memories, movies, social media

Repost: White people who lack empathy… or, I’m glad I never met “Margaret’s” racist brother…

This is a repost. I wrote this hybrid movie review/story entry for my original Blogspot version of The Overeducated Housewife on June 15, 2017. I reposted the first part of this story on May 28, 2021. I’ve decided to repost this follow up today, because I’m not quite ready to post fresh content. It might be advantageous to read the first part of this story before reading this one. I’m leaving this mostly as/is.

Last night, I watched a movie I hadn’t seen in probably thirty years or more.  The film was called Carbon Copy.  It was released in 1981 and starred George Segal and Susan St. James.  It also featured a young and talented Denzel Washington, who was making his film debut.  I used to watch that movie on HBO all the time when I was a kid, though I didn’t understand it as well back then as I do today.

A trailer for the film, Carbon Copy…

I was moved to purchase Carbon Copy because it had a very catchy theme song that I got stuck in my head.  With music by Bill Conti and lyrics by Paul Williams, the bouncy tune was definitely an ear worm, if not a bit dated.  Having watched the film last night, I can honestly say I enjoyed it.  It’s basically a satirical look at racist white people and the stupid things they say and do.

The story begins with Walter Whitney (Segal) in bed with his frigid wife, Vivian (St. James).  She’s not into him and he’s frustrated.  He gets out of bed and we immediately see that he lives in a fabulous mansion in fictional San Marino, California.  Whitney is a wealthy ad executive and has all the trappings of success.  He has a pretty wife, a beautiful home, a well-paying job.  But money doesn’t buy everything.

Walter’s wife is a snob.  His stepdaughter, whom he apparently adopted, treats him with contempt.  His father-in-law is his boss and treats him with condescension.  Even his job was handed to him with strings attached.

One day, Walter gets a blast from the past.  A young black guy named Roger Porter (Washington) shows up at his office asking for him.  He mentions that he’s the son of Lorraine.  Lorraine is a dear friend of Walter’s, though he hadn’t seen her in many years.  Walter’s face lights up at the mention of her name.  He asks his secretary to send Roger in for a visit.  Roger comes in, parks his ass at Walter’s desk and drops a bomb on him.  He’s actually Walter’s son!

At first, Walter doesn’t believe him.  I wouldn’t believe him, either, since Roger/Denzel doesn’t look like he’s biracial; but hey– it’s the movies, right?  Roger then convinces Walter than he is his long lost 17 year old son and his mother has just died.  Walter, being somewhat decent, decides he has to help Roger.  He brings him home after pitching the idea of hosting a black kid to his racist wife.

Both Walter and Vivian are extremely ignorant, condescending, and racist to the point of ridiculousness.  They wrongly assume Roger is a high school dropout who has no idea how civilized people live.  He’s served fried chicken as they tell him he’ll be attending the Presbyterian church, even though Roger says he’s a Baptist.  They force him to stay in the garage instead of their home.

Then, when Walter and Vivian have an argument, Walter tells his wife he’s really Roger’s dad.  Vivian’s reaction is extreme, to the point of needing a doctor and a minister.  In short order, Walter finds himself tossed out on the street with his son.  He’s abandoned by his friends, his family, even his doctor, lawyer, and minister. 

Walter and Roger move into a cheap motel, then a crappy apartment and Roger soon finds himself shoveling horse shit.  As he’s knocked off his powerful white station in life, Walter supposedly learns something about what it’s like to be black.  He realizes that his former life was a very fragile sham– an illusion of decency and decorum.  Walter develops empathy and appreciation for his son.  He rejects his shallow existence and becomes a much better person.

Funny scene about assumptions some white people make about black people…

Carbon Copy is kind of a silly movie and it makes its points with over the top gags that require viewers to suspend their disbelief.  There were parts of the movie that were actually a little offensive to me today, although they probably wouldn’t have been in the less politically correct early 80s.  And yet, after yesterday’s post, I realize that it was kind of appropriate that I was watching that movie.  I realized that many white people still have a long way to go.

Yesterday, because I was curious about “Margaret”, my very first roommate at Longwood College, I went into obsessed fan mode and looked up her brother.  I wondered if he was anything like her.  Granted, almost 27 years have passed since I was last in the same room with Margaret.  For all I know, she may have evolved into a decent person.  Still, her behavior in 1990 was very strange, even for a stupid 18 year old.  I went looking to find out if Margaret’s brother– also adopted– was as big of an asshole as his sister was. 

Looking at his Facebook page and the page made for their father’s business, I can see that Margaret’s brother works for their father.  He’s got a bunch of public stuff on his Facebook page.  Some of it’s fairly innocuous.  Like, for instance, I learned that Margaret’s brother– let’s call him Chip– is a proud father of four.  He’s happily married and a Christian.  He loves being Southern and living in the South. 

I also learned that Chip is a firm believer in Donald Trump’s genius.  He thinks that transgender people should be forced to use the bathroom corresponding to their genitalia.  He obviously considers himself a “gentleman” and promotes attitudes reflecting conservative values.  He’s probably pretty sexist, too. 

Further down the page, I find the following…

Chip expresses some very ignorant and rather offensive views about the Civil War and the Confederacy.  I can see that he’s clearly very proud of his Southern heritage and he’s against the recent moves to get rid of Confederate war memorials. 

Having lived in South Carolina myself, at a time when the stars and bars were still flying over the South Carolina Statehouse, I can see where these opinions formed.  To be honest, I am not a fan of trying to whitewash history.  The fact is, there was a Civil War.  The South lost, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t great leaders from the Confederacy.  Should we still be publicly celebrating them in 2017?  Perhaps not.  But I can understand why some Southerners want to hang onto their memorials, even if I don’t agree with them.  They do have a right to their opinions, ignorant as I might think they are.

On the other hand, the Civil War has been over for a long time.  The South is a part of the United States, not an entity unto itself.  And while I’m sure Chip is “nice” to black people he sees face to face, I have a feeling that deep down, he’s quite racist.  Maybe that doesn’t matter to him.  Since I don’t know him, I can only base an opinion on what I can see in the messages he broadcasts publicly on social media.

I read that Chip’s father served on some board at UVa. that celebrates diversity.  He also served as a Peace Corps Country Director in Jamaica.  How does that jibe with his son’s evidently racist views?  These attitudes don’t form in a vacuum.   

I read up on Chip’s mother, evidently a woman very proud of her Greek heritage.  She and her husband met on a blind date when she was working for Senator Strom Thurmond.  I happened to be living in South Carolina at the tail end of Thurmond’s time in the South Carolina legislature.  Although he was much celebrated in South Carolina, Mr. Thurmond had some pretty racist views, especially in his early political days.  If Chip’s mom worked for Mr. Thurmond in the 60s, she probably has some racist ideas, too.  I know that racist ideas often die hard, especially in older people.  On the other hand, maybe she’s evolved.  Based on her Facebook page, which also celebrates Donald Trump, I doubt it.   

According to Wikipedia: During his 1948 campaign, Thurmond said the following in a speech, being met with loud cheers by the assembled supporters:  listen (help·info)

I wanna tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that there’s not enough troops in the army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the Negro race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches.[6]

There was a time when Chip’s views weren’t that strange to me.  I grew up in Virginia, which despite being geographically pretty far north, is a very Southern state.  I spent time with people like Chip, although I don’t think most of the people I hung around with regularly were quite as drunk on the southern pride Kool-Aid as Chip appears to be.  But his attitudes are not unfamiliar to me.  When I was younger, I probably even agreed with them to some extent.  Then I left the country a few times and started getting to know people from other places.  My opinions began to change, hopefully for the better.  I like to think I have a broader mind now than I did twenty years ago, although I’m sure I still have a ways to go.  

It’s funny that a silly comedy like Carbon Copy, which was made in 1981, is still so relevant today. If you watch the film, you can see that it goes to extremes.  Walter Whitney tells his wife he’s the father of a black son and, just like that, he gets ousted from his cushy lifestyle.  We all know that it wouldn’t actually happen that way.  In reality, Walter’s downfall would probably be a bit more like Dan Aykroyd’s was in Trading Places, a 1983 film also starring Eddie Murphy.

Trading Places’ plot was somewhat like that of Carbon Copy’s.  Basically, a rich white guy gets knocked off his pedestal by a black guy.  He ends up living in a way he never thought he would, while the formerly broke black guy takes his place.  It’s not quite the same execution, but the message is similar.  Many people have a lot to learn about empathy.  

Trading Places trailer…

Anyway, if you haven’t seen Carbon Copy, I’d recommend it.  It’s a bit dated and kind of silly, but it does drive home a point that is still valid over 35 years later.  And then, when you’re done watching Carbon Copy, you can watch Trading Places, which was a more famous and successful film about the same thing.

As for Margaret and her dysfunctional clan, I think I’m done peeking into their lives.  My curiosity is now satisfied, probably for at least another 27 years.

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book reviews, family

Repost: 20 years… or things I have in common with Pat Conroy

This is a repost. I composed this on December 7, 2013, when we lived in Texas. A lot has changed since I wrote this post. My father died in July 2014. My husband now has contact with one of his daughters and they have done a lot of reconciliation. This post was true as of 2013, at least from my perspective. It’s now 2023, so please bear that in mind… I’m just reposting this because it includes a book review. Incidentally, I believe Pat Conroy’s daughter, Susannah, eventually came around, too.

Yesterday, was my husband’s daughter’s 20th birthday.  Surprisingly enough, we didn’t talk about her.  We usually talk about my husband’s kids on significant days like their birthdays or on Christmas.  I don’t know if he thought about her at all, though I did, in a fleeting way.  I have only met her once, but she’s still my husband’s kid and he loves her, despite her painful rejection of his affections. ETA: My husband’s daughter is a totally different person since she got away from her mother.

I don’t like my husband’s kids.  I liked them when I met them and I know they’ve been used as pawns and were lied to.  But that doesn’t change the way they’ve behaved.  I never had enough time to get to know them and understand why they are the way they are.  I’ve only seen the aftermath of their actions, which were devastating and deeply painful to their father and to me, simply because I happen to live with and love their dad.  And so, as curious as I am about them and as sorry as I am that things are the way they are, I don’t want to know them. ETA: I’m glad I know younger daughter better today.

Curiously, as I write this, I am also thinking about Pat Conroy’s latest book, The Death of Santini.  Pat Conroy and I share some common experiences.  We are both children of alcoholic, abusive military officers.  Pat and I were both born and raised in the South.  We have lived and spent time in some of the same places.  We both have Celtic origins.  And like my husband, Pat Conroy has a daughter who doesn’t speak to him. 

Conroy’s daughter, Susannah, is a product of his second marriage.  She was born in Italy, where Conroy and his second wife, Lenore, were living at the time.  If you read Conroy’s novel, Beach Music, you get a sense of her.  It seems to me it was around the time that novel came out that Susannah quit talking to her father.  I’m sure the book and her parents’ divorce had a lot to do with that decision.  As I don’t know what it’s like to live with Pat Conroy, I can’t say whether or not the decision was ultimately justified.  I will say that based on what Conroy writes in The Death of Santini, his second wife had things in common with Bill’s ex wife.

Conroy’s latest book also deals a lot with the divorce and death of his parents.  He adored his mother, though admits that she was a very flawed person.  Conroy’s books always feature a beautiful mother figure who is both vain and ambitious.  He had a complicated love/hate relationship with his fighter pilot father, whom he alternately describes as a heartless tyrant and a comical, larger than life, hero of a man. 

While my own parents aren’t quite as vivid as Conroy’s parents apparently were, I am familiar with the roles.  My dad was an Air Force navigator who had ambitions to be a pilot and once told me that had he done it over, he would have joined the Marines and been a fighter pilot.  My mother is a beautiful, classy woman who always seemed to aspire to better living.  Without benefit of a bachelor’s degree, she ran her own business for about 30 years and played organ for local churches.  They are still married and will celebrate 56 years of marriage three days after Christmas.  Or… maybe my mom will remember it. My dad has pretty severe dementia these days.

Conroy’s book has him sort of reconciling with his parents.  I don’t know if it really happened the way he describes it, though it makes for a hell of a story.  It’s unlikely I will reconcile with my dad because my dad is not in his right mind and lives about 1500 miles away from me.  I mostly get along with my mother, when she’s not in a mood. ETA: My mom is a totally different person since my dad passed.

I have three sisters, too.  They are much older and we’ve never been very close.  I have a cordial relationship with two of my sisters and pretty much avoid talking to the third one.  Like me, Conroy has a sister who is at odds with him.  However, my sister is not quite as brilliant or batshit crazy as Conroy’s apparently is.  Carol Conroy is a poet and, reading her brother’s book, I’m led to believe that she’s brilliant.  I see on Amazon.com that she has one book currently available called The Beauty Wars and on the book’s cover, she’s called Carol “Yonroy”.  I don’t read a lot of poetry, but somehow I don’t doubt that Pat’s sister is talented… though not nearly as famous as he is.  She might deeply resent that. 

On the other hand, Conroy seems to have a mostly convivial relationship with his brothers, two of whom worked at “Bull Street”, which is where the state mental hospital in South Carolina was located. I am familiar with that complex because I, too, worked there when I lived in South Carolina.  It was when worked for the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) as a graduate assistant.  I want to say the state mental hospital had been relocated by that time… I think it’s now on Farrow Road.  But the buildings are still there and if you read Conroy’s novels, you will read his references to it.  It’s where they used to send the crazy folks. 

Pat Conroy’s youngest brother, Tom, had schizophrenia and spent a lot of time on “Bull Street”.  He spent a lot of time as a crazy derelict, wandering around Columbia, getting into legal trouble, and eventually taking his own life.  Pat writes about this in his book and it was eerie to read, since his brother killed himself by jumping off the 14th floor of the Cornell Arms apartment building, which is just kitty cornered to the South Carolina Statehouse.  I used to walk and jog around that area a lot and I know just where that building is located.  Tom Conroy died in August 1994, just months after I finished my college degree at Longwood College and only a few years before I would matriculate at the University of South Carolina, where Conroy (after earning a degree at The Citadel) and his siblings also studied. 

In one part of his latest book, he writes about delivering a eulogy for James Dickey on the campus at USC… in the Horseshoe, where he could easily see the building where his brother died.  I spent a lot of time on the Horseshoe, a beautiful, historic, lush part of campus.  And when I was a student at Longwood, I had a couple of professors who earned their doctoral degrees at USC.  One of my professors studied under Dickey and went drinking with him.  

Though I didn’t study English at USC, I often felt a tug toward that department when I would see writers come to speak there.  Pat Conroy spoke at USC in 2000; he was a last minute replacement for the late Kurt Vonnegut, another favorite writer who had to cancel because of a house fire.  I would have gone to hear either of them speak, but I was delighted that Conroy visited… I even flunked a healthcare finance exam so I could attend.  Granted, I probably would have flunked the exam regardless, but Conroy gave me a good reason to quit studying.  In the grand scheme of things, passing the exam ultimately wouldn’t have made a difference in my life.  Technically, I got a D on the exam, but ended up passing the class with a suitable grade.

Anyway… this post has rambled on long enough.  I just wanted to put in words these thoughts, which don’t really belong in a book review, but are still in my head.  I really feel a kinship with Pat Conroy, not just because he’s a southern writer, but because his life has many parallels to mine.  And we both share a love of ribald humor.  If you’re a Conroy fan, I recommend reading his latest non-fiction effort.  In fact, I would say that as much as I like his novels, his non-fiction books are far better in my opinion.  But I guess he had to become famous by fictionalizing his life story in several novels before people would care about the real story.

And below are the comments on the original posts…

AlexisAR

December 10, 2013 at 8:29 AM

I took a class in regional literature last year. The only thing of value I took from it that I didn’t have going into it was exposure to Conroy’s writings. I’m not a southerner but enjoy his works nonetheless. 

Replies

  1. knottyDecember 10, 2013 at 3:16 PM Most of Pat Conroy’s books are basically the same story. But he has such a way with language that his novels can be a joy to read. I didn’t like his last one, South of Broad, so much, but the others are very entertaining. I love his non-fiction books even more, though. He has led a very interesting life. I imagine he’s not too easy to live with, though.

The Author

January 22, 2019 at 4:32 PM

Pat Conroy’s brother didn’t jump from the 14th floor. I lived there at the time and was with a friend on that floor at the time and actually saw him fall past the window. He may have jumped from the 15th floor as he was helping a wheelchair-bound tenant there. But more likely the roof, as it was easily accessible at the time. After the suicide they made it virtually impossible to access the roof.

Replies

  1. knottyJanuary 22, 2019 at 5:02 PM Interesting… and very sad. Thank you for commenting. This post gets a surprising number of hits. Pat obviously meant a lot to many people.

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healthcare, law, politicians, politics, Reality TV, sexism

“Activist judges” in South Carolina have defied the right wing alpha MALES, and I am so here for it!

Featured photo is in the public domain.

Yesterday was an interesting day. After I wrote my too long and too opinionated review of Jamie Lynn Spears’ book, Things I Should Have Said, I waited all day for the Amazon guy to show up with my latest toys. I bought an Amazon Echo Dot for my bedroom, as well as a couple of “smart” power strips that I can’t figure out how to configure. I was inspired to make that purchase because Bill bought me an Echo Dot for my office. I don’t really need one for either place, since I have so many other devices, to include my big desktop iMac computer that is outfitted with Siri. But they are nice to have… and it’s kind of fun when Alexa gives me a notification that turns its ring yellow. Makes me think of all the 70s era space travel shows I missed when I was a kid.

While I was waiting for my delivery, I noticed some exciting news coming out of South Carolina, the state where I spent three years earning my “overeducated housewife” status. The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the six week abortion law is unconstitutional. The law has been struck down, as the majority of the five justices determined “that the law that restricted abortions after detectable fetal cardiac activity [is] ‘an unreasonable restriction upon a woman’s right to privacy’.” Thanks to the 3-2 decision, abortion is now, once again, legal in South Carolina until 20 weeks gestation. This ruling comes almost two years after current South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster signed into law the Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act. That law made abortion illegal after six weeks of pregnancy, except in limited situations such as pregnancies that would endanger the pregnant person’s life or were caused by rape or incest.

I was heartened to read the comments by Justice Kaye G. Hearn, who wrote the opinion of the majority. She stated, “Few decisions in life are more private than the decision whether to terminate a pregnancy. Our privacy right must be implicated by restrictions on that decision.”

Naturally, some people were rattled by Justice Hearn’s statement. I noticed the ones who were quoted in the Washington Post article link I unlocked were all MEN. Governor McMaster tweeted, “Our State Supreme Court has found a right in our Constitution which was never intended by the people of South Carolina. With this opinion, the Court has clearly exceeded its authority. The people have spoken through their elected representatives multiple times on this issue.

McMaster added that he “look[s] forward to working with the General Assembly to correct this error.”

I find McMaster’s wording very intriguing. He wrote, “Our State Supreme Court has found a ‘right’ in our Constitution…” That’s right, Henry. It is a RIGHT. I lived in South Carolina and worked in maternal and child health and healthcare policy there. I know about South Carolina’s moronic and ineffective approach to preventing unintended pregnancies… Just tell the girls to abstain.

Well, it’s not their public health approach, really. I found the public health folks working at the Department of Health and Environmental Control to be quite intelligent and informed on the issue, including why it’s important that women have access to abortion healthcare. It’s the right wing MALE legislators who have their heads firmly lodged in their asses. These same folks have no desire whatsoever to do anything to help people who find themselves unintentionally pregnant. They don’t give a damn about making sure those babies are born healthy to people who are prepared to raise them. It’s all about fear and shame, and telling women to keep their mouths closed and their legs crossed. Ridiculous… and completely unrealistic.

I don’t see how McMaster’s comments square with what happened to our federal rights to have abortions. For fifty years, women all across America had that right, and it was unceremoniously taken away from us by Trump’s trio of pro-life “activist judges”. Now, McHenry is accusing his own state’s Supreme Court judges of “exceeding their authority”, simply because he doesn’t agree with their interpretation of South Carolina’s Constitutional law. They were doing their jobs, Henry. You should do yours, and work for the betterment of ALL South Carolinians, not just your hyper-male, conservative, Republican buddies. 😉

The other quote in the article comes from another Republican male, Jeff Duncan, who says he’s “extremely disappointed” with the decision made by “activist judges” in South Carolina. Sounds to me like these judges are compassionate, Jeff. Do you have the same level of compassion for women who, for whatever personal, private reason, do not wish to be pregnant? Do you value the right to privacy for all people? Why should a woman who finds herself unintentionally pregnant have to justify terminating her pregnancy to ANYONE? It’s her BODY, Jeff; not yours. You will never face this choice. You will never have to deal with the multitude of changes that happen when someone gets pregnant. So kindly develop some compassion for the already born, and do what you can to make life better for them. Maybe then, your constituents might not feel like they need to have an abortion for reasons you don’t deem “acceptable”.

It seems to me that people who don’t like abortion should simply not have one. They should not lobby to take that right away from other people. Developing embryos and fetuses don’t have a concept of abortion, nor do they experience pain until quite late in pregnancy, beyond when the vast majority of people would consider having an abortion. And those who do, almost universally do so because the alternative to having one would be much worse.

Even MAGA idiot Donald Trump has recently opined about the foolishness of being extreme about taking away women’s abortion rights. He was recently complaining about the Republicans’ poor showing during the midterms. He said on his very own Truth Social:

“It wasn’t my fault that the Republicans didn’t live up to expectations in the midterms.” Then he added, “It was the ‘abortion issue’, poorly handled by many Republicans, especially those that firmly insisted on no exceptions, even in the case of rape, incest, or life of the mother, that lost large numbers of voters.” Then he finished with, “Also, the people that pushed so hard, for decades, against abortion, got their wish from the U.S. Supreme Court, & just plain disappeared, not to be seen again.”

Those comments are now prompting anti-abortion groups to fire back, and indeed, a bunch of Trump’s former supporters are turning on him. I guess they’re finally seeing what some of us have noticed all along. But, in this case, Trump is actually right. A lot of people in the United States are legitimately angry about abortion rights being taken away. And many of the pissed off among us are women who would ordinarily vote Republican. Those women, many of whom are business people whose livelihoods could be adversely affected by unintended pregnancies, don’t want to be forced back into the kitchen. Quite a few of the rest of them are, like I am, disgusted by the idea that they would have to explain to anyone why they want or need to have an abortion. It’s, quite frankly, no one else’s business, no matter what the reason is. And basic privacy is, if not a right, an expectation, especially when it comes to healthcare. Abortion is healthcare for the already born women who need it, even if it’s not for the developing embryos or fetuses who have the potential to be born.

I, for one, am so ready for this issue to be settled, once and for all. This constant back and forth ping ponging about abortion is ridiculous, and it’s preventing actual work from being done to help the rank and file already born people who are actually struggling to survive. When a person is having trouble paying their bills, the last thing they want to be is unexpectedly pregnant, especially when they live in a state that is notoriously stingy about funding social welfare programs. And I am SO SICK of MEN inserting themselves in this issue, especially since a lot of them don’t even know the first thing about pregnancy or even female anatomy. They just want control over women. It’s plain and simple. Of course, some of the idiot Republican males who are claiming to be “disappointed” about this decision would not hesitate to provide access to and pay for abortions for their knocked up daughters or mistresses, would they?

Moving on…

It was totally random that I reviewed Jamie Lynn Spears’ book yesterday, and she is now participating in a new Fox reality show called Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test. I heard about the show yesterday, which also includes actress Beverley Mitchell, gymnast Nastia Liukin, Kate Gosselin (who has already washed out), and Dr. Drew Pinsky (also already eliminated). The first two episodes dropped on Wednesday, so I downloaded them yesterday and watched. I have to say, I found the show kind of boring and hokey. But… the cast mix is kind of interesting, given that it’s a mix of a lot of different kinds of people, to include reality TV stars, Olympic athletes, and actresses. I’ll probably watch the whole series and groan the whole time.

Yes… they’re REALLY going to let these “household names” die on TV. What bullshit. They must have really needed the money.

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bad TV, true crime

Watered down Lifetime movies that put girls in confinement…

As I have repeatedly and pitifully mentioned this week, Bill has been away on a business trip. And, as I often do when he goes away on business trips, I’ve been watching a lot of made for TV movies, as well as a couple of 80s era classics. Lifetime made for TV movies are usually pretty cringeworthy, although sometimes they turn into “guilty pleasures.” I typically watch the movies they make about true crime cases, especially if I’ve already read about a case. I am a bit of a true crime buff, as some regular readers might already know. I probably ought to stick to writing about books and movies, though, because when I write about true crime cases in the news, I sometimes get angry reactions from family members. It’s never my intention to cause pain to anyone when I write about true crime. I just find the criminal mind and police work kind of fascinating.

Anyway, more than once, I’ve written about Lifetime movies and how sometimes, they’re pretty terrible. Sometimes, I think their treatment of true crime stories is downright disrespectful, such as it was with Secrets of a Gold Digger Killer, which was about Celeste Beard Johnson, who married a wealthy older man and murder him for his money. I also thought Lifetime’s movie, Girl in the Basement, which starred Judd Nelson, and was based on the horrific 2008 Josef Fritzl case out of Austria, was also pretty badly done. This week, I’ve watched three other Lifetime movies that weren’t too terrible. They weren’t great– but they didn’t make me angry, and I never cringed while watching them. However, I did notice that the three made for TV movies had something in common with the aforementioned Girl in the Basement

Girl in the Box

Girl in the Bunker

Girl in the Shed

Do you see the same trend I do? Granted, all of these movies are based on true stories about yucky men who abduct young women or girls and put them in different forms of confinement. But, when I went on Lifetime’s “channel” on Apple TV, I noticed this list of movies with similar titles.

To clarify, I don’t typically go on Lifetime’s Apple TV channel looking for entertainment anymore. When I was younger, Lifetime used to be more my speed. They showed television that was supposed to be “for women”, which includes awesome classic sitcoms like The Golden Girls, health related programming, or movies that were made by the big three networks of yore. I’ve noticed that more recently, Lifetime has gotten into the business of making movies. Most of them are very slick and kind of campy, filmed in Canada, and often boast talent that was on the “big screen” a few decades ago. Again, I usually watch the ones about true crime, so I honestly don’t know what other subjects Lifetime covers. I’m sure someone can tell me.

In any case, this week I watched Girl in the Box, Girl in the Bunker, and Girl in the Shed. I’ve already shared my thoughts on Girl in the Box, which was what started this week’s Lifetime movie trend for me. It was Sunday afternoon; Bill had just left for Bavaria. For some reason, I thought of the 70s and 80s era true crime case involving Colleen Stan— “the girl in the box”. I went looking to see if there was some fresh programming about that case, and discovered Lifetime’s 2016 movie that was based on the case. Because I had nothing better to do, I decided to download it and watch it. Then I noticed the other two movies with similar titles, and downloaded those, too.

A couple of days ago, I watched the 2022 movie, Girl in the Shed: The Kidnapping of Abby Hernandez. Prior to watching Lifetime’s movie, I had not heard of this case out of Conway, New Hampshire, which began on October 9, 2013. Fourteen year old Abby Hernandez was just days away from her fifteenth birthday when she was kidnapped by a creepy psychopath named Nathaniel Kibby. Just like Colleen Stan before her, Hernandez was hitchhiking, something she apparently did frequently. Kibby picked her up. He was seemingly friendly and trustworthy until he stopped the car, handcuffed her, and blindfolded her. He took her to his home and, for about nine and a half months, kept her imprisoned in a storage container/shed.

Girl in the Shed by Lifetime.

In Lifetime’s treatment of this case, Kibby is played by Ben Savage– brother of Fred Savage, who is very familiar to me as a child of the 80s, thanks to his starring role on The Wonder Years. Ben was on the show Boy Meets World, which I never saw, because it was popular at a time in my life when I was too busy for TV. Abby is played by Lindsay Navarro, who looks quite a bit older than fourteen. I’m sure that’s by design, of course. Not only do younger actors have more restrictions on how much they can work, but I’m sure the subject matter of the film may have prevented using younger, more believable actors.

In the Lifetime movie, we see still baby faced Ben Savage as Kibby, vacillating between a conspiracy theory obsessed weirdo to someone with a conscience. He sees giving Abby a “storage shed” to live in as a kindness. He straps a shock collar around her neck to stop her from screaming, but also to prevent her from having to wear a gag. He uses the threat of a taser to keep her under control. He wears a totally creepy looking face mask to prevent Abby from seeing his face, assuring her that someday he’ll let her go. Abby somehow realizes that to survive, she must befriend her captor, which is what she does.

Meanwhile, her mother, Zenya (Erica Durance) is depicted as the only one who never gives up on finding Abby. I’ve noticed that in Lifetime movies, the police are usually depicted as jaded, skeptical, and uncaring. When Zenya calls to report her daughter missing, the cops assume she’s run away. When Abby is forced to write a letter home, and news of it gets leaked to the press, the public turns on Zenya. She gets hateful phone calls and nasty letters in the mail (I don’t understand this practice at all, but people really do this…).

When Kibby loses his job, he gets into counterfeiting money. This is ultimately what leads him to release Abby, as he’s been to prison before, and doesn’t want to go back there. A woman calls him on the phone and threatens to turn him in for paying her with counterfeit cash. It seems kind of crazy to me, but I guess it really happened. Kibby drops Abby off near where he had picked her up months earlier, and she’s left to walk home. There’s no information about Kibby’s prosecution, which took place in 2016 and ultimately led to a federal sentence of 45-90 years in prison.

If I were to go only on the Lifetime movie, Abby and Kibby were practically buddies. There’s no mention or depiction of the horrors of what actually went on in this case. Granted, again, it might be because the case involves a then fourteen/fifteen year old child. But the Lifetime movie waters down the story so much that it seems like Kibby was just lonely and looking for a female friend. The reality is, Kibby sexualy assaulted Abby on a daily basis. And no, that’s not something I necessarily would have wanted to see, but not including that part of the story really dilutes it and undermines just how truly awful Abby’s ordeal really was. Also, the shock collar thing… that was a new one for me, but the way Savage plays it, it’s like Kibby was trying to be “nice”. There’s nothing nice about taking away someone’s voice. But at least he didn’t threaten to cut her vocal cords, like Cameron Hooker did to Colleen Stan.

Reviewers on IMDB had similar impressions that I had. One reviewer even went to school with Abby and was disgusted by how this story was portrayed. I kind of wonder why Lifetime bothered with this… since the actual ordeal isn’t accurately presented at all. I get not wanting to depict CSAM, but this is so whitewashed that it’s kind of laughable. It definitely could have been better. At least it wasn’t horribly offensive, though. Ben Savage isn’t a scary or convincing predator, so I didn’t have any nightmares. His brother Fred, on the other hand, has portrayed creeps convincingly… both on screen, and apparently in real life.

I thought Girl in the Bunker was somewhat better, although it was still pretty watered down from the truth. This 2018 Lifetime made for TV movie is based on the real life case of fourteen year old Elizabeth Shoaf of Lugoff, South Carolina, who was abducted by the late Vinson Filyaw on September 6, 2006. Filyaw, who died in prison of natural causes last year, had been a construction worker, but posed as a police officer to gain Shoaf’s trust. He placed her in handcuffs and walked her around the woods, disorienting her until he finally put her in a 8×8 foot underground bunker, where he had all the “creature comforts” of home.

Girl in the Bunker by Lifetime.

According to the Shoaf was on her way home from school when her boyfriend gave her some marijuana to keep. The boyfriend was apparently a fan of weed and didn’t want to get busted by his parents. Shoaf had the weed on her when she ran into Filyaw.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth’s family was wondering what happened to her. I hadn’t realized it at first, but Elizabeth’s mom was played by Moira Kelly. I just happened to watch Kelly’s film, The Cutting Edge (1992) the other day. I almost didn’t recognize her in Girl in the Bunker. I had been wondering what happened to her. An even bigger surprise was who they got to play Vinson Filyaw. I’m sure most of you reading this have heard of a 1982 film called E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial. I didn’t actually see that film for the first time until 2002. However, I was ten years old when it was released, and it was HUGE. Well, the guy who played Filyaw was none other than Henry Thomas, who famously played Elliott in the movie, E.T. He was more convincing as a villain.

I also thought, Julia LaLonde, the girl who played Elizabeth, was a very good actress and looked like she was about the right age. I could believe she was fourteen years old… or at least somewhat near that age.

Again, there’s no mention of the horrors of what actually happened to the real Elizabeth Shoaf, who was stripped naked, bound in chains, and repeatedly assaulted. And again, I wouldn’t expect a graphic depiction of that on television. But, if I was going to go on what was in the Lifetime movie, I’d come away with the idea that ol’ Vinson was just looking for a friend to ease his loneliness. It looks like most of the reviewers on IMDB liked it, as most of the comments about it are pretty positive.

I have noticed that censorship has changed a lot over the years. It used to be that the censors were a lot more concerned about “bad words”. You’d never hear someone on primetime TV say the word “shit”, for instance, even if you did hear them drop the n-bomb or homosexual slurs. It seems like violence, even if it was sexual in nature, was less taboo. Now, the language is less restricted, at least as far as words like “shit” are concerned, but they don’t want to depict true crime in a way that remotely approaches the horrors of what actually happened, particularly if the story involves minors. It seems to me that if being accurate is so problematic for legal reasons, maybe the genre shouldn’t be tackled by filmmakers. But at least in these two cases, the victims survived.

I’m reminded of an old plotline on The Brady Bunch. Bobby Brady is driving his family nuts because he’s obsessed with Jesse James, who was a cold-blooded killer. Bobby sees him as a hero. Carol and Mike Brady try to teach Bobby a lesson by letting him watch an old movie about Jesse James, but all of the parts that show him as a bad guy are edited out of the movie. Their point is lost, and Bobby is even more convinced that Jesse James is a great guy. To be fair, I don’t think Lifetime goes quite that far. I mean, even though Ben Savage is unconvincing as a menacing creep, we don’t get the idea that his character is a hero. And Henry Thomas is somewhat convincing as a criminal, even though he’s not shown actually doing what his character did in real life. But the point is, if Lifetime is going to make movies about horrifying crimes, they probably ought to do more to actually depict the crimes as horrifying… and make the villains less likable.

Anyway… I’ve probably written more about this subject than it deserves. The dogs didn’t get a walk yesterday due to bad weather and my interminable wait for packages to arrive. So, I probably better sign off and walk them, do my Thursday chores, and get on with my last day of loneliness. Maybe today, I’ll watch an old, campy, guilty pleasure favorite, like Xanadu or Flash Gordon. There are only so many Lifetime movies a person can take in a week. 😉

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poor judgment, religion, slut shamers, Twitter

Inappropriate stickers leave youth pastor in a sticky situation…

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m very grateful that my parents weren’t really into religion when I was coming of age. Yes, I did go to church when I was growing up, and my parents were/are lifelong Christians, but church wasn’t the center of our lives. Well… except maybe the musical part of it. My mom was a church organist, and my dad was always in the choir. But while I never had a long chat with either of them about this, I get the sense that neither of them were into the musical part of church solely because of their devotion to religion. My dad loved to sing. My mom loves music, too, and she was/is a talented musician. Being able to play the organ was a nice side job for her– another source of her own money, besides running her own business.

Consequently, I grew up in a mainstream Presbyterian church. I won’t say there were never any tears at church, because there were. But that was mainly due to being bullied by my peers, not because I was exposed to some creepy youth pastor or being asked inappropriate questions about my sexuality. On the whole, my parents didn’t force me to attend “youth groups” or engage in activities with youth pastors. Once I was old enough to work, they quit forcing me to go to church at all. I never had to deal with a young, charismatic “man of God” who did things like hand out stickers like the one below:

Ugh… this is so very inappropriate and disgusting.

The Washington Post shared an article about 35 year old Cory Wall, a now former student pastor at Fairview Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist megachurch in Greer, South Carolina. According to the Washington Post, Mr. Wall has “been placed on administrative leave and will not be involved in student leadership while it conducts an investigation.” The church has also put out statements on its website and on Facebook indicating that Wall “acknowledges that he made a poor decision and a mistake by making a sticker available that was offensive to some…” 

Who was supervising this “student pastor”, anyway? Shouldn’t someone have been making sure he didn’t do foolish stuff like this?

Um… “offensive to some”? Really? This is a man who was working with impressionable adolescent girls and felt it was appropriate to hand out stickers mimicking the “I <3 hot moms” social media trend. I think it was offensive to the vast majority. I’d also love to know who made these stickers. What kind of company would manufacture such a product? Obviously, that was a unethical company that values making money over decency. Although– I suppose there could be legal adults who <3 youth pastors, too. Still, what are the odds that the person ordering these stickers is going to be handing them out to soccer moms? I’d say the chance of that happening is pretty close to zero.

I remember what it was like to be 14. That was not an easy year for me. Between hormonal fluctuations, growth spurts, and metamorphosing from child to teenager, I remember a lot of tears during that time. Fourteen year olds need mature, understanding, compassionate, and stable adults leading them. At my most generous, I could describe Mr. Wall as being extremely tone deaf. At the worst, maybe he might be someone akin to Josh Duggar. I hasten to add that I don’t actually know if he is that bad– but it does seem to me that handing out stickers like these to girls makes him appear predatory.

I know some people might conclude that Wall is definitely a “dangerous pervert”. I can’t come to that conclusion simply based on what little I’ve read. I would need to know Wall before I could make a judgment that serious. He might just be very immature and socially delayed. However, given that he was studying for a leadership position in a very large church, and was presumably choosing to work with children, he definitely shows a lack of good judgment and character. He’s clearly not ready to work with the youth.

The article I read in the Washington Post was informative, but the Twitter thread about this was even more telling. Many people were posting about their own experiences in churches with creepy youth pastors. Some were pointing out that church is where children should be the safest. And yet, there’s a lot of evidence pointing to how unsafe churches can be, especially the ones where pastors and other church staff intrude into subjects like sexuality. There are many churches in which church leaders feel perfectly fine about asking young children about their sexual habits and will defend their right to do so. I know there are many churches in which sex, even just masturbation, is considered dirty and sinful, and yet these churches are the ones that often end up in the news because children are victimized by church leaders.

I used to live in South Carolina, and I grew up in Virginia. I have also lived in Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas. I know church is a big deal to a lot of people in the southern states. It’s a huge part of the culture. It seems like some people down there think the more pious and churchgoing a person is, the better their moral character is bound to be. These folks invariably vote Republican, too, which is definitely not among the more “Christlike” of American political parties. They talk about morality and family values, being “decent” and clean cut, and working hard for a living. But then behind closed doors, there’s a lot of dark, creepy, illegal, and abusive behavior toward which many people turn a blind eye because these are supposedly men of God. It’s especially egregious when this is done to defenseless children, many of whom are easily manipulated, threatened, charmed, and victimized– particularly by “cool” adults who, for their own perverse purposes, make them feel admired, appreciated, or loved.

I have no doubt in my mind that if someone hadn’t tweeted about how gross these stickers are, being handed out by a “youth pastor”, it probably wouldn’t have been addressed. Because, as I pointed out above, apparently no one was actually supervising Mr. Wall, the “student pastor”. If he’s a student, he ought to be monitored, right? And then weeded out, if he can’t pass muster… or does really stupid shit like this. Imagine what would happen if a pediatrician gave out “I <3 hot kiddie docs” stickers. Or a teacher gave out “I <3 hot teachers” schwag. Or hey, what about a babysitter passing out “I <3 my hot babysitter” merchandise? It would be deemed completely beyond the pale. And this youth pastor is supposed to be a man of God? Sounds to me like he’s looking to be “worshiped” and “idolized” by young girls who have been conditioned to pray and obey, and have probably been “slut shamed”, to boot. It’s a recipe for abuse.

Some people are saying that Mr. Wall should go to jail for handing out these inappropriate stickers. I am not yet ready to go that far. I mean, if he’s done something besides handing out gross stickers that indicates that he’s really not safe in society, then yes, send him to jail. It could be that he needs counseling, and to be steered away from work with young people, at least at this point in his life. On the other hand, if a person is already 35 years old and they don’t know how yucky this is, I don’t know if there’s much hope to hold out for their reform. Someone probably should, at least, check out what he’s viewing on the Internet. I hope Mr. Wall will consider a new career path.

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