Round Up of My Sick Day Documentaries! Evan Rachel Wood, Steve Stayner, Exodus International, and Abercrombie and Fitch!

Yes yes, I’m still doing nothing. Although I felt better today than yesterday for the second day in a row. And tomorrow, I get DRESSED! I have BIG PLANS!

Evan Rachel Wood

This is a documentary on HBO about Evan Rachel Wood’s journey from being groomed and abused by Marilyn Manson to being an advocate for intimate partner abuse victims. Forget all of that, what I got distracted by was the difficulty of centering a documentary on an actress.

Obviously Wood is telling the truth and it is a very emotional difficult story and all of that. But it was just SO distracting for me the way she was presenting herself to the camera. It’s like a dancer, a dancer can’t not be graceful, they have spent so long learning how to gesture and things. Wood is an amazing actress, and has been on camera since childhood, so of course even when she is telling her own story and being herself, she will still be able to phrase it in the way of greatest dramatic impact and use her face in the camera just right and so on and so forth.

So I guess I am mad at the documentarian? Normally with a documentary you work on getting the normal people comfortable on camera and drawing out their story in the most dramatically impactful way. In this case, the filmmaker seems to have gone “awesome! She’s an actress! I can just let her monologue”. But they needed to do something, I don’t know what, to make Wood feel less actress-y and more awkward on camera normal person-y. There was one bit where we see her testimony in support of a bill where she was crazy nervous and fast speaking and on edge and like any person would be in that situation. So it is possible, the documentarian just had to work harder to make Wood less comfortable on camera. Anyway, it’s an interesting thought, that line where an actor isn’t acting but they are unconsciously behaving on camera in the way they have been trained to behave. How do you harness that without making it feel fake?

Steve Stayner Documentary

This is a super sad story. The same family who had a child lost to a kidnapper and then miraculously returned years later, had another child who grew up to be a serial killer (Steve is the kidnap survivor, his brother Cary is the bad one). Anyway, the point of the documentary is kind of interesting and subtle.

This family had tons and tons of media attention, including a hit TV movie about them. But the point is, ultimately, that made no difference. The actually real things that happened to them are what matters, not what the media or anyone else said about it. The “good” brother was a good guy, and a really messed up sad confused guy after he got home again. But he grew up and was sort of working through things before his random death in a traffic accident. The “bad” brother was always a little off, always a little odd, had some head injuries and so on that made him different. The things that happened with his brother’s kidnapping were separate from that and did not make him any better or worse. We want to say “ah, if the court case had gone differently, if the media had been kept way, etc. etc.”. But the big picture is, none of that actually mattered. At least, I think that is the point. It’s certainly an odd story and there is an urge to somehow connect it all together, but the pieces just don’t line up. Sometimes, life is random.

Exodus International (Pray Away)

This was, surprisingly, super hopeful!!!! Conversion therapy is a terrible thing that kills young people every day. That’s the depressing side of the coin. The happy side of the coin is all the people who are interviewed in this documentary who eventually left and learned to love themselves. Including (and this gives me SUCH a kick!) the two founders! Back in the 1970s they were both married to women, started a church support group to help pray away their homosexual desires, and then fell in love and ran off together and were together until one of them died decades later.

The really REALLY happy side of the coin is that the group eventually listened and changed. Well, not “changed”, totally disbanded. After being confronted with evidence they could not ignore of the pain and death they had caused, the leaders went “yep, you are absolutely right, we are terrible people who have caused misery in vulnerable young folks. Forget whether or not homosexuality is a sin, conversion therapy is just wrong and only causes harm and we won’t do it any more”. Anyway, isn’t that hopeful? That at least one group of people completely turned themselves around and said “nope, this is bad, not gonna do it”.

Abercrombie and Fitch

This one is a bit of a “yes, and?” for me. Not 100% sure why this documentary has to exist beyond it being kind of a kick of a topic. Abercrombie and Fitch is a clothing brand that promoted itself on exclusion, on being what the “cool” kids wore. Which lead to a class action suit because they only hired white people. And then a few years after that was settled, they had another problem because they only hired “pretty” people, only promoted perfect people with perfect male-female gender style looks. Oh, and also turns out the photographer who created the super sexualized black and white photos of young men that was their brand, was also molesting all the vulnerable young male models. Just bad on bad on bad on bad.

But, NO DUH! I was alive in the late 90s when it first became popular and I literally only heard of it from people making fun of people for wearing it. I guess the only question this documentary raises is the insulation of folks who decide what is “cool”. Because no one I knew wore it, and no one they knew wore it, but then I guess none of those people was “cool”. Going on the theory that I know 5 people and they know 5 people and so on and so forth, and we are talking a midsized city with only a small base of teenagers, that means my sample size is a fairly large proportion of the teenage population of the town where I grew up. And that whole large proportion was going “yeah, that is clearly not for me”. So we are all reacting to this documentary with “yeah, no duh they are horrible”. But maybe that reaction sort of is the point? That sometimes problems seem so obvious to the majority, we don’t even realize how blind the privileged minority can be to them?


6 thoughts on “Round Up of My Sick Day Documentaries! Evan Rachel Wood, Steve Stayner, Exodus International, and Abercrombie and Fitch!

  1. Spouse worked at Yosemite Search and Rescue for years after college. He is the one who found Joie’s decapitated body. He was training other rescuerers at the time, and as this wasn’t the typical search, it wasn’t someone lost, it was someone abducted, he didn’t want to find the body. So he led the kids in the opposite direction of where he thought she would be, and then found her. This is one of three Search and Rescue incidents that really affected him mentally. Everyone else was doing what they loved, was an active agent in their accidents, but she wasn’t doing anything wrong, or even anything risky. Her death was wrong, all wrong.

    I’m getting reading glasses and should be able to get back onto screens when they come in! Concussion permanently altered my vision, which changes around 45 (my age) anyway. Oh wait, I’m 46 now. Damn time. So my nausea with reading should go away with glasses. But I will still have other concussion symptoms. I look forward to a time when I can enjoy music again.

    Rest well. Covid sucks.


    • Yaaaaaaay, reading glasses! I also have reading glasses now. Well, bifocals, I’ve been nearsighted most of my life. Anyway, they are life changing! No squinting, no pain, and suddenly the world is so much clearer.

      And yes, it’s just a sad wrong story. I am so sorry your husband and the kids he was training saw that, but glad that she was found by caring people.

      The documentary had a long interview with the Stayner mother, and she was willing to talk about the kidnapping, the abuse, the death of her son, all this unimaginable tragedies. But she absolutely refused to talk about Cary, which I think is because his story is just WRONG while Steve’s is sad.


  2. It’s scary though that there are still opportunities for conversion therapy at all. Just recently at our LGBT* center I heard about a guy who showed up just a few days ago, asking what to do if he didn’t want to live gay. How many people still feel like that? So sad.


    • So sad. And this group was mostly created by LGBTQ people, they were doing it to themselves. I mean, not really, but the cycle of social condemnation is so strong that it is internalized and the LGBTQ people do it all to themselves.


      • Just like FMG eh. The government here recently tried to ban conversion therapy here, and it was kinda horrifying to see how many church leaders stepped up to oppose it. Seemingly unable to tell the difference between hostile brainwashing and religious conversion. I suppose some people would say there isnt any. Needless to say there was a Ruck.


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