the COVID-19 rules, and a lot of people who are extremely neurotic and hyper-vigilant and demanding about enforcing the rules. Some people are calling for “zero tolerance” rules, which means that every rule violator gets treated the same, regardless of why they are violating the rules. That leads to even more stress than there was before.

Could it be that the Delta flight attendant was possibly dealing with the aftereffects of his very stressful job– a job in which many of his colleagues report increased disrespect and abuse from angry and stressed out passengers? If he also has an organic psychiatric problem, especially if it was untreated, that would only add to the stress. Was he on some kind of medication that he missed? Did he have a psychotic break of some kind? Having watched the video, I can’t agree that he was just someone who was acting like an asshole. He looks like he’s seriously mentally ill. If that’s the case, he has a medical problem, and should be treated as such. We should have some compassion for him instead of insults.

After I read one too many comments about how the airlines need to make things even stricter and more unpleasant for everyone, I had to leave one of my own. I wrote that I didn’t think someone with a mental illness was going to stop and think about zero tolerance policies or onerous consequences before acting out. So those measures won’t do any good. People who are mentally healthy are likely to be cooperative anyway. People who are mentally ill might not be able to help themselves when they freak out.

We wouldn’t punish someone for having a heart attack or a seizure on an airplane, would we? So why would we take those actions when someone has a psychiatric emergency? Psychiatric problems are medical problems, too, and they can often be fixed with medication. I know this from personal experience. The Delta flight attendant who went nuts the other day may be right as rain if he gets appropriate treatment. So why would we ban him from flying for life if all he might need is medical treatment?

Now… if it turns out he was drunk or high or was just being an uncooperative jerk… or he was actually expressing premeditated intentions to hurt people by bringing weapons on the plane– okay. Those people should be punished. There are a lot of inconsiderate assholes out there who probably should be sanctioned. But in this case, I think I’d like to know more about what happened before I would call for a lifetime ban on flying, huge fines, or jail time. If this guy has a mental illness, jail will not help him or society, anyway.

Here’s something else that people may not be considering when they suggest lifetime flying bans. This guy– once a trained Delta flight attendant– must have been normal at some point. Consider that by banning him, the airlines are also going to be banning anyone close to him. I don’t know a thing about this guy’s family situation, but do you think that if Delta bans him, his significant others or children will choose to fly Delta? What about supportive friends and extended family members and their immediate families? That’s a lot of potentially missed revenue for the airlines, and if every single unruly passenger is banned from flying, it could have a serious negative effect on business.

Of course, the counter argument is that people won’t fly unless these “unruly” types don’t get banned. But think about this… how many folks who claim they’ll never fly again are actually going to follow what happens to this man, once he’s out of the news? Maybe someone like me– I like to read follow up news about certain cases. But most people are busier with their lives than I am. They’ll forget all about this once it blows over. A lifetime ban is “forever”, though, and that could have a really serious effect on this guy’s life, even after he gets well. He may not deserve a lifetime ban.

After I wrote my comment that this appears to be a mental health issue and the flight attendant probably wouldn’t have considered the consequences before he acted, the poster to whom I had responded wrote that it would be up to the courts to decide. My response was:

“Exactly. It’s not for you or me or anyone else in the comment section to decide what the appropriate action is in this case. This man needs to be evaluated by a qualified mental health provider, not judged by the masses. Jail would not help someone with a mental health problem and appropriate treatment could make all the difference. I’m sure you would want that kind of forbearance and due process for yourself and your loved ones should you have the misfortune of being affected by a mental illness.”

I honestly doubt this man– who was employed by Delta and no doubt has no doubt felt the huge strain of the past fifteen months, particularly for flight attendants– was planning to act out on this flight. He deserves some consideration for his psychiatric medical problem, if he has one. If clear evidence emerges that he deliberately misbehaved on the flight, that’s another story. Zero tolerance rules usually make zero sense, because every situation is different.

As for me… I continue to avoid flying, if I can. I don’t want to pay for this experience. I would rather wait until things are a bit more under control and “normal”. And I hope this won’t be the “new normal”. We shouldn’t expect that it will be.

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