Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Frenemies & Other Thoughts on Making Yourself Throw-Up

I asked my friend Ashley Jane Konrad from America's Flop Culture to send me a list of her top 10 Lifetime Original Movies. Ashley is the Tori Spelling to my Tiffany Amber-Thiessen.

I've included links to the cinematic treasures that I have already reviewed in case you want to get schooled twice.
It's hard to pick JUST 10 she managed to grant you with this introductory guide on the made for TV movie.


Classic Lifetime, this movie features two of the networks brightest stars: Kellie Martin and Tori Spelling. This fact alone would render the film number one on my list, but the magic doesn’t end with the cast. The plot of the movie centers around a girl desperate to become popular (Kellie Martin), who fails when she is shunned and ridiculed by Tori Spelling’s character, the cruel and snobby Stacy Lockwood. After a dismal attempt to befriend Stacy ends in further humiliation for Kellie Martin’s character, Kellie does what any self-respecting high school girl would do: she chases Stacy down and stabs her to death. Tori Spelling’s acting during her death scene is Oscar-worthy: she moans and clutches her wounds, screams “WHY?” at an apparently angry God, then gives in to her fate after about twenty minutes of theatrics. I’d like to see Natalie Portman pull off a performance like that. Bet she couldn’t do it like Tori.

Kellie manages to keep her crime under wraps for a while, but eventually her secret is revealed, and after a long and humiliating trial poor, unpopular Kellie is sentenced to jail.

This movie is based on a true story, and I’ve spent a good deal of my life researching the facts about the case. The most I’ve come up with is the original article from ROLLING STONE magazine, which told me nothing I didn’t already know (typical ROLLING STONE), but I did manage to discover that the real Kellie Martin character has been released from prison and is residing in California. I’d like to contact her, maybe discuss making a sequel to DEATH OF A CHEERLEADER. In the sequel, Stacy Lockwood could return as a ghost and haunt the hell out of Kellie Martin, making her life hell just like she did in high school. That sounds like something Lifetime would go for. If you’re reading this, real Kellie Martin character, give me a shout. There’s money to be made here.


This gem stars real-life anorexic Tracey Gold, an actress whose career I have followed through a decade of watching Lifetime. FOR THE LOVE OF NANCY really set the bar for the eating disorder genre. FOR THE LOVE OF NANCY follows the struggle of an upper-middle class family as they sue their anorexic adult daughter for guardianship as sos they can force her into a treatment center and put some meat on her bones. The underlying theme of betrayal is subtly brought to the surface in Jill Clayburgh’s brilliant portrayal of Nancy’s mother, Sally Walsh. Because I have devoted so many years to the study of this important film, I can say with some degree of certainty that Nancy’s anorexia began with her mother’s observation that Nancy should have selected the slimming black dress instead of the eye-catching red one to wear to the prom. Tracey Gold gives a nuanced performance as Nancy, no doubt due to the fact that Gold was able to draw on her first-hand experience with anorexia. In the film, Nancy is a recent high school graduate who leaves home to attend college, only to drop out and move back into her parents’ house after developing a nasty case of mother-induced anorexia, which as everyone knows is the worst kind. This action proves to be a tactical mistake for Nancy, as she is soon unable to hide her disorder from her mother and father, who eventually demand that Nancy go into treatment. Nancy is then sent to Parker Pavilion, an inpatient eating disorders clinic run by a staff of sadistic nurses who refuse to turn a blind eye to Nancy’s cunning methods of food avoidance. At the end of her skinny little rope, Nancy resorts to punching a hole in her closet wall and shoving her meals into it, which she then covers with a stack of size 0 sweatshirts. Nancy’s doctor at Parker Pavilion is of the long-haired “guru” variety, who proceeds to remind us over and over again that anorexia is not about food, it’s about control. A revolutionary observation if there ever was one. Obviously Nancy’s anorexia is a result of the loss of control she experienced when she transitioned from living at home to life on a college campus. When Nancy doesn’t gain any weight, the doctor orders a feeding tube to be inserted, causing Nancy to pack on a portly six pounds. Fed up with the bullshit going on inside Parker Pavilion, Nancy phones her parents and demands they bring her home, which they do. Eventually Nancy loses the pesky six pounds she gained from the feeding tube and that’s when mom and dad step up their game and ask her to resume treatment, but they underestimate their daughter’s legal savvy. It’ll take a better war than that to kill a college girl like Nancy Walsh. You can count on that. As she is over the age of 18, her parents have no legal right to force her back into treatment and weight gain. As a last resort, the parents decide to take Nancy to court to be declared insane and allow them to take power over their daughter’s medical decisions. Nancy is determined to fight for her right to look like a holocaust victim up until the very morning of her hearing, when Nancy has a revelation while driving with her parents to the courthouse. Nancy is so inspired by the people she sees from the backseat window that she surrenders to her parents’ demands before they ever arrive at the courthouse. At least that’s what the movie will have you believe is the motive behind Nancy’s surrender. I think she complied because she knew that her parents would probably win power of attorney and then not only would she be fat she would also be legally considered a lunatic. This way, she will at least have her dignity. Or maybe not, because she’ll be a fatty-fat-fat after she gets out of treatment, and we all know how society treats the likes of them.


This movie is just stupid, which is why I love it. Mia Farrow (real-life mother of Frank Sinatra, JR.), plays a single mom to daughter Zoey, who is apparently perfect save for the fact that she’s a little chunky. That’s another thing about Lifetime: they employ chunky actresses. I admire those kinds of filmmaking risks. Anyway, so Zoey is great and a straight A student and on the swim team and everything is awesome until she starts dabbling in the dark arts. And by the dark arts I mean drugs. She smokes a little weed, drinks a little beer, and then makes the mistake of stealing some of her mother’s muscle relaxers. Big mistake. Mia Farrow goes apeshit and tightens the reins on Zoey, hoping that this will prevent any further drug use. Much like Miley Cyrus, however, Zoey can’t be tamed, and her drug use escalates to the point where she actually starts ingesting controlled substances and not just over-the counter No Doze shit. She OD’s one night and then is sent to rehab, where after a bit of initial resistance, Zoey is cured and returned to the world a shining example of American youth.

This is bullshit for so many reasons. For starters, no mother would react to finding her pills in her daughter’s backpack the way Mia Farrow did. Like I said, those muscle relaxers aren’t even a controlled substance. If I were a mother and my daughter pulled that shit with me, I’d be angry, yes, because now what the hell am I supposed to get fucked up on? I’d ground my daughter for being selfish and not thinking of others. Instead of rehab, I’d send the little thief to sensitivity training. Then she’d think twice about taking drugs that aren’t hers.


Tiffani Amber Thiessen (now just Tiffani Thiessen) gets raped by a cool football player just as she is welcomed into the popular crowd at her high school. Talk about shitty timing. What’s even shittier is that no one believes that Tiffani was really raped; they just assume she’s a slut. And they tell her as much, spray painting it all over the school and torturing her every chance they get. The jocks are out to teach her a lesson, and that lesson is keep your fat mouth shut if you get raped. But as the title suggests, Tiffani is a fighter. But she isn’t alone for long. A big-time lawyer blows into Tiffani’s small town and starts making waves: suing the school for failing to protect a student from sexual harassment. All the while this is going on, Tiffani is carrying on a secret relationship with Brian Austin Green, the only popular jock who believes Tiffani’s rape claim. The relationship is doomed from the start, though, because Tiffani wins the suit against the school and heads off to community college, probably to major in something like ceramics. Brian Austin Green was left behind in the small backassward town, where he would become the second incantation of Al Bundy, reliving his days of football glory while working at a shoe store.

As a side note, there was another Lifetime movie along these same lines, except in this particular movie the girl really was a slut. Excuse me, she was “promiscuous.” So of course no one believed her about the rape; they just thought she was doing what she always did, which was screw. The lesson learned from this movie is that if you’re going to be raped, don’t be a slut.


Another genius portrayal by acclaimed Tori Spelling. In this film, Spelling plays a college freshman with a controlling mother. See, Tori is a recovering anorexic. When she tries out for the track team she doesn’t make it because her mother called the coach and spilled the beans about Tori’s eating disorder. What a meddling bitch. If my mom did something like that I’d call up my stepdad and tell him her real age. Lucky for her I don’t participate in athletics, unless you count competitive eating as a sport. I do.

Anyway, so Tori meets this guy who seems perfect; nice and charming and studying to be a doctor. Or so he tells Tori and her mom. Turns out the guy is a controlling sociopath who has killed before and would not hesitate to do so again. Little by little, Tori’s mom’s meddling starts to pay off as she uncovers the truth about her daughter’s lover. But by this time, Tori is fed up with her mom’s bullshit so she doesn’t heed her warnings and moves in with the guy to a remote cabin in the wilderness - the kind of place where no one can hear you scream except for your neighbor Ted Bundy.

So here’s our heroine, stuck in seclusion with a psychopath, and he starts to get scary. Pushing Tori around and telling her she can’t leave and she belongs to him and what not. This is when Tori realizes that her trifling mother may have been right about this psycho all along. I don’t know what’s worse for poor Tori: the fact that she is probably going to be murdered by this lunatic, or the realization that her mother knew best. For me, it would be a toss up.

The last part of the film is a very dramatic climax that involves Tori attempting to flee her attacker (good thing she’s a track star) while the desperate psycho tries to catch her as so he can have his way with her and then dispose of the body as he sees fit. Fortunately, Tori’s mother - who apparently has gained a sixth sense about Tori from having micromanaged her daughter all her life - shows up in the nick of time to save the day. I can’t remember if the madman is killed or not, but it doesn’t really matter either way. The important thing is that Tori learned a valuable lesson: next time she meets a nice, successful man, she won’t become involved with him until she first asks the question “Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?”


Me too! I jest, I jest. I don’t think I can even get pregnant, what with the crack and the herpes and the competitive eating. But this woman - a dowdy middle-aged housewife married to an insensitive construction worker - actually does wake up pregnant after a visit to her dentist. Curiously enough, the dentist put the woman under sedation for what was essentially a cleaning. I wish I got that kind of VIP treatment at my dentist, but NOOOO.

Anyway, the woman wakes up pregnant, and it’s obviously not her husband’s baby because they’ve been having problems and their sex life is nonexistent. To add insult to injury, they already have a bunch of grubby little kids and they can’t afford to have any more. This I admire. Sometimes people who are too poor to have even one child end up having like 20, and then guess who gets to pay for the diapers and formula? My father, that’s who. Ask him; he’ll tell you all about it.

After a bit of amateur sleuthing, the woman has reason to believe that the dentist raped her while she was under sedation. I wish I could be that lucky. If that shit happened to me I’d sue for millions and move to Manhattan, where I’d live on the Upper East Side and wear Carolina Herrera and open an art gallery specializing in Damien Hirst installations. These types of things never happen to the right people, the people who would do something productive with the settlement money, and that pisses me off. But I digress.

Eventually the police become involved, even though everyone is skeptical of the woman’s claims (here we see echoes of SHE FOUGHT ALONE), and an elaborate sting operation is conducted. With the police at the ready, a decoy patient is put under general anesthesia and right as the dentist is about to start his raping shtick, the cops bust in and arrest him. For some reason, the woman who woke up pregnant is in on the sting operation, and it is she who comforts the female decoy after the decoy was almost raped. It was a very touching ending, made even more so by the fact that the woman decided to have the baby and give it up for adoption instead of having an abortion. She says something along the lines of “If we can make one couple happy parents, then some good has come out of all this.” Sweet, but not the smartest way to handle things. Being that the baby in question is white and the spawn of a dentist, the child could collect upwards of a hundred grand on the black market. Possibly even more if the eyes are blue. Again, noble intentions reiterated by Lifetime, but noble intentions don’t get you Carolina Herrera and Damien Hirst.


This cinematic masterpiece centers around a workaholic mother and her lonely teenage daughter, who turns to sex for comfort and ends up getting an STD in the process. All of this could have been avoided if the mother in question had either paid attention to her daughter or given her one of those fake babies to carry around all the time so the girl could learn the consequences of sex. I’m not going to spend too much time discussing this film, even though it was brilliant and nuanced, because it ends predictably with the STD being treated and mother making peace with her slutty daughter. Instead, I’m going to display a comment from a message board regarding the impact of the film on one young girl’s life. I feel this speaks for itself:

i luv she's 2 young dat movie actually taught me sumthin....n dats very unusaul....im totally waitin till im married 2 hav sex im not sure dat i even want 2 kiss a boy...b/c they could b like nick frm she's too young n sleep wit every gurl n not even tell dem dat he has a std.


Now, I know there are those of you out there who will say that this is a made-up post, that no one could possibly be that stupid, but allow me to remind you that this is from a Lifetime message board, where people really are that stupid. As proof, I’ve included the link so that you can check out this absurdity for yourself:


Told you so. Don’t ever question me again.


I could really relate to this film. Basically a rip-off of the movie THIRTEEN, AUGUSTA, GONE is about a teenage girl who starts going wild after her parents’ divorce. Encouraged by a new friend (a bad-influence), she starts smoking cigarettes, and then progresses to hard drugs. Her mother, brilliantly portrayed by Sharon Lawrence, tries in vain to help her daughter kick the habit, but young Augusta is incorrigible and refuses to give up her freebasing ways. At the end of her pitiful rope, Sharon Lawrence decides to send Augusta to one of those Outward Bound rehab programs where drug-addicted teenagers survive in the wilderness for awhile and pray for survival. Some of them die in the process, as it has been documented on 20/20 and other news magazine programs of this ilk.

Augusta manages to survive the program, and all she wants is to come home and start again as a drug-free teenager, but for some unknown reason Sharon Lawrence won’t allow it. I don’t get that part. What is Sharon thinking? “Yes, you’re clean now, but you still have to live for awhile on the streets to test yourself as to whether or not you’ll fall back into using meth.” Makes no damn sense. Bad parenting if there ever was bad parenting. Anyway, Augusta has other plans. She manages to get together enough change to take a bus back home, where she is welcomed like the prodigal daughter. Like I said, this makes no damn sense. Either way, Augusta has ammunition now: she can always bring up the fact the her mother left her on the streets instead of allowing her to return home where she’d be safe. Like her mom will say “Augusta, you need to pull up your grades” and then Augusta can come back with “Remember that time you let me wander the streets alone and penniless? Well, I got raped a bunch of times and had to turn tricks for food. And you want me to pull up my grades? You can go right to hell, mom!” That would make for a great sequel. I’d enjoy watching Sharon Lawrence struggle with remorse and regret; it would be a powerful and moving performance, I can promise you that.


I just love movies about eating disorders, particularly when the eating disorder stems from some kind of passion, like ballet or, in this case, gymnastics. PERFECT BODY stars Amy Jo Johnson of FELICITY fame as a promising young gymnast who develops an eating disorder under the tutelage of her sadistic new coach. Wendie Malick plays the mother, who is torn between wanting her daughter to pursue her dream of being an Olympic gymnast and wanting her daughter to eat like a normal person. You can’t have it both ways, Wendie Malick. As Andie’s (Amy Jo Johnson) coach is wont to remind his athletes, “another five pounds is another foot off the ground.” Andie is taught by her competitive and bitchy teammate how to use bulimia to her advantage, a development I find contrary to the plot. If the bitch was really that concerned with getting ahead, then why in the hell would they volunteer their secrets of success? You better believe Paris Hilton isn’t telling Nicole Richie which laxative works fastest. Frienemies don’t interact that way.
I especially love the soundtrack to PERFECT BODY. During an elaborate montage of Andie binge eating, exercising obsessively, throwing away plates full of food, and emerging misty-eyed from various restrooms, a song plays in the background, the lyrics of which are something along the lines of “if it doesn’t stop I’ll go insane!” as the cymbals clash and swell. I’ve searched long and hard and have yet to find the name or artist of that song. But I will never stop looking for answers. You, Gentle Reader, can trust in that.
When Andie returns home for a visit, she finds her best friend locked in a passionate embrace with her boyfriend. Andie and the boyfriend break up because Andie’s anorexic and oh yeah HE’S A CHEATER, a fact which Andie should have reminded him about during his uninspired break-up monologue. Another contrary plot development. That would have come up first and foremost. Then Andie meets up with the friend in the playground, where Andie and the friend have a heart-to-heart about Andie’s anorexia. Andie agrees that she needs help. But instead of getting help, Andie returns to the gym to train for some big meet. At the meet, she falls and injures herself – presumably this is somehow related to anorexia - and wakes up in the hospital wearing a neck brace. The brace comes off and Andie returns to the evil coach much to the chagrin of Wendie Malick, who demands that Andie quit with the coach and move back home. While observing her teammates being called fat, Andie decides to turn on her heels and flee.
After the commercial break, Andie is back home and eating a potato with her ex-boyfriend, to whom she confides that she’s in treatment for her eating disorder. The last scene is Andie in a gym after hours, practicing gymnastics purely for her own enjoyment. It is in this moment that the film’s wonderful soundtrack kicks in again, this time with an exquisite selection from the oeuvre of Peter Gabriel. I suppose this scene is meant to inform the viewer that Andie did eventually make her return to gymnastics, but I feel a more satisfying conclusion to this film would be Andie chillaxing with a giant bowl of popcorn, watching the competitive and bitchy girl on television as she messes up her floor routine at the Olympic games. Or better still, the competitive and bitchy girl gets fat and breaks the uneven bars and they have to cancel the Olympics because of it, so not only does all the world hate her, Shawn Johnson is going to kill her because this was supposed to be Shawn’s year for gold and now she won’t even take home a bronze. Far-fetched, you say? Mayhap, but Shawn strikes me as the type of girl who would kill a bitch for less.


So this sixteen year old kid who looks like a poor man’s Jesse Eisenberg is another one of Lifetime’s perfect children: he makes straight A’s is on the swim team, has a nice girlfriend he never touches, etc. But then one fateful day, the kid stumbles upon an internet porn site and becomes completely addicted to trolling the internet looking for pictures of naked women. His mother (played by Kelly Lynch) is a lot like Tori Spelling’s mom in MOTHER MAY I SLEEP WITH DANGER. She monitors her son’s internet activity like a McCarthy era spy, and it isn’t long before she becomes aware of her son’s little habit.

Now, I’m sure we can all agree that this is ludicrous. Why is this even a movie? What sixteen year old boy doesn’t look at internet porn all day long? I certainly can’t think of one. I remember when my brother was sixteen he kept his bedroom door locked for hours at a time, venturing out only when he was sweaty and exhausted to grab a Gatorade. Then he bought a mini fridge at Target to keep in his room, and we didn’t see him for like a year. I was pretty much an only child during that period.

If you ask me, this Kelly Lynch is the one with the problem, not her sex-crazed teenage son. Why is she going through his computer looking for evidence of her son’s self-abuse? That smacks of Oedipal shit right there. And as a side note, why do people think Kelly Lynch is attractive? She’s not. She’s a poor man’s Robin Wright (nee Penn), and that’s being complimentary.

The best part of this movie is when pseudo Jesse Eisenberg becomes obsessed with the school slut, a entrepreneurial girl named Monica who runs her own sex site on which she strips naked for all the boys in her high school to enjoy. Pseudo Jesse forms a bond with Monica, and Monica propositions him for sex. Pseudo Jesse refuses at the last minute - after all, this is a real girl and not an image on a computer screen - and Monica is humiliated and pissed off. So she does what any self-respecting girl would do when faced with this kind of rejection. She beats herself up and blames her bruises on pseudo Jesse.

Monica’s legions of male fans catch wind of her claims and proceed to beat Pseudo Jesse to a bloody pulp. Despondent and desperate, Pseudo Jesse retreats to the pool, the place of his former glory as a swim star, presumably to drown himself. But then Pseudo Jesse pictures his prying mother and family and all the things he has to live for, so he surfaces and saves himself. The viewer is left with the sense that Pseudo Jesse goes on to confront his porn “addiction” and get back on track with his life. And thank God for that, because otherwise he wouldn’t have invented Facebook. And then how would we all spend our days? YouPorn?

To read more from Ashley Jane Konrad check out her blog here.