Wednesday, May 11, 2005


Wow. It doesn't really occur to you that the father would kill his own daughter and her friend until it occurs to you. And then, when you think about it, it makes some sense. But not nearly enough.

Zion, along Lake Michigan, was founded in 1901 by a religious faith healer. It has about 22,000 residents but retains a quiet — at times, rural — feel despite being on the edge of both the Chicago and Milwaukee metropolitan areas.

I'd like to make a statement. That statement is this: rural fucked-up-ness is way more interesting than urban fucked-up-ness. There seems always to be some element of religion in the Midwest outposts where these horrible events occur, combined with the despair of not knowing a world besides hard work, trailer homes, prison, potholes, vacant buildings, and church. Add a dash of psychosis that can assume one of two faces - religious fervor or physical and sexual violence (and at times a face that assumes both) - and you get a pretty boozy cocktail of Lynchian proportions.

This story reminds me of the amazing documentary Paradise Lost: Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (as well as its sequel, Revelations). If you haven't seen these films, get off your lily white ass and rent them. Or Netflix them - whatever you internet-savvy assholes are into nowadays. Another documentary that I believe really gets down to the gloomy existence of the sick and twisted and depraved and pathetic and unknown to the world-at-large life of the rural poor (and mentally ill) is Stevie. Just see it, you assheads. And know that though my life in Indiana was never like that, I did know people whose lives were not too disimilar from Stevie's life and his family's.

Ultimately, that's why the underbelly and depravity of the criminal and poverty-stricken rural underclass is more interesting. Because in the big city, nobody cares. It's too big. It's expected. Big cities are where horrible things happen, or at the least where we expect them to happen. But in little towns, these problems are our problems. There aren't welfare offices, there are church basements. When someone's down on their luck, someone tries to find them a job. And when someone molests a little girl and shoots a sheriff, it may be one of the girls you teach in your P.E. class or the deputy that lives down the block from you.

Basically, what I'm trying to say is that I have no idea what I'm trying to say. But I do like films that are dark and twisted and are about the Midwest and crazy people and crazy things. I don't like when it happens in real life. But I will watch the documentary.


King Koopa said...

How does a movie like "Gummo" fit into that aesthetic? It's essentially the rural version of "Kids" (which I secretly liked).

I hated Gummo but, I'm curious what you thought of it. It seemed exploitive to me, didn't show any love for any characters whatsoever.

Mathis said...

Gummo is an awful movie. Not only is it exploitive, as you mentioned, it's just a horribly made film. I'd say that Boys Don't Cry is a better movie (if we're talking narrative and not documentary) but still doesn't capture the essence of how truly bizarre parts of America can be quite like the non-fiction films I mentioned.

Trevor Jackson said...

As someone who's come back to the Midwest, I'd like to point out that this psycho comes from Texas. Yes, he may have found a spiritual home in Zion that mirrored his Texas roots, but those roots were still Texas roots.

Not that the Midwest doesn't have its Gacys and Dahmers and especially its Stevies, I'm just sayin': Texas's wide-open spaces seem to breed a whole lot more child killers than our relatively smaller wide-open spaces.

Where was that woman from that drowned her five kids? You guessed it.

Awbnid said...

Funny. I've always associated that sort of culturally inbred weirdness-- which I find strangely attractive, by the way-- with the Flannery O'Connor / Faulkner south. Or Appalachia. Not the mid-west.

I guess no region has that market cornered.

T.S. Farmhand said...

I used to think that poverty + isolation was the not-so-secret recipe for crazy weird violence. But over the years I've come to find out that wealthy, educated people also murder each other in bizarre ways, join cults, and commit insane acts of physical and mental violence upon each other. The difference is that the wealthy educated people have good lawyers and a culture of hushing things up. When something like this happens in a small town, everyone immediately knows about it instantly, and--as those midwestern poets known as REO Speedwagon once said--"talk is cheap when the story is good / And the tales grow taller on down the line."

I'm just sayin'.

Mathis said...

Explaining the meaning of my post with a line from REO Speedwagon is why I need, and have missed, T.S. Farmhand on my site.