Sunday, November 26, 2017

Just watched I Am Elizabeth Smart...

We got snow this morning and it's been flurrying all day, so we decided to stay in and watch TV.  I recently read Elizabeth Smart's comments about the Lifetime movie that was made about her experiences in captivity after she was kidnapped from her bed on June 5, 2002.  I still remember Bill telling me about the kidnapping.  We were engaged at the time, living in Fredericksburg, Virginia.  His daughters are a few years younger than Smart and Mormon.  They were in Arizona.  I remember Bill was concerned.

Well, we all know what happened to Elizabeth.  She was eventually found and reunited with her family.  She went to college, went on a mission, and got married to a returned missionary from Scotland.  They have two beautiful children and Elizabeth's work is about helping victims.  While I would never wish what happened to her on anyone, I think it's laudable that she's been able to turn her ordeal into something good.

As for the movie... I have to admit, it made me a bit emotional.  I read Elizabeth's book a few years ago, so I knew she was raped repeatedly, starved, forced to eat garbage and drink alcohol, and kept shackled to a tree out in the wilderness.  The movie featured Smart narrating while an actress portrayed her.

I saw the first TV movie about Smart's case; it aired in 2003, just nine months after she was rescued.  I remember it was on TV the same night a movie about Jessica Lynch aired.  I was interested in both movies, so I flipped back and forth.  The first Smart movie was more from her parents' perspective; it was based on the book Bringing Elizabeth Home.

In I Am Elizabeth Smart, there seemed to be much less emphasis on Smart's family and the LDS church.  In fact, I noticed when the actors portraying Barzee, Mitchell, and Smart didn't even pray the way Mormons do, with their arms crossed.  The church wasn't even really mentioned, which is kind of a pity, since I think Mormon teachings are, in part, to blame for Smart's trauma.  The film is instead kept sort of blandly religious.  Smart speaks of her faith in God and in how she saw God in everyday miracles, like when it would rain.  Smart explains that she was always thirsty, because they never had enough water.  It was very hard to get water.  When they did get it, Mitchell would make her work for it.  Basically, that meant submitting to his repeated sexual assaults.

Smart says in the film that when Mitchell raped her, she felt shattered into a million pieces.  In speeches she's given, she's mentioned that she learned object lessons in the church about the importance of being "pure".  She learned that having sex before marriage made her akin to a chewed up piece of gum, worthy of being thrown away.  Although she did mention feeling "shattered" in the film, she did not provide the context that made rape even more horrific for her.

The actors in the film were very good, although the part of the movie that I found most compelling was when Elizabeth spoke.  It seemed almost like she wanted to set things straight with the public.  She addressed the many cynical comments she must have read or heard from people over the years, including the claim that she had Stockholm Syndrome.  Toward the end of the film, she has a glint in her eye and a victorious edge to her voice when she tells viewers that Mitchell had raped her for the last time.  I also noticed that Elizabeth looked really pretty.  I have seen her wear very heavy makeup, but whomever did her makeup for the film did a really good job.  She looked natural and beautiful, not garish.

By the time the movie ended, I was feeling pretty verklempt.  She was so incredibly lucky to survive and not endure years with those people.  And, honest to God, while I'm not generally someone who enjoys violence, I do hope Mitchell gets the shit beaten out of him regularly for what he did to Elizabeth... and frankly, Wanda Barzee, who is also horrible, but was his victim for over fifteen years.

I think I Am Elizabeth Smart is pretty decent, especially for a Lifetime film.  It is ultimately a triumphant film.  I'm not sorry I watched it.  I'm sure they deliberately downplayed Smart's LDS beliefs for many reasons.  Maybe it was to make it appeal to a larger audience or give more time to the story of Smart's captivity.  But personally, I think the church helped traumatize Smart when it taught her that sex outside of marriage makes someone worthless.  As horrifying as rape is, it's got to be much worse when the cornerstone of one's spiritual beliefs teaches that a woman who has sex before marriage is akin to a licked cupcake or chewed up piece of gum.

Looks like the "Licked Cupcake" is about to become theater.


  1. I haven't seen the movie. I've read her book, her parents' book, and her uncle's book.

    As a person firmly outside of th "everything happens for a reason" school of thought, I hesitate to suggest that anything good could ever come of her situation. i know how I feel when someone says that to me, and my situation was nothing in comparison to hers. Still, I liked that she rather directly took on the church's licked cupcake -- ABC gum stance. I would like to know that the church has discontinued its annual Standards Nights for girls ages twelve through either eighteen or high school graduation, whichever happens later. in which they have been typically instructed in that drivel in a highly formal setting. it happens in seminary, Young Women's. and Sunday School as well, but the big even was always Standards Night. I've been to two. That was two too many. I hope they've been discontinued permanently.

    I don't doubt that the Smart family took little steps to distance events of the movie from the church. On the other hand, Joseph Smith probably didn't fold his arms when he prayed. That came later. Maybe Mitchell adhered to an older style of prayer.

    My family has minor history with the Smart family and with the Francom family. My aunt lived very near the Smarts at the time of the kidnapping. I've been in their home, have played with Mary Katherine, Elizabeth's younger sister, and I've been to one of the brothers' birthday parties when Matthew and I were staying with my aunt when my mom was being treated for leukemia. i doubt either Elizabeth or Mary Katherine would know me from Miley Cyrus, but their mother would probably remember my brother and me. She was very kind to us. They were kind, gentle people and probably still are.

    I cannot think of a time in my life when I was ever more shocked than when I learned she had been found alive. I didn't think there was a chance in hell she hd lived through it. I was only eight and was at my brother's baseball practice game when another coach told my Uncle Steve, matthew's coach, that she had been found alive. I still feel the chills and I still remember the light-headed almost-loss-of-consciousness feeling associated with it. And it's not even about me. How must the family have felt. I especially wonder what it was like for her mother being told. Transportation does not presently exist that would get a person from one place to another as fast as Lois Smart would have needed to travel to reach her daughter.

    This is Elizabeth's story and she owns every part of it. I have my own suspicion about a particular related matter that is absolutely none of my business that I think is being withheld and, if so, for very good reason, though I don't care very much. I merely wish her a great life.

    I want to see the movie.

    1. Well... I say something good came out of it because it gave a powerful voice and advocate to victims. Elizabeth could have been totally destroyed by her ordeal. Instead, she started a foundation and started working to help other victims. I think that’s laudable. What would she have done with her life if she hadn’t been kidnapped? Maybe she would have been a harpist?

      Anyway...I read that she watched the film once and won’t again because it terrified her. I could see why.

    2. A person may as well make lemonade with the lemons provided to them, but all things considered, I'd prefer that she (or I) go through life as a happy harpist, totally ignorant of what might have been. That's just my take, though.

    3. I can see why watching the movie traumatized her. The actress even looked like her. watching it once was brave and probably a good thing to do, but why relive one's trauma repeatedly.

      I've been told that some proceeds have been donated to related charities, bu I hope she has made so very much money off anything she's done that she can do or not do anything she chooses for the rest of her life.

    4. I watched it on ON DEMAND while typing the last two comments. Amazing movie!

    5. Sure, and I mentioned that I would never wish what happened to her on anyone. But if it had to happen, I am glad to see it made her stronger rather than destroying her. Many people would have been much less resilient than she's been. Austrian abductee Natascha Kampusch has likewise turned her kidnapping ordeal into something good.


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