THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT INCEST
Malcolm and I stumbled across this great British TV series called Patrick Melrose starring Benedict Cumberbatch. We had actually been looking for another film that Cumberbatch narrated, a biography of Thich Nhat Hanh, Walk with Me (‘Yoga teacher’ is my other vocation).
Patrick Melrose is based on a series of semi-autobiographical novels about Britain's upper class by Edward St Aubyn. In the 1980s, a wealthy Englishman attempts to overcome his addictions and demons rooted in the sexual abuse at his father’s hands and the repudiating negligent mother. The script and the performances are stellar.
However, I have tended to avoid stories/movies about childhood abuse. There is the ‘disturbing’ factor, yes. But there is mostly that feeling of being overwhelmingly appalled. Even having gone through it -- even having written a novel on the topic -- I still find it incomprehensible that an adult can do this to a child.
Even more incomprehensible is how this subject of incest still hides in the dark shadows. Daddy is the real monster under the childhood bed.
Even in the #metoo age, which is about what adult men do to adult women, little is being said about what adult grandfathers/fathers/uncles/brothers do to infant/toddler/prepubescent/teen-age female relatives. Everywhere. In all countries and cultures. At every level of society.
A ‘blankie’ of silence.
So Patrick Melrose is a relevent TV series for many reasons. And while I was watching it I remembered a movie I had seen years ago.
There’s Something About Amelia is a 1984 American television movie. In the story shame and fear have kept Amelia Bennett (Roxana Zal) silent about the sexual molestation she's been suffering at the hands of her father, Steven (Ted Danson). But as Amelia starts to believe that Steven might harm her younger sibling in similar ways, she unburdens herself of her awful secret. Confronted with this horrifying piece of news, Steven's wife, Gail (Glenn Close), can't believe it's true, and he professes his innocence. But as new details emerge, the family is shaken to its core.
I recommend you watch it.
Many of you will react by asking many questions. How could he do that? Why did she keep silent? Why didn’t her mother believe her?
But I am reminded of my first public reading from my novel, Both Sides Now, at a small NDG venue. I was one of at least 8 presenters and there were only about 30 attendees, mostly strangers’ family and friends. After the event a young woman came up to me and said, “My father’s name was Sam also.” I don’t think I handled her disclosure very skillfully. It was a first for me and I was surprised more than anything. But I never stopped thinking about her and now that my book has been published, I hope she finds it.
Unfortunately, many of you will already have answers, very personal answers, to the questions above. Many of you are the living reality of that statistic of as high as 20% of father-daughter incest, which is the most commonly reported and studied form of incest.
There is Something About Amelia was the most-watched network television show in the United States for the week of January 9-15, 1984. It won many awards. But I don’t remember any of us talking about it.
Not surprising so many watched it; not surprising there was so little discussion.
There’s just something about incest.