Domestic violence and sexual abuse are incredibly taboo topics that even today are largely polarized by the media and society at large. The docu-series “Lorena” is a portrait of a woman who endured a horrific, abusive and traumatic relationship. It is not, however, just a story about a woman who suffered an abusive relationship; the docu-series recalls a national obsession with the infamous severed-penis saga in which there was a huge publicity circus known as Bobbitt-mania which centered national attention literally on a man’s severed penis and made John Wayne Bobbitt a sort of “American Hero”. The
**TRIGGER WARNING: The first two episodes of this series may inspire you to question your patriotism, and the sexist, hateful, abusive society the United States seems to not be able to shake. **
The introduction of the docu-series immediately spurs anger as it is focused on after the infamous “incident”. Mr. Bobbitt, instead of being held accountable for his heinous acts received limitless adoration by way of invitations to women’s pageants as a judge, getting fundraisers to pay legal fees, and receiving warm and heartfelt invitations to talk shows all while capitalizing on the incident by selling T-shirt’s and going these on tours. The entire time you’re just completely baffled, or at least I was, at how we could live in a world that so unashamedly embraces people like John Wayne Bobbitt.
You see how most media outlets painted John wayne as a victim of a “crazy”, “hot headed”, “vengeful” Latina wife. Everyone was obsessed with the man who got his penis cut off by his wife. America just couldn’t understand how such an “attractive”, “charming” (white) man could be accused of such heinous acts by his wife. Or as one woman in the film cleverly said “they can cut a million clits off in Africa and nobody hears a word — you cut one dick off and the whole f‑‑‑ing country stops.” He was, in a sense, America’s new hero. Much like today’s conservative toast to Brett Kavanaugh’s supreme court nomination.
While the docuseries did a great job at revisiting Lorena’s case to explain the abuse she had endured I must say I felt it needed more and better focus. I found myself a little frustrated and disappointed by the fact that they spent a great deal of time focusing on John wayne, Lorena’s abuser and ex-husband, and his side of the story which, were all lies, as countless witnesses testified in court to corroborate Lorena’s story. I found myself wanting to know more about what Lorena’s life looked like now and her thoughts on the #MeToo movement, misogynistic culture today or the fact that there have been so many recent stories treated just like hers by the media, like that of Christine Blasey Ford.
The only new piece of information that I thought was important to hear is the fact that we learn that as a child John Wayne was sexually abused. And, I do think it’s important to bring this up because researchers have often pointed to the fact that is not uncommon for abusers to have a history of abuse themselves. Ignorance is forged in violence, blinding arrogance, and a sense of superiority. Children who are abused or neglected are also more likely to repeat the cycle of violence later on in their own romantic, familial and personal relationships. In addition, abusers rarely ever think they’re actually abusers. Just as we maddingly watch with John throughout the entire film as he continually denies everything. But to reside, this excuses nothing about being a repeated abuser, of course because they [the abuser] still have a choice. Using past trauma as vindication for future abuse is not acceptable. No experience justifies calling your partner demeaning and degrading names and forcefully raping them.
Aside from the fact that he was a serial abuser, we also learn he is a Donald Trump supporter. Figures. We are, thankfully, rewarded with a small piece of justice and that is that John disfigures his penis after trying to get a penis enhancement and enlargement surgery for his porn star career. I mean gross but, cheers to that.
I think what this docu-series most importantly sheds light on is the fact that the early 1990s did not treat domestic violence or really any kind of violence against women seriously. There were no real protections for women abused by men. Lorena’s case wasn’t isolated, as explained in the series, there were other women: Anita Hill, the woman who filed rape charges against William Kennedy Smith, and the 83 female officers who were sexually assaulted at the Tailhook convention.
The question you’re left with is: has anything changed? What you come to realize is that this is unfortunately largely still the case today, 20+ years later we live in a culture where women’s stories are usually dismissed and demeaned. John Wayne Bobbit became a nationally celebrated hero, R. Kelly isn’t facing any consequences, Brett Kavanaugh became the next Supreme Court Judge, Donald J. Trump became President. I don’t know about you but, my final thoughts at least were “God help America”.
Watch the full series on AMAZON PRIME