Growing up in the ‘90s, I clearly recall learning about Lorena Bobbitt and the horrendous act she did to her husband, John Wayne Bobbitt. I’d listen to jokes about Lorena and how many men would tremble just hearing her name. Lorena would be famously known for being the woman who cut off her husband’s penis. At such a young age, I couldn’t comprehend why something this extreme would’ve occurred; sadly, the media would successfully convince me that Lorena was a jealous woman whose craziness was such that would lead her to commit this crime. I never took time to research this case, so all my knowledge was based on my family’s opinions and the media. This docuseries would provide a platform for Lorena to tell her story, which will resonate with many women.
I discovered the docuseries “Lorena” on Amazon and decided to watch it. Now that I’m a married woman with four daughters, I’d be watching this series with a completely different lens. “Lorena” is a docuseries narrating one of the most well-known cases from the 1990s, the Bobbitt trial. Directed by Joshua Rofe and executive produced by Jordan Peele, this series investigates the series of events told from the perspectives of Lorena, John, their respective attorneys and some witnesses.
The docuseries begins with the night of the incident, and what I thought would be a recollection of events and a summary of this case would turn into an entirely different series: A series composed layers of social injustices, domestic violence, media coverage (how and why), immigration, misconceptions and different stories and angles never before known because the media decided it wasn’t “important.” It’s an understatement to say this series has given me a whole new perception of media coverage, women’s rights and this case.
The docuseries is formed of four parts, with each episode being one hour long. The first part, titled “The Night Of,” summarizes the events that occurred on the night of the incident. Interviews with police officers, detectives, dispatchers, friends and respective attorneys reveal that John and Lorena would recall their own series of events. With a series of archival footage and audio of the police reporting the incident, this episode successfully lays out how that night unfolded. For anyone who isn’t aware of this case, episode one brilliantly informs the viewer about the series of events The viewers who are aware of this case, this episode will certainly hook you into the series. This episode gives John the platform to tell the series of events from his lens; he also recollects how and when the couple first met leading to their wedding day.
The second part, titled “A Woman in Trouble,” would reveal everything Lorena had experienced during the marriage. As the title suggests, this episode gives Lorena the platform to provide details about her marriage. Also, in the eyes of the media, she would be looked upon as a jealous, crazy woman who had committed a barbaric act. Simultaneously, we witness John’s trial after he was accused of rape. Frankly, my mind was boggled while I was watching this series, as many talk shows would automatically take sides without knowing the entirety of the story. Some scenes of famous comedians (Robin Wiliams and Whoopi Goldberg) would also make an appearance as a direct representation of the magnitude and mainstream attention of this case. However, this episode would direct the attention where the media failed to do so: domestic violence. Graphic pictures of battered women, including Lorena, and statistics of the number of women who’ve been killed as a result of domestic violence is impactful.
Episode three, titled “An Irresistible Impulse,” focuses on Lorena’s trial and several events co-occurring. As the witnesses take the stand to declare their testimony I couldn’t help but wonder how many women had experienced a situation similar to this one. If it wasn’t enough with the poor image the media imposed on Lorena, they brought her immigrant status and her ethnicity into play. Many outlets would describe her as a heated Latin woman who knew no limits. One specific event that moved me was seeing the Latino community unite to support Lorena, who is Ecuadorian.
As a fellow Latina, it was impressive to see our community gather to support Lorena. In addition, the support extended to fellow Latinos around the country, who wanted to physically support Lorena . They’d do so by offering rides or providing information via radio or other forms of media. This episode shines more light on domestic violence and how the response to it changed after the Bobbitt case. Politicians proposed bills to aid women in domestic violence, police personnel required improved training to handle domestic violence cases — and these are just a few ways this case would change future cases. For the first time, men were scared (or worried) about the possible consequences of abusing a woman.
The last episode, titled “The Cycle of Abuse,” follows Lorena and John after the court trials were over and the events that occurred years after, leading to the current day. The final verdict on Lorena’s trial is decided, followed by what she’d experience as a consequence of the verdict. The public was asked their opinions on the verdict (showcasing their level of knowledge about the case). It also contains a detailed outline of the way the media decided to portray this entire case. Lorena was showcased as a crazed, jealous woman who mutilated her husband, because these outlets wouldn’t allow their journalists to write about domestic violence. The media chose to pay greater attention to Lorena’s actions instead of what led to those actions. This episode would be the most shocking, considering I wasn’t aware of any of those events.
“Lorena” educated me on the details of this case, in addition to the different ways politicians would address women’s issues. Having four episodes in this series was perhaps the best way to approach this story. It allowed for all perspectives to be heard and to provide their evidence to this case. The pace was good, and overall it was well made, with a combination of graphic photos (yes, a picture of the amputated penis is shown), court videos, old interviews with both Lorena and John, and interviews with everyone who was once involved in the case. Evidence was presented for the viewer to make their own conclusion; it never took sides. This case may have occurred in the ’90s, yet it couldn’t be more relevant right now.
With the “Me Too” movement currently happening, this docuseries will make you question how and if addressing these issues have evolved? Has anything changed since this case was on television? Or were we only morbidly entertained with the actual pain and trauma of this couple? The only way to find out is to watch this series and draw your own conclusions. The number of graphic photos and explicit details about the abuse and rape may be uncomfortable to many, so discretion is advised.
If you have heard about the case and have only obtained its details from the media, then this series may open your eyes to everything else that was left out. If you’re someone who’s a supporter and/or advocate of women’s rights then this case is a must-watch.
“Lorena” is streaming on Amazon Prime.
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Featured image credit: Pictured, Lorena Bobbitt | Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios
Rosa is a Chicana film reviewer who’s an East Los Angeles native. Currently working on her Film and Media Studies degree at ASU, and her work is found in various sites, she’s also an active member of several groups and associations (HCA, OAFFC, WFCC, and Film Independent). When not working her day job, she’s watching and discussing movies.