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A Hatchet Job on Lizzie Borden?

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This past Saturday, the Lifetime network aired its controversial new made-for-TV movie Lizzie Borden Took An Ax. Starring Christina Ricci as Fall River’s most notorious alleged murderess, the film was under a very big microscope by quite a few different communities of which I am a part–the paranormal field, local history buffs, and of course, all of us as SouthCoasters. Lizzie is OUR story, and we wanted to make sure any retelling of the tale fits our approval.

I didn’t get to watch the movie live when it aired, because it was on up against Spooky Southcoast. But I recorded it on my DVR and watched it Sunday morning. I had already seen numerous posts on social media complaining about it, from the choice of modern music for the soundtrack, to Ricci’s portrayal of Lizzie (one of my friends referred to it as “Wednesday Addams all grown up”). I began watching it, expecting to hate it, but instead, I just felt apathetic toward the whole thing.

Yes, there were several historical inaccuracies. The inexplicable absence of the uncle, John Morse, was one of them–especially since many people feel he played a part in the murders. Another was Emma Borden lying on the stand to protect her younger sister, telling the court it was her idea to burn the dress that Lizzie was wearing the day of the murders. And then there was the portrayal of the relationship between Lizzie and her father, Andrew Borden. There have long been rumors of an incestuous relationship between the two, and the film seemed to hint at something along those lines.

So for a while, I was pretty disappointed in the entire film, and just started hoping for better from the upcoming HBO miniseries starring Chloe Sevigny as Lizzie and produced by Tom Hanks. But then, in conversation with another friend, it finally hit me why we shouldn’t take this Lifetime movie as a slap in the face…

Because it’s a Lifetime movie.

We’re not talking about Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln here.

How can we expect hold the television home of woman-in-crisis films starring Valerie Bertenelli, Nancy McKeon and Tori Spelling to the same standards we would The History Channel? This is the network that has received over a decade’s worth of play out of a film called Mother May I Sleep with Danger.

So yes, there were some inaccuracies. Yes, certain elements were played up or even fabricated for a better story. Yes, there was music and other things that were woefully out of place for a film that takes place in 1892.

But in the end, so what? If it gets more people interested in Lizzie Borden, that’s a good thing. If they take a Lifetime movie to be Lizzie gospel, well at least it’s better than only knowing the old nursery rhyme.

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