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Lifetime Learning

This is NOT a rant about Lifetime movies. Well, not really.

My wife is a big fan of them, though. We watch them together sometimes. If you are a fan of these movies and have one you’ve been itching to watch, please bookmark this post and read it only after you’ve seen the whole film to which you’re so looking forward. I’m not talking about specifics here, but some of the connections could be obvious.

***** GENERAL SPOILERS AHEAD *****

Let’s discuss some formatting items before I get to the thematic spoilers. I would never ruin a movie anyone wants to see, unless a single person told me they didn’t want to see it but needed to know how it turned out. So: warning posted.

We watch a fair number of these movies, so I’ve seen patterns emerge. While most of the films aim to empower women of any age, and many do a good job at this, I do take issue with a few problems therein, which all stem from the same cause.

***** SERIOUSLY, HERE WE GO *****

Most Lifetime movies follow one of two patterns: sadist or killer.

In the first scenario, everyone trusts the psychopathic sadist who shows up suddenly and tries to ruin everyone’s life due to some perceived slight or long-ago hurt. This person will gaslight everyone around them, and either no one suspects until near the end, or one person smells a rat early on, and the sadist isolates her from everyone in her life. Those people around her believe the worst about the person they’ve known for years, and they trust almost everything the antagonist says, usually without question.

In the second scenario, several people recognize the psychopathic killer but are murdered. Usually a few of those threaten to expose the killer without making backup plans, after which they typically turn their backs on said killer to call the police or send a crucial text. Whereupon each new victim dies quickly and foolishly. (Sometimes one last victim gets the word out to the protagonist, setting up the reveal at last.)

Both of these setups completely ignore the benefits of critical thinking.

No one locks their doors or looks behind them in these movies, so a killer is often lurking in the backseat, and people regularly sneak around in each other’s houses. And no one ever calls for backup before confronting the psychopath (unless perhaps at the very end).

If someone cuts brake lines, no one has the presence of mind to downshift, which allows engine braking to help them keep control of their car. I learned this at age 16, as I was learning to drive, and my brakes did fail organically once! The aging master cylinder came apart, and I lost brake power suddenly. But I knew what to do, and I stopped the car without hurting anyone or anything.

People constantly jump to conclusions and assume the worst about the heroine, or the best about the villain. If there is an obvious intruder knocking things over outside (or breaking in a window), people usually hear the sound and then mutter something about an animal and how harmless it is. Sometimes they even dismiss their worries and just go to sleep, with their backs to the bedroom door!

Also, villains frequently strangle their victims, but no one ever fights back. At all. People just stand there and die, without throwing themselves backward (if attacked from behind), striking at the inside elbows of the attacker (if grabbed from the front), pulling their seat lever and flinging it backward (if garrotted in the car), or kicking for the groin, instep, shin, knee, or stomach.

There are plenty of vulnerable spots to strike at if someone grabs you, but none of these people use even the basics of self-defense. When did we stop teaching that, and for goodness’ sake, why?

If these movies are teaching things to watch out for, how many does it take to make the message stick?

Roger Ebert once described a type of film that he did not enjoy, which he called an “if only” movie. In these, the entire plot line would have unraveled IF ONLY one character had said or done something differently. When the complete story arc hinges on a single unasked question, or a few crucial words that one leaves unspoken when they had the chance to say them, it can weaken the impact. The meaning of the story can dissolve.

I try to live my life on the lookout for those “if only” moments, and anytime I see them, I choose the safer road: the path where I tell that person I love them; or where I say what’s on my mind NOW, when I can, without waiting until “maybe later”. And for the sake of literally living another day, if I am suspicious of something I see or hear, I first tell my wife, and then I grab at least a makeshift weapon of some kind before investigating. And if you have security cameras, put a password on them and CHECK them before you venture outside. If you heard it, it’s probably SOMETHING!

A very different kind of movie taught me something else when I was much younger. In “The Princess Bride”, Chris Sarandon’s character is asked, “Could this be a trap?” and he smugly replies, “I always think everything could be a trap… which is why I’m still alive!”

You don’t have to be Prince Humperdinck to be careful, and you certainly don’t have to go around making enemies and trying to rule the world (or even your small portion of it). But if you’re constantly rude to people, get over it; everyone is going through something, just like you are. The details may be different, but we’re all human, and we all have struggles.

Good people get hurt, too, but a little caution goes a long way sometimes. And you’ve probably heard that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, right? Well, it’s a sound piece of advice, but there ARE killers and sociopathic, vengeful people out there, so sometimes there IS no cure if you’re careless. Be kind where you can, but be mindful, too. Don’t trust strangers with your life unnecessarily, don’t anger people on purpose, and please safeguard your personal information! Lock your phone, your computer, your tablet, your CAR, and your doors and windows!

Pay attention, and live another day. Life isn’t always easy, but it’s often worthwhile. If you’re enjoying any part of it, please stay here.

And when you need a lesson outside of your own experience, there’s always a movie on.

Published by

Matthew D. Futter

Writer, Researcher, Student of Life. Amateur birder. Aging hiker.

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