OK, as I mentioned before, I’ve been cable-deprived most of my life. And really, I’ve been just fine without it. I even went without a TV – gasp! – for a number of years. I remember the first time I saw (or for that matter heard of) The Real World. I was visiting my friend Martha, who at that time lived in one of those complexes where cable is included. I saw the show, and was like, “hey, what happened to the videos on MTV?” Ha ha!
So, I was doing fine. But then HBO had to go and start producing original programming. Not only that, it was good. Anyway, that’s what people would say, but how would I know?
Thank goodness for DVDs and Netflix, cuz now I can catch up on what all the cool people were watching years ago.
Take for example Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills. This documentary about the West Memphis Three aired on HBO in 1996. It just became available on DVD a few weeks ago, and I got it right away.
Of course I’d heard about the West Memphis Three before, through friends and through bands like Pearl Jam who have done benefits for the West Memphis Three support fund. I knew the basics: 3 teenagers accused of murdering 3 boys, 2 of them sentenced to life and one to death row. The evidence? The boys wore black clothing (this is even before Columbine and the so-called “Trenchcoat Mafia”), were fans of Metallica, and were thought to be “a little weird.”
Even though I knew the outlines of the case, the documentary blew me away. First of all, for only the third time that I can remember, I had to close my eyes during some scenes. The filmmakers openly show the horrific, gruesome, shocking – I’m running out of adjectives here – murder scene, including graphic images of the murdered boys. At first I thought this a sensationalist move, or an exploitative one. But the more I think about, the more I think they did it so as not to gloss over the seriousness of the case. Perhaps also as a way to explain the “satanic panic” that overcame the people of West Memphis after the murders, along with the absolute urgency to find the killer – any killer. I’m still not sure it was necessary to show the images, but I’m beginning to understand why the filmmakers might have made the choice.
There are so many aspects to the case, so many egregious wrongs, that I won’t go into them here. Check out the movie, and the follow up Revelations: Paradise Lost II which aired in 1999. Visit the website and read for yourself.