copyright 2005 by Pat Powers
I just want you, my semi-loyal readers, to know that I'm not like the other movie critics out there. For one thing, I'm heterosexual. (OK, I kid other movie critics. As many as half a dozen of them may be straight, for all I know.) For another, I don't limit myself to criticism. I don't just tell folks how stories ought to be written, I write stories the way I think they should be written.
Case in point: Lifetime women in prison movies. I've written three different pieces showing my ideas along those lines.
For example, my story "Doin' Time In the Blue Shadows" takes the Wronged Woman theme to extremes, extremes which I wouldn't expect to see in a Lifetime movie, but which might easily show up in an independent film.
"Shadows" is the story of a very attractive housewife whose husband gets busted for growing pot plants in their basement. The DA attempts to make her testify, using RICO laws. She refused, and winds up getting a 10-year mandated prison sentence as an accessory to her husband's activities.
While in prison, she's offered a chance to get her sentence halved under a work-release program for prisoners, which turns out to involve working as a government-issue prostitute and sex slave.
Sound farfetched? Except for the part concerning the prostitution-based work-release program, it closely follows news reports of women entrapped in just this way. (Yes, I know, not ALL women in prison on drug charges are entrapped, but SOME are, and one innocent prisoner is too many.) Even the work-release program isn't ALL that distant from the experience of some women in prison -- women DO get raped in prison, and this story just ... institutionalizes ... the rape.
My story focuses on the woman's punishment, but I could see a Lifetime-ish movie which would tell more of what I consign to backstory -- the woman living with her husband in suburban bliss, the nosy neighbors, the big bust, the frightened children, the calculating district attorney, the woman's righteous refusal to testify, the lawyer's impassioned pleading with her to take a deal -- oh, it's good tearjerker material, and every bit of it contributes to the pathos at the end where the woman winds up legally naked, bound, gagged and having sex. Farfetched? I don't think so. We live in a society where people get put in jail for years for some very strange reasons. If you want me to be more restrained with my story idea, I'm afraid you (as in, U.S. society) is going to have get a LOT more civilized.