Do beds have to burn across the country or what?

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When most people hear the late Farrah Fawcett’s name, more than likely they think famous hair, sexpot, pin-up beauty, Lee Majors’ wife, Charlie’s Angel, icon. I did too, but only until, as a young mother back in the 90s, I saw some of her films.

Then I added another word to the pile. Brilliant.

Whether portraying a narcissistic mother who sacrifices her children for a relationship and has facial expressions that chill your blood (Small Sacrifices, 1989, my favorite), a battered wife abandoned by everyone who could have helped her, or an assault victim who makes her attacker sorry he ever chose her, there was no fluff to Fawcett’s acting. She gave those cameras life.

I revisited two Fawcett movies back to back on MGM·HD this past Saturday afternoon — Extremities (1986) and The Burning Bed (1984). My mom was a top bowler for some 30 years of her life, and Fawcett’s character “Francine” in The Burning Bed always makes of me think of a longtime teammate and friend Mom had who pretty much lived that movie way back when.

I can’t remember her name, but she served years in prison for killing her abusive husband.

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In the movie, Francine’s mind snapped after a final beating. She doused the floor around their bed with gas and set it on fire with her husband asleep in a drunken stupor to stop him from dragging her back yet again, and ran with her kids. Mom’s teammate, while certainly under unbearable duress and post-traumatic stress, made the decision that she was done in a moment of quiet and clarity. And later, after a last drunken beating, tied her husband’s wrists to their bedposts while he was out cold, set their bed on fire, and then immediately turned herself in to the police.

She had factored her survival rate with the ever-increasing brutality, the law on his side, and folks looking the other way (0%) versus her survival rate at the mercy of the courts and prison inmates but with him gone (much higher). Hubby lost.

She did her time, came out much older, and started life over again. One of the places she landed was my mom’s 4-woman team in a Brunswick bowling league.

I said all of that to say this.

Things are a lot different now than back then (The Burning Bed helped that along). There are organizations for battered women, places to get help, laws that have been passed, and activists and movements and awareness up the ass, not to mention the Internet. So, why is it that domestic violence (not to mention domestic murder) continues to increase? Why is it an epidemic? Why are men still beating the hell out of their women as if it’s no big deal? (not excusing women who batter their partners, they’re on the hook, too)

Is “making a difference” just so much lip service and bullshit? Do we really want to change for the better as human beings, or just look cool sitting on the bandwagon?

You tell me.

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