Sometimes a True Movie Thursday and Pick-a-Flick Friday just come together, as they did a few weeks ago when "Deadly Vows" and "Fatal Vows" were broadcast within just over a week of one another. I was lucky enough to catch both similarly named movies, and was delighted to find that they both sunk to new, delicious Lifetime lows...and then I felt kind of like throwing up. I also took pictures of my TV to share with you!
I was first attracted to "Fatal Vows" (literally) when I found out it starred John Stamos, who I have always had a fascination with. If you weren't born between 1978 and 1985, and "Wanna have some fun / Show 'em how it's done / TGIF!" means nothing to you, I don't know how to properly describe what's known as John Stamos Fever. But here's my best stab at it: Go watch this youtube video of Full House clips set to Uncle Jesse & the Rippers' signature song, and pretend that you're just learning what masturbation is, and that mullets are hot. (Sorry Mom, but I don't know why you thought I was watching that show.) John Stamos Fever is so serious that it led me to watch his short-lived program "Jake in Progress" (2005-06) and to just recently have an IM conversation with a fellow JSF sufferer about whether or not there was a bathroom up in the attic where Uncle Jesse (and later, his entire family) lived.
My boyfriend (born in 1973) was a little alarmed when he found out that I was taking photos of our television when sexy John Stamos scenes were on so I could post them on the internet. But I know what the ladies want! So here's a pic of Stamos motorboating his soon-to-be-wife's boobs:
OK, OK, let me back up for a second here, though. If you don't watch as many Lifetime movies as I do, you might not be familiar with Lifetime's typical jerkwad boyfriend/husband character, who Stamos plays in Fatal Vows. Though he may seem charming and attractive, he's actual evil. If you're asking, "But he seemed nice when I met him--how do I know he's turned demonic?", the answer is: The day you got married. He may have showed signs before the wedding, like checking out other women, but once you got married his fate as the devil incarnate was sealed.
The women in the jerkwad husband/boyfriend genre of Lifetime movies usually do one of two things: they sit passively back, somehow unable to do anything about the fact that they're living with someone who's evil; or they kill him. Unfortunately, both Deadly and Fatal Vows are of the former variety. (Kind of ironic, considering their titles.)
"Fatal Vows: The Alexandra O'Hara Story" begins when handsome Nick (Stamos) meets single-mom Alexandra (Cynthia Gibb, Fisher Stevens' love interest in Short Circuit 2), and share the sexy making out moment I've documented for you here. Nick and Alexandra have a lot in common, because her ex-husband is a deadbeat dad, and so is Nick! After a whirlwind courtship and a proposal in front of his whole family (who she's just met), they marry, and (naturally) Nick becomes evil. The lighthearted kitchen table sex is no more, and instead he picks up floor lamps and threatens to jam them into her face.
I hate to be glib about domestic violence, but the scenes are so awful--badly scripted and acted and all for the sake of TV melodrama--that they don't really deserve anything beyond an uncomfortable grimace. Alexandra is portrayed as a woman who has no opportunities for help (or friends), and who lives in a world where women simply have to be victimized by their husbands. In one scene, she calls the cops from work to tell them she's pretty sure Nick is a serial killer, but then he shows up to pick her up--yes, she's called them 5 minutes before her shift ends--and starts screaming at her from outside and banging on the windows. With Stamos doing his best enraged version of Dustin Hoffman at the end of The Graduate, Alexandra's all, "oh, sorry, I have to go," and never calls the cops back, and I couldn't help but think, this can't be right.
So I looked up the true story of "Alexandra O'Hara," who is really named Andrea Rosario, and whose husband Alejandro Heriquez killed 5 people in the Bronx in the 90s. By reading this fascinating New York magazine article about him, I found out that the movie version left out some of the most intriguing details about the actual "Alexandra O'Hara." Namely, that her husband had never divorced his previous wife, that they had held up her business at gunpoint together, and that since Andrea Rosario was never legally married to him, she testified against him at his murder trial, which only came about through evidence she gathered after putting him behind bars for scalding her 3-year-old.
...Whereas in the movie, Andrea/Alexandra realizes her husband's a killer, still leaves her kid with him, never successfully nails him for the scalding, and is generally helpless to do anything but have her mother "take her son away." The police, too, are like, "Sorry lady!" and then have her wear a wire at home and question him about a murder, even though he's come close to killing her in the past. Again, I don't want to minimize the fact that women often feel helpless in these situations, but in the real situation this particular woman wasn't helpless--she was estranged from her husband and did all her wiretapping action over the phone, like any sensible person would.
I still had a bad taste in my mouth when "Deadly Vows" won Pick-a-Flick Friday the following week, but that didn't stop me from watching it. "Deadly Vows" begins after the jerk (played by Major Dad!!) has already gotten married and turned evil, just in time for us to see him lure another strangely passive woman who he's met at the bowling alley, Bobbi. In Fatal Vows, "Alexandra" was portrayed as a smart woman who just has REALLY bad taste in men (and then can't get away from them), but in Deadly Vows, Bobbi is just portrayed as stupid. Played by Josie Bisset, she says things to Major Dad like "you're sooo smart!" and "no one's ever liked me before...well, you know, like YOU do." (blush). Major Dad woos Bobbi by inviting her out for ice cream, then producing a half-melted ice cream cone from his truck and convincing her to get in. And I think Bobbi is supposed to be in her 20s?? She works at a laundry factory and lives with her parents, is fucking gorgeous, and doesn't seem to know what a vagina is. Soon, Major Dad convinces her to marry him (even though she knows he's already married), and a "Major Dad, nooooooo!"-inducing toe-sucking scene commences that will haunt me for the rest of my days:
Honestly, most scenes in the movie skeeved me in a similar fashion, unless they were just downright funny, like when Major Dad and his first wife (Peggy Lipton!!) go to see the 4th of July fireworks and awkwardly run into Bobbi, there with her parents. Bobbi suddenly realizes that the rumors about MD having a wife are true, and is horribly embarrassed. But then when MD and his wife are looking for a place to sit to watch the fireworks, MD decides to sit right next to her on the grass. He gets comfy with his wife, then puts his hand on Bobbi's knee in a passionate hand-grasp. And although Peggy Lipton keeps running into them together, MD keeps denying anything is going on with poor Bobbi, and she not only believes him but then won't even testify against him once he goes on a killin' spree.
Unlike "Fatal Vows," in "Deadly Vows" a spouse actually gets killed (well, a non-legal one), as Major Dad goes ripshit when Bobbie is too dumb not to cooperate with police after he tries to kill his real wife. And since the "true story" Deadly Vows is based on has never been revealed, even to Variety, I can't tell you what the real Bobbi would have done, though something tells me that getting involved with a no-good guy is a lot more complicated than just being so stunted that you think Major Dad's sexy when he brags about boning you over his trucker's radio while you're in the passenger seat.
So what did I learn from all of this, besides that my camera takes amazingly good photos of my TV? (You've read this far, so you deserve some kind of conclusion.)
My boyfriend has often asked why Lifetime is "television for women" when it usually portrays women as one-dimensional idiots. And similarly, Lifetime's tagline, "Lifetime Movies celebrate, entertain, and support women" is laughable. But I noticed that in both movies, the fact that the guy was also a psychopathic killer was secondary to the fact that he was mean-to-wives: Major Dad didn't start killing people until the last 20 minutes or so of Deadly Vows, and the fact that John Stamos was murdering all over town wasn't really delved into, except insofar as it made "Alexandra" terrified of him. So contrary to what it advertises, what Lifetime really strives to do is make females main characters, even if they shouldn't be, and even if they don't give them any depth. And while I'd like to go on a rant about how media and society don't treat domestic violence as serious issues and women as serious characters, the fact is that I write a blog about Lifetime movies, not teach cultural criticism at a liberal arts college. So maybe, whether or not I like to admit it, I like to be entertained even more than I like to be celebrated or supported.
But I would prefer it be done with hot dudes like John Stamos rather than old ones like Major Dad.
Posted by Jennifer Boudinot at 2:56 PM
Labels: affairs (of the heart), attractive yet dangerous, DARE, deadly consequences, ER alum, graveside funeral, jerkwad boyfriend/husband, opposite day title, pick-a-flick friday, polygamy, secret life, Stamos, strangely passive person, true movie thursday, worthless cops