Feedback: The latest made-for-tv perversions

Taylor Kingsbury, Staff Writer
Taylor Kingsbury, Staff Writer

As we speak, somewhere in America a child is being abducted; and somewhere in Los Angeles a television producer is rushing a script about it into production.

It has not even been a year since Elizabeth Smart was rescued from her abductors, yet her story has already been reenacted as a movie of the week.

CBS’s “The Elizabeth Smart Story” was certainly not the first haphazardly cobbled together exploitation of a big news event, but it was the most repugnant in recent memory.

If you believe the story sold to CBS, then the Smarts are remarkably courageous and determined parents, while every law enforcement official who worked on the lengthy investigation was a bumbling ninny.

Apparently, through their ordeal, the Smarts were able to maintain a sense of strong, impassioned dialogue, and frequently delivered agonized soliloquies in the police station.

A certain degree of embellishment is to be expected in such a presentation, but the display of facts on this broadcast was far too detached from reality to elicit any sort of emotion.

Certainly, Elizabeth’s family must have been grief-stricken to have to relive the months of torment while watching this pseudo-Lifetime dramatization of those tense days. Or maybe not; wasn’t that them doing an exclusive interview for CBS News directly after the movie?

Come to think of it, wouldn’t the Smarts have to sell their story to CBS for the project to get off the ground? Why, for exclusive television rights to one of the most high profile stories of the year, the Smarts stand to earn a pretty piece of lucre, don’t they?

Interesting.

But, the plot thickens. As “The Elizabeth Smart Story” was unveiling its tautly woven web of suspense, two channels away, NBC was also cashing in on a recent news phenomenon with “Saving Jessica Lynch.”

There are striking similarities between this pair of stories about women persevering though treacherous circumstances less than a year ago and returning home safely to tell their tale.

However, in the case of Jessica Lynch, there are not two parents exploiting a tragic situation to ascend to celebrity. Rather, Lynch is happily exploiting herself.

Taylor, how could you, you say? Yes, we all know Jessica Lynch is a hero, but her struggle seems a little less heroic now that she’s feeding a media frenzy that is conversely feeding her wallet.

Her capture by Iraqi forces has catapulted her into the spotlight. With a best-selling book, a movie-of-the-week, and an “exclusive” television interview under her belt, Jessica Lynch is a household name, and a certified celebrity.

She will undoubtedly run the fame gauntlet set forth by millions of media icons before her, and when that runs dry, she will fade into the movie-of-the-week castaway set.

You can almost picture her on the cover of the November 2005 Playboy now, next to a caption that reads, “Exclusive: See what the Iraqis saw.”

Yeah, that was totally rude, but am I really that far off?  Lynch is using a devastating situation to titillate willing observers who want to know the “real” story.

Though the accounts of her ordeal are undeniably horrific, since she’s obviously cashing in big-time, who’s to say that this description of her time in captivity is not skewed for a better sell?

Lynch initially announced that she did not remember the details of her ordeal. It’s funny how it all came back once there was a movie to film. Was Lynch’s “I don’t know” really an “I’ll tell you in my book”?

So, besides me, who really cares to watch these syrupy docu-dramas? Hey, I had to; I have an excuse.

Why does America need a Reader’s Digest version of these stories when they could, I don’t know, read a newspaper or something? Why will we sit through a really bad movie when we already know how it ends?

For one, because these made-for-TV movies appeal to the voyeuristic perverts in our society. We all watched the events unfold as they happened, so there’s not a whole lot that we don’t know about these stories.

Except, of course, about that one nasty little similarity between Jessica Lynch and Elizabeth Smart that I didn’t mention before: the fact that both victims were reportedly sexually assaulted by their captors.

Could it really be true that millions tuned in to these cheesy specials to confirm the list of speculated atrocities? Come on, do you even have to think about the answer to that one?

Before we accept everything we watched, let us first consider that the accused abductors of Elizabeth Smart have yet to stand trial, and Iraq has denied any sexual misconduct during Jessica Lynch’s imprisonment.

I concede that what I am insinuating is horrible, and the few readers left who don’t hate me will undoubtedly become converts this day.

But, while you’re watching “Nightmare in Colorado: The Kobe Bryant Story,” take a minute to consider that the only part of the story we’re ever given under these circumstances is the part that someone is selling.

Taylor Kingsbury, a senior journalism major, is a columnist for the Campus Times. He can be reached by e-mail at happyendingrocks@hotmail.com.

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Journalism operations manager at the University of La Verne. Production manager and business manager of the Campus Times.

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