Do you like to watch "true crime" made-for-tv movies? Love seeing Dean Cain play Scott Peterson? Rob Lowe transform himself as that other (alleged) murdering Peterson? Can't get enough of the Amanda Knox movie? I'll admit I watch 'em. I have an unhealthy tendency to watch Lifetime Movie Network. 'Cause I'm classy like that.
If you, like me, watch these movies, there's one thing I beg of you to keep in mind: they're fiction. FICTION! These movies always include scenes that they can't possibly have any support for, moments when the defendant is alone or talking with the victim. For dramatic purposes, one understands why the movie makers want to include these scenes. As voyeurs, we want to imagine what really happened and picture the victim's thoughts about the defendant, see if we can glean some evidence that the victim knew the defendant might hurt her. (The victims are almost always women.)
But these scenes are just flat made up. This evening, while anxiously awaiting the start of the very important Sporting KC-New York Red Bulls match-up (Go Sporting!*), I watched a little bit of Lifetime's newest addition to their collection, "Fatal Honeymoon." All about the Alabama man accused of murdering his wife while scuba diving on his honeymoon. Interestingly, the movie showed many scenes between the man and his wife prior to the fateful dive. But I find it hard to believe that he participated in the making of this movie, so how on earth did they have any source for the conversations between the couple, especially the night before the dive when she most likely didn't have a chance to relate that conversation to a sister or girlfriend before she died? The simple answer is they didn't. They just imagined something.
I watched the entire Amanda Knox movie as well. (Marcia Gay Harden, what were you thinking participating in such trash?!) As you might recall, that is a case I have spent a fair amount of time researching. Clearly the people who wrote that movie's script did not. That movie played fast and loose with the facts even by the standards of those who swore Amanda was guilty. Anyone whose only exposure to that case is through the movie knows nothing about the facts of the case. And yet, based on reviews online, it seems clear that people feel comfortable judging her guilt or innocence based on this movie, with seemingly no realization of just how fictionalized an account it was.
I have to assume that other Lifetime-style true crime movies are equally as shoddily-researched. From what I've seen, they value melodrama and suspicion over a faithful rendition of known facts. These movies would lack an awful lot of punch if the directors felt limited only to things that could be conclusively proven. Their purpose is entertainment, not information. Goodness knows I find them highly entertaining. But I don't fall into the trap of thinking I know anything about the cases they feature. I can only hope other viewers get this as well. And that no one ever tries to make a movie about one of my cases...
*5 minutes in, Sporting KC scored a goal to take a lead. After nervously waiting for this match that will say a lot about who comes out on top in the Eastern Conference, I can relax quite a bit with that fast start! Now keep it up, boys!