It’s been a pretty triggering week for a lot of us and this weekend you have two options: Escape and watch Disney movies all weekend on Amazon (we do have to prep for the new Toy Story and Frozen sequels, after all) or face the sick realities of modern society and delve into some timely documentaries that explore our sad, mad, predatory world.
Of course, Surviving R. Kelly is probably the most relevant if you are looking to do the latter. Kelly was (finally) charged with 10 counts of aggravated sexual assault today, including abuse of underage girls, and many reports credit this disturbing documentary (featuring many of his victims’ first-hand accounts) as the catalyst for the charges. The docu-series, which can be viewed via Lifetime on Demand now, is riveting and shocking, not only for its graphic accounts of the R&B singer’s brutal attacks and brainwashing but also for the way it shows how he got away with it for so long, thanks to enablers and a complicit public that allows rich, famous and powerful men to circumvent the law, maybe especially when the victims are women of color. There are many more #MeToo stories to be told in the music industry and the say of reckoning is coming (we’re looking at you, Ryan Adams) but this one helped kick-start it, so it’s a must-see.
Speaking of portrayal of abuse, Lorena, the story of '90s tabloid couple Lorena and John Wayne Bobbitt, from the amazing Jordan Peele (Get Out), is a four-part docu-miniseries (streaming on Amazon Prime) recounting the infamous penis-cutting incident that Gen X-ers in particular will never forget. It was a sensationalistic story at the time that made many guys’ groins ache just thinking about it. But we'd be lying if we said that many women almost understood Lor’s frustration. John was a garbage human being, an abusive serial cheater who should have been exposed as such rather than portrayed as an unwitting victim or brunt of bad late-night talk show jokes. His wife was wrong, of course, but it was hard to see John “Wayne” (telling name) as victim when soon after penis enlargement surgery, he became a porn star, and a bad one at that.
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If you haven’t lost complete faith in humanity after watching the two shows above, you will after seeing Abducted in Plain Sight on Netflix. The true-crime chronicle tells the story of the Broberg family and their creepy pedo neighbor Robert Berchtold. Berchtold lusted after the family’s oldest daughter, 12-year-old Jan, whom he abducted twice. But he didn’t stop there, not by a long shot. There’s lots more shocks and twists to this one; we won’t spoil it for those who still haven’t seen it but suffice to say it is a heart-breaking and WTF-inducing watch. We actually don’t advise screening all three of these in one weekend unless you’re a fan of real-life torture porn, and if you are, get help. Everyone featured in the terrifyng trifecta above sure needs it.
It’d be nice if we could all escape the harsh realities of the world while watching the Oscars, but it will probably take years to wash the stench of Harvey Weinstein's omnipotent presence off the show for those who've watched every year. And this year’s slate of nominees isn’t really about escapism, anyway. With nominated performances dealing with mental illness, HIV and the struggles of life as a domestic worker, to name a few, it was far from a frivolous year thematically. The historic nominations of Roma and Black Panther (both on Netflix, by the way) make it an important year, too. Sadly, the recent Jussie Smollett charges probably will be a big topic on the red carpet beforehand, but the power of the films and their stars dressed in their finest are sure to outshine everything else as they usually do, even without a host to hold it together. The show airs live on Sunday at 5 p.m. And warning: Don't go anywhere near Hollywood on Sunday unless you really, really like crowds.