It’s been more than 25 years since Lorena Bobbitt became a household name. Her name became a verb, and unless you were living under a rock, you knew the story of Lorena and John Bobbitt.
I was only 11 years old when Lorena Bobbitt took a knife to her intoxicated, sleeping husband and sliced his penis off.
On Valentine’s Day — get a load of that date, by the way — Amazon released a four-part documentary, “Lorena,” which focuses on the scandalous story that rocked the nation.
As a kid, I don’t think I truly understood all the ramifications of what this case meant. Lorena’s action was something society joked about, even tastelessly, but it was something we didn’t all understand. “Lorena” explores every facet of the case, with each part focusing on a different aspect.
Part one focuses on that fateful night in June 1993 when Lorena made the cut heard round the country. Everything is discussed, and there are even photos shown of the, um, evidence. Yes, this documentary delves into every single detail, no matter how brutal or visceral. But, honestly, is that surprising? Murder, darkness and all other kinds of brutality have become crazy popular on streaming services and podcasts.
The second part of the series focuses on the charges against John Wayne, who wasn’t just the victim. He was charged with marital sexual assault, as well, but was found innocent because only five days prior to the “incident” could be considered into evidence.
While John Wayne’s trial only dealt with a matter of days, Lorena’s trial (she was charged with “malicious wounding”) was more in-depth. It details years of abuse on the part of John Wayne toward his wife. Police reports, numerous accounts of forced rape, bruises and more were discussed during Lorena’s trial. Because of the nature of the case, the trial was broadcast on CourtTV and testimonies were part of the daily news cycle.
“Lorena” is incredibly engaging and engrossing. Yes, it’s visceral, and yes, it’s brutal to hear and watch, but at the same time, it needs to be. Lorena Bobbitt was an abused woman. Regardless of whether you believe her husband deserved his dismemberment — it was reattached and he recounts in the documentary that he had good sex afterwards, so don’t worry about his manhood — it’s impossible to not believe she was an abused woman. The evidence is insurmountable.
Perhaps, the most damning evidence, though, is watching Lorena’s own testimony. This documentary brings light to something that was ignored for so long: domestic violence. But, at the same time, it’s incredibly difficult to watch, especially if abuses or domestic violence plays a part in your own past.
This was a few years after the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill case. Two years after William Kennedy Smith was acquitted of rape. A year before Nicole Brown Simpson was killed. A statistic in the documentary states that 2,000 women were killed by domestic violence in 1993.
Two thousand women.
“Domestic violence cases don’t get national attention because they’re so ordinary. They happen every day,” is actually a quote used in the documentary by modern-day Huffington Post journalist Melissa Jeltsen. That has to be one of the most heartbreaking things ever.
Lorena was acquitted of malicious wounding by way of temporary insanity. After her trial, she went through 45 days of psychiatric evaluation, while John Wayne went into the porn business, had a botched penile enlargement and got a job at the Bunny Ranch in Nevada. He also was charged with assault against women and finally saw a bit of jail time.
“Lorena” might be the ultimate battle of he said/she said. It’s a tragedy. There were two victims in this story. There were two crimes. John Wayne is interviewed in the documentary, and perhaps I would feel less harshly toward him if he didn’t say over and over again how he never hurt a woman. Not Lorena or any other woman he’s involved with. The police are lying. The women are “gold diggers.” The bruises and other evidence aren’t real. He’s downright pathological, and it’s chilling to watch.
And then, there’s Lorena. No, I don’t believe she’s innocent. She did something very brutal and it’s something I laughed about as a kid. He deserved it, right? As an adult, it just makes me sad. It makes me sad that the system failed women for so many decades, and it took something of this magnitude to bring light to the issue.
“Lorena,” which is directed by a man, by the way, is a fascinating look at a story we all thought we knew. It was a precursor to the #metoo movement. It was a kick in the teeth and reminder that America needed to recognize violence against women as a real issue. But, 26 years later, we’re still having some of the same conversations, which might be an even harsher slice of life.