Hulu's 'The Girl from Plainville' And 'Pam And Tommy' Have A Gross Creative Problem
Fulfilling the life cycle of “horrible real-world event, to true crime documentary and/or podcast, to streaming series everyone talks about for like a week before soon forgetting it ever existed,” Hulu just premiered The Girl From Plainville, starring Elle Fanning as Michelle Carter, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2017. Famously, the case hinged on the fact that a teenaged Carter sent boyfriend Conrad Roy text messages encouraging him to commit suicide, which he did in a Kmart parking lot in 2014. It’s a truly horrific tragedy that soon became an HBO documentary in 2019.
But since we as a society demand yet more entertainment value from the untimely deaths of actual people, now the whole thing has been dramatized in a limited series.
But … do we really need this? Some have lauded The Girl From Plainville for injecting some nuance into the well-known story, but in doing so it has also reportedly upset Roy’s family, who claim that producers have kept them largely “in the dark” about the content of the show. Roy’s mother also expressed concerns that the portrayal of Carter would “defend some of her needless and evil actions.”
While shading in the details of Carter’s own struggles with mental health isn’t, in and of itself, a problem, you’d think that doing so at the expense of the well-being of the victim’s family would be a deal-breaker for the show’s creatives. In an interview with The Independent, executive director of the National Crime Victim Law Institute, Meg Garvin claims that: “It can be absolutely horrific for a victim to once again have their power taken away by someone else telling the story of what happened to them.”
This is also coming on the heels of Pam & Tommy, another Hulu limited series about another real-life crime. Despite the fact that the show was, ostensibly, about consent and the victimization of Pamela Anderson, it was controversially made without the involvement of Anderson, which she reportedly found “very painful.” You’d think that step one for making these types of shows would be asking "Is this going to piss off the victim, or the victim's family?" And if the answer is “yes” maybe … make literally anything else.
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Top Image: Hulu