A half hour screenplay
by Phil Mershon
ON SCREEN IN WHITE LETTERING AGAINST BLACK FIELD:
Regina Lucas, “The Damned Truth,” TRN Broadcast, 9/12/01.
VOICE-OVER BEGINS AS SCREEN ABOVE DISPLAYS AND CONTINUES AS WE VIEW A PANORAMA OF THE McDOWELL-EASTMAN ACADEMY GROUNDS, AT FIRST IN THE UPWARDLY MOBILE CLEAN AS A HOUND’S TOOTH MANNER FOUND IN TRAVEL BROCHURES, YET INCREASINGLY INTER-CUT WITH FLASH STILLS OF THE BLOODY BODIES OF VICTIMS OF A SLAUGHTER. THE THEME MUSIC REMAINS MUZAK-LIKE THROUGHOUT SO THAT THE IMAGES HIT THE MIND AT FIRST ONLY SUBLIMINALLY AND THEN FINALLY WITH SOME SENSE OF HORROR OR NAUSEA. THE PANORAMA ENDS AS REGINA LUCAS COMPLETES HER MONOLOGUE.
McDowell-Eastman had an excellent reputation. Shunning trendy elitism, the preparatory academy was open to future college students and careerists from any socio-economic group. Tuition costs were not prohibitive, thanks to endowments poured in by the Eastmans,and all that was required in financial expenses was five percent of the student’s family’s adjusted gross annual income. Of that five percent, half was held in a trust account eventually released to the student upon graduation as a way of defraying the costs of his or her presumed college education. This may have been one reason why the media came to call the school “progressive.” The term did not reflect any particular political agenda. In fact, according to most people TRN has questioned, the institution’s world view could be summed up best in its own concise (and now somewhat ominous)mission statement: “We prepare the spirits, minds, and bodies of our charges for excellence.”
HEAD-TO-CHEST SHOT OF JANET RESIN (WITH IDENTIFYING CAPTION BELOW) STANDING IN FRONT OF THE DOOR TO HER OFFICE, A FRAMING LOCATION WE BECOME AWARE OF ONLY AS THE CAMERA SLOWLY PULLS BACK, EVENUALLY PANNING/REPOSITIONING TO TAKE IN CORNY SCENES OF YOUNG STUDENTS SLAMMING LOCKERS, PUNCHING SHOULDERS, LAUGHING, AND POPPING ZITS. JANET IS SPEAKING TO A REPORTER NAMED CYNTHIA, WHO IS HOLDING THE MICROPHONE JANET SPEAKS INTO.
Janet Resin, Public Relations Officer, McDowell-Eastman Preparatory Academy, 9/12/01.
It is an understatement that more young people wanted to attend McDowell-Eastman than the school could reasonably serve. We receive tens of thousands of solicitations every year for enrollment. As happy as it would make us to honor each and every request, in the best interests of our students, we have reluctantly instituted a policy of limited enrollment. For your information, the freshman class is limited to 250, the sophomore class is capped at 225, the junior ceiling is 200, and our senior year graduation is a solid and consistent 150, yielding a total student capacity of a comfortable 825. Naturally, these figures mandate some level of attrition, which I will be happy to discuss with you, Cynthia. But if we may, let us first discuss the admissions process.
DAPHNE CARTER, A STUDENT, WALKS UP AND POSITIONS HERSELF IN FRONT OF JANET AND SO IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA. TURNING TO CYNTHIA THE REPORTER, DAPHNE CARRIES ON AS IF HER INTRUSION IS THE MOST NATURAL THING IN THE WORLD—AND IN THIS WORLD IT PROBABLY IS. BEHIND DAPHNE WE CATCH FAST SUBLIMINALS OF STUDENTS TRADING KNIVES, MAKING SUGGESTIVE HAND GESTURES TO ONE ANOTHER, A YOUNG LADY WHO UPON SEEING THE CAMERA EVIDENTLY TRIES TO AUDITION AS A DANCER, OTHER TYPES OF ABSURDITIES. WHEN SHE HITS THE WORD “INTRUSIVE,” THE VOICE IS STILL HERS, BUT WE FLASH CUT TO HER FATHER, MAKING AN ANGRY FACE, WADDING UP A FIST FULL OF FORMS TO COMPLETE, AND THROUGH GRITTED TEETH, SHOUTING THE SAME WORD. WE THEN FLASH CUT BACK TO DAPHNE.
My father was really put off by it in the beginning. He was just completely opposed, I guess probably because the school needed all this paperwork. They were just mad for documentation, you know? So my father said--what did he call it?--intrusive to ask for medical records, IQ scores, credit reports, whatever, for their files. I just wanted to get admitted.
FLASH-CUT TO DONALD NOTH, DRESSED IN DARK-SUITED METRO CONSERVATIVE SPLENDOR, SAYING HIS MONOLOGUE, BUT WITH AN ANNOYING TINGE OF GOTH METAL MUSIC SOMEWHERE IN THE ROOM. BY THE TIME HE GETS TO THE END, THE CAMERA HAS PULLED BACK FROM TIGHT CLOSE-UP TO NORMAL FRAME SHOT AND WE WATCH AS NOTH TURNS OPENS A DESK DRAWER, PULLS OUT A RADIO, AND TURNS IT OFF. THIS COULD ALSO BE ACCOMPLISHED BY HAVING THE INTERVIEWER INTERRUPT BY SAYING, “Excuse me, what is that?” TO WHICH NOTH COULD RESPOND IN THE SAME MANNER JUST DESCRIBED.
Donald Noth, Superintendent of Schools, 9/13/01.
McDowell-Eastman desired a mix, and we believed that by selecting people whose families scored high, medium, and low in the non-respective areas of health, intelligence, and responsibility,the result would be more diversity-balanced than by other types of indicators. So our Admissions Panel--who represent a diverse scope of backgrounds themselves--they and they alone admit a proscribed quantity of learning units--students--whose parents had, oh, let’s say for instance, excellent health, moderate intelligence and atrocious credit. We have twenty-seven different strata into which any given student could fall. I should say approximately the same number because the school did not wish to be bound and gagged, as it were, by the selection process. Occasionally, we would allow a slightly larger number of students from one stratum or another, if for no other reason than to make things work out mathematically.
Douglas Stewart, 18, McDowell-Eastman student, 9/12/01.
DOUGLAS STEWART MAY ONLY BE 18, BUT HE IS ONE JADED SOB. HIS TONE OF VOICE IS JUST THE SAFE SIDE OF OVER-REACHING. HE KNOWS HE’S GOOD AND LETS YOU KNOW IT TOO.
Believe me, that selection process they told you about is just a distraction. It’s not how you get in that’s important. I mean, there’s always rumors that it’s political. But I’ll tell you. The Admissions panel is one of the cleaner aspects of the school. That is not the story. The story is not how you get in. The story is how you stay in.
Janet Resin, Public Relations Officer, 9/13/01.
WE STILL GET REMINDED ONSCREEN OF HER IDENTITY AND POSITION. THIS TIME OUT, SHE LOOKS A BIT WEERIER THAN BEFORE, AND ALTHOUGH THE STUDENTS ARE OF HIGH SCHOOL AGE, THE BOYS AND GIRLS AROUND HER DURING THIS SLICE TUG ON HER DRESS FOR ATTENTION AS IF THEY WERE FIVE YEAR OLDS.
I am painfully aware of these unsubstantiated rumors and let me say this. There is absolutely nothing sinister or conspiratorial about it, as ninety-eight percent of the students here can attest. To that end, I have been advised by our legal counsel to request that those people making cowardly veiled accusations state their claims just a bit more clearly so that the school can initiate legal recourse.
Donald Noth, Superintendent, 9/22/01.
NOTH HAS CLEARLY BEEN MADE AWARE OF RESIN’S REMARK ABOUT SUING. WITHOUT TAKING HIS EYES OFF THE INTERVIEWER HE REACHES INTO HIS DESK AND PULLS THE PLUG ON THE GOTH METAL RADIO, SLAMMING SHUT THE DRAWER.
To my knowledge, there are no plans whatsoever to bring lawsuits against anyone for expressing an opinion about the cause of this tragedy. There is always an impulse at times like these to find someone to blame. I understand that kind of emotional reaction. Yet I would ask those people who are intent on blaming the Academy to consider whether such unfounded claims bring any solace to the families of the twelve dead students.
SLOW FADE VISUAL AND SOUND INTO TRUMPETS OF FUNERAL MUSIC, VERY SOFT. A SOLEMN MIST HANGS IN THE AIR AS CASKETS ARE LED OUT INTO THE BACKS OF HEARSES, ONE AFTER ANOTHER, CLICK CLICK CLICK. THE HEARSES ARE VIEWED AERIALLY IN ONE SOLID DRIVING DOWN SHOT AND THEN TWO AT A TIME THE HEARSES SEPARATE, ONE TO THE LEFT, ONE TO THE RIGHT, DRIVING OUT OF THE FRAME UNTIL THEY HAVE ALL MOVED ON TO THEIR RESPECTIVE BURIAL SITES. THERE IS NOTHING FUNNY IN THIS SCENE. THIS IS WHERE THE AUDIENCE MEMBER GETS THE IDEA THAT JUST MAYBE THIS AIN’T ALL THAT AMUSING.
Regina Lucas, “The Damned Truth,” 8/10/02.
THE PSYCHOLOGICAL FRAMING SHOULD BE ESTABLISHED BY THIS SCENE THAT LUCAS IS THE STABILIZING IMAGE/ENTITY IN THE FILM, SIMPLY BY BEING SMARTER AND ALSO BY RECURRING JUST WHEN WE NEED STABILITY. IN THIS SCENE, WHICH SHOWS LUCAS QUITE PENSIVE AT FIRST, SHE EVENTUALLY BECOMES—FROM THE VANTAGE OF HER ANCHOR DESK (IN THE STYLE OF BILL MOYERS) INCREASINGLY ANNOYED/DISGUSTED WITH WHAT SHE IS BEING COMPELLED TO SAY. THIS HEIGHTENS OF COURSE WHEN SHE IS FORCED TO SAY “TIT-FUCKED BY LIBYIANS” NO LESS THAN THREE TIMES. BY THE THIRD OCCASION, SHE CUPS HER OWN BREASTS WITH HER ELBOWS JUST TO DRIVE HOME HOW MUCH SHE DESPISES WHOEVER IS DIRECTING HER BEHAVIOR. MEANWHILE, WHEN SHE REACHES THE PHRASE “ULTIMATE MASSACRE,” THE TICKER-CRAWLER APPEARS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE SCREEN, ANNOUNCING THAT VIDEO OF “ULTIMATE MASSACRE” WILL BE AIRING ON E! TELEVISION—THE ANNOUNCEMENT FOLLOWED BY A SMILEY FACE ICON.
Maintaining one’s position as a student at McDowell-Eastman from one year to the next is an issue that has come under more scrutiny as federal investigators feel the pressure of the fact of the approaching anniversary of the slaughter of one dozen students here in the prosaic farm community of Nostalgia, Ohio. Over the past eleven months, the footage of what some have called the Ultimate Massacre has been aired literally hundreds of times to a world audience that nearly one year later still cannot quite comprehend what it is seeing. The media itself has taken its share of kicks and scratches for focusing so much attention on the murders and, as some of you may recall, one NBC News and Entertainment executive was fired when he responded to criticism for his decision to air a film of the killings by publicly stating that he would air a film of his own mother “being tit-fucked by Libyans if it brought higher advertising dollars.” You may also remember that a CNN official was summarily discharged for authorizing the telecast of the phrase “tit-fucked by Libyans” and then was immediately hired by the Fox Network once the phrase “tit-fucked by Libyans” began to be repeated by all the other major news organizations.
Wolfgang Pushkin, “Market Hegemony,” CNN, 12/2/01.
WOLFGANG IS CLEARLY MODELED ON LOU DOBBS. THE DIFFERENCE IS THAT HE COMES ON LIKE BILL O’REILLY—PISSED OFF ABOUT EVERYTHING WHETHER HE ACTUALLY CARES ABOUT THE SUBJECT OR NOT. HELEN MERELY SITS THERE AND NODS AGREEMENT WITH THE ABUSE SHE’S GETTING.
Helen, I want it understood that these latest claims about the film that Nuare Rothberg is credited with making are ridiculous. This kid has gotten his quota of fame for being one of the people atop the tower across the plaza who filmed the Ultimate Massacre in process. Fine. I have seen that footage more than a few times. The idea that the two point eight seconds that the girl with the Rotarian flag is visibly in the frame presents some kind of revelation is patently idiot--Helen: 5.2 seconds.--idiotic, as is the suggestion that anyone outside of McDowell-Eastman shares in the responsibility for this disaster. I for one believe the American people are tired of hearing about it. I am tired of hearing about it. The Saudis are tired—hell, the cameraman’s tired of it, aren’t you?
Christina Hellman, attorney for Nuare Rothberg, 12/2/01.
GLORIA ALLRED TYPE, EMPHASIZED BY BEING DRESSED ALL IN RED. CLEARLY WANTS MORE SCREEN-TIME THAN GIVEN IN THIS SEGMENT. SHE HOLDS UP A PINK EDITION OF DICKINSON’S POEMS AT THE APPROPRIATE MOMENT.
My client emphatically denies any admissions he may or may not have made to police officers about his tape of the so-called Ultimate Massacre being edited with subliminal recitations of the works of Emily Dickinson, or of any other poet.
Tanisha Rowan, “Star Crossed,” E!, 9/14/01.
TANISHA SITS ON A STOOL IN FRONT OF A PINK BACKGROUND, WEARING THE LATEST FASHION ATROCITY, CLEARLY SENDING THE MESSAGE THAT SHE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE STORY SHE IS “REPORTING.” SHE IS JOINED BY TODD, ALSO ON A STOOL, WHO CONTRUBUTES NOTHING TO THE PIECE OTHER THAN TO LISTEN TO TANISHA. ONCE SHE SAYS “LET’S TAKE A LOOK,” TODD’S HALF OF THE FRAME DISAPPEARS ANYWAY AND IS FILLED WITH THE INCIDENTS TANISHA IS DESCRIBING, ALTHOUGH WE NEVER QUITE LOSE SIGHT OF HER: SPLIT SCREEN, IN OTHER WORDS.
Now this is the first of the three tapes we received. Let’s take a look. This one looks like it’s shot from a bridge or a tower. There! Look! You can see the entrance to the school across the campus, and there! That looks like one of the shooters! Wait. Wait. You know what? That’s very good camera work. We need to give this guy a job in the studio here. Okay. Now that’s some type of automatic rifle. Wow. He’s really being knocked back with the recoil, huh? Good thing he’s got a wall behind him or he’d be grilled cheese. That reminds me: Todd, what’s all this talk about Libyan breast implants? (no response) Oh! See that? Okay, now the camera guy is following the trail out to one of the victims. Wow. Nice shot of that head wound. Was that the freshman? Oops, looks like we’re panning up and over to look at the other two camera operators. I think this may be the first time three people came together to film mass murderers in the act. This is very wild.
Detective Deeann Bonnell, 9/14/01.
TANISHA’S BAD TASTE ENTHUSIASM IS CONTRASTED IN THIS SCENE BY DETECTIVE BONNELL’S EXHAUSTED DISGUST. WE MOVE IN ON HER AT AN EXTREMELY SLOW PACE, ALMOST INDECIPHERIBLE, AND SUDDENLY REALIZE THAT SHE IS TERRIBLY MOVED BY THIS EXPERIENCE, YETAT THE SAME TIME, NEARLY BEYOND THE ABILITY TO FEEL.
If you want to know the truth, I hate this case. It’s one of the strangest cases I have ever investigated. So far I hate everyone we talked to who is involved in this thing. Anyway, to answer your question, our information is that three individuals who are not presently suspects apparently filmed the systematic execution of their own classmates. These films have been circulated among the media. Despite pleas from our office that airing these movies would impede our investigation, every recipient of the movies has seen fit to televise these murders with some regularity. This kind of response is exactly the attention these suspects are seeking, and so I would urge…
SHE JUST LEAVES THE THOUGT HANGING IN THE AIR, TOO TIRED AND SADDENED TO FINALIZE IT. WE HOLD ON HER IMAGE NEARLY TEN SECONDS. AT THE EIGHTH SECOND, THE FIRST FEW WORDS OF THE NEXT SCENE BEGIN, TEASING US INTO THE NEXT SCENE.
Interview with Angus Payne in Eighteen, 11/1/01.
THE INTERVIEWER IS OFF-CAMERA DURING THIS ODD EXCHANGE, ALTHOUGH WE OBVIOUSLY HEAR HIS OR HER VOICE. THE CAMERA APPROACHES ANGUS FROM A STEADY MOVING SERIES OF ANGLES, AS IF IT WERE A PHYSICIAN ATTEMPTING TO EXAMINE HIM. BUT WE STAY WITH HIM, UNCOMFORTABLY, THROUGHOUT THE EXCHANGE.
I’m not saying anything about the other two you people all think are in on this. Not because I’m a nice guy, either. I’m nice. I am the flesh of Satan and the spirit of Jesus Christ dying from temptation. I got the idea for what I did from competing with all those frog eyes for a spot in the senior class.
A. You know what it means. I’m the Devil, not a dictionary. It isn’t just the academic side of things you have to worry about. My grades are spawn good. Top three percent. Worship trees. But the school assesses how you’re doing in establishing contacts with influential karma karma sponsors. What kind of trophies you win. How many girls you nail.
A. No. Not really.
A. Cream me. The reason I did what I did was that I am a motive in search of a crime. Short cut the politics. Remove the stripes. If there were less kids in the competition, my chances go up. It’s exactly slackly what happens in business everyday, except they destroy minds instead of bodies. So what? You got any gum?
Q. Since you brought up the subject of your accomplices—
A. Bazooka Joe and Machine Gun Wally.
Q. You’re joking again.
A. I never said anyone was with me, Catfish.
Q. The video tapes clearly—
A. You can do anything you want with a camera.
Janet Resin, Public Relations Officer, 1/3/02.
JANET IS BACK IN HER FAMILIAR SETTING. WHEN SHE REACHES “WHETHER THESE TWO STUDENTS,” WE CUT TO FOOTAGE OF TWO YOUNG PEOPLE, HANDCUFFED, BEING ESCORTED BY POLICE OFFICERS INTO A DETENTION CENTER. ONCE THEY SEE THAT THEY ARE ON CAMERA, THEY BOTH SMILE BIG FOR THE CAMERA, AND ONE ACTUALLY DOES A FAST BIT OF SOFT-SHOE, FOR OUR PRESUMED ENTERTAINMENT. THE SCENE ENDS AT THE LAST WORD IN JANET’S MONOLOGUE.
McDowell-Eastman Preparatory Academy is encouraged by the capture of the other two guilty suspects in the senseless deaths of twelve of our students last September. Whether these two students share Mr. Payne’s confusing candor regarding the motive for this horrendous crime is yet to be seen. In the meantime, we would like to stress that the standards for advancement at our Academy are not only consistent with those of our Sister Academies in Europe and Asia, they were also made abundantly clear to the parents and legal guardians of the guilty suspects in this case. We feel, therefore, that any and all responsibility for the actions of a very small minority of our students belongs with those students and not with the McDowell-Eastman Preparatory Academy.
Marsh Lane, father of slain student, 1/3/02.
MARSH LANE IS ONE BITTER GUY: BITTER BEFORE THE SHOORTINGS, BITTER NOW, AND FOREVER BITTER. THE SHOOTINGS AND DEATHS HAVE MERELY GIVEN HIM AN OUTLET FOR HIS HOSTILITIES. NEVERTHELESS, HIS LAST SENTENCE SHOULD SPIRIT THE AUDIENCE.
What do I think they should do with them? I was thinking somebody could chum the waters and jam a five-prong fish hook down their throats and pull ‘em through a school of bull sharks. You TV people would get a kick out of that.
Douglas Stewart, 1/3/02.
JADED DOUGLAS RETURNS. THE SCENE IS SHOT IN HIS LIVING ROOM. AROUND HIM, HIS PARENTS ARE TAKING DOWN HOLIDAY DECORATIONS AND HIS LITTLE SISTER IS CHASING A CAT ACROSS THE ROOM.
Most people at the school know one another, at least well enough to speak. So, yeah, I know the three suspects. Angus, he was very funny most of the time. He was always slapping the wheels of his skateboard against something, but that’s about the worst thing you could say about him. He had a very fast sense of humor. Hilarious. But once in a while he’d go nuts on somebody, just totally furious, screaming right in your face. But he was definitely a bright guy. Jenny was like this stabilizing force in his life. If they were at a party, she was always right there with him, almost as if she knew he’d fall apart if she went to take a whiz. We all used to kind of laugh about that.
Daphne Carter, 1/3/02.
THE FEMALE SURFER WITH AMBITION RETURNS. THIS IS SHOT IN HER KITCHEN, WHERE HER FATHER (WHO LIKES TO WAD UP PAPERWORK), KEEPS SHOUTING THE WORD “INTRUSIVE” AS HE STAGGERS IN AND OUT OF THE ROOM. DAPHNE’S MOM OVER-SMILES AT THE CAMERA, WHICH KEEPS TRYING TO AVOID LETTING HER BECOME THE FOCAL POINT.
I never actually dated Allen Wright. We were friends, though, absolutely. My father hated him. I just cannot believe he might be involved in this. He was very sweet and a little shy. I think that’s why my father hated him. When Allen would call me up, he’d always spend five minutes apologizing for bothering me, even if he wasn’t. And when I called him, he was never doing anything. I’d say, so what are you doing? And he would always say, nothing. I mean, how can you always be doing nothing?
Al Washington, father of slain student, 1/3/02.
SCENE IS SHOT IN FRONT OF A CHURCH: SNOW ON GROUND, WIND IN AIR, LITE FLURRIES.
The Bible says lo and woe. I say kill anybody who kills one of yours. They killed my daughter. Legally, I should have a say in it. I say take their lives away.
Donald Noth, former Superintendent of Schools, 1/3/02.
NOTH, STANDING OUTSIDE HIS OFFICE THIS TIME (AND W/O MUSICAL ACCOMPANIMENT) APPEARS TEN YEARS OLDER. HE DELIVERS HIS LINES VERY STRAIGHT, YET SOMETHING ABOUT HIS DEMEANOR CAUSES US TO QUESTION HIS VERACITY. WE DON’T KNO WHY, BUT WE DO.
The tragic suicide of my wife, Naomi, has prompted me to resign my post with McDowell-Eastman Preparatory Academy effective immediately. I have no further comment.
Wolfgang Pushkin, 1/3/02.
BACK TO CROSSFIRE MEETS LOU DOBBS: HELEN LAPS UP THIS ABUSE AS IF SHE SECRETLY ENJOYED IT.
Anyone, Helen, and I do mean anyone, who ignores the coincidence between the suspicious death of Naomi Noth and the murders a few months ago at Donald Noth’s school is either an intellectual coward or a bandage boy for your type of card-carrying liberals. Your entire political platform has collapsed, Helen, and it’s a shame it took so many deaths for all your supporters to finally wake up.
Christina Hellman, 1/7/02.
GLORIA ALLRED’S TWIN, THE LAWYER, ALSO CONDUCTING IN FRONT OF A CHURCH. SEVERAL REPORTERS WITH MIC’S SURROUND HER. INTERESTINGLY, SHE IS WEARING A T-SHIRT THAT SAYS “I LOVE,” BENEATH WHICH IS THE IMAGE OF A LIBYAN FLAG. MERELY AN INSIDE JOKE FOR THE TRULY TUNED-IN, PLUS AN INDICATION AS TO HOW PERVASIVE STUPOD MEDIA GLITCHES CAN BE IN CATCHING ON WITH THE HOI POLLOI.
My client, Nuare Rothberg, has entered into a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. In accordance with the terms of this agreement, Mr. Rothberg pleads guilty to one count of accessory before the fact in the death of Colin Whitney. No other charges are or will be forthcoming. In exchange for a sentencing recommendation of two years, Mr. Rothberg has agreed to testify in Federal Court regarding whatever knowledge he may have as to the actions of Allen Wright, Angus Payne, and Jennifer Cloud on September 11, 2001.
Q. What about the other two students who filmed the massacre?
Q. Are they also pleading guilty?
Q. What kind of arrangements have they made?
A. You will have to speak with their attorneys for any specifics.
Q. We’re asking you.
A. It is my understanding that they will also be called to testify and that their testimony will support that of Mr. Rothberg.
Todd Martin, “Night Hook,” 3/28/02.
TODD MARTIN, WHO IS FASHIONED SOMEWHAT AFTER TED KOPPEL, SITS UPON HIS DESK WITH HIS LEGS DANGLING IN THE FOREGROUND. BEHIND HIM IS THE BALCK-AS-NIGHT BACKDROP, WITH DIAMOND-SIZED STARS TWINKLING IN ARTIFICIAL GLORY.
As the trial of three Ohio students is set to begin tomorrow morning, we have assembled a distinguished panel of journalists to provide a definitive answer to one simple question: As the trial of the century takes shape, has the media gone too far in its coverage of the events in Nostalgia?
Yuma Creek, 23, actor, 3/28/02.
YUMA, FASHIONED AFTER RIVER PHOENIX—AND SO PERHAPS SHOULD BE NAMED CREEK YUMA—STANDS DURING THE INTERVIEW OUTSIDE A NIGHTCLUB, FROM WITHIN WHICH SEVERAL MEN AND WOMEN CAN BE HEARD CALLING HIS NAME IN A DRUNKEN SILLINESS INAPPROPRIATE TO HIS DISCUSSION. DURING THE INTERVIEWER’S SOLE QUESTION, YUMA PULLS A FLASK FROM HIS JACKET POCKET AND GULPS APPRECIABLY.
People will forget the positive things about the school. I went there for four years. I feel I learned things. I had experiences that students who didn’t have those advantages might have missed out on. How many schools do you know that teach advanced calculus at nine o’clock and barrel racing at ten? How many schools have had so many well-known graduates? Not that that’s the important thing, but I guess it means something. I didn’t come from a wealthy family. We didn’t have much. I turned out okay.
Q. Some of the recent notoriety is not the kind I would want.
A. What did you say?
Patrick Hahn, founder, Heaven House, 12/24/02.
THIS ROTUND, JOLLY AND SINCERE DISCIPLE HAS TWO BLACK WOMEN TO HIS LEFT AND RIGHT, DEVOTEES OF HIS MESSAGE, AS WELL AS PLOYS IN HIS SHAMELESS ATTEMPTS TO CO-OPT CHRISTIAN IMAGERY FOR HIS PERPETUAL TELETHON. “AMEN’S” ARE HEARD AT THE END OF HIS SCENE.
Our position is this. The three defendants have been found guilty and sentenced to death. One of those defendants, Allen Wright, has repented of his sins and allowed the joy of Jesus to enter into his heart. We do not oppose the execution of Jennifer Cloud and Angus Payne. We do question the benefit of exterminating the sole perpetrator in this affair who has accepted Christ as his Lord and Personal Savior.
Rudolph Myotravski, psychotherapist, 12/24/02.
IF THIS THERAPIST IS OLDER THAN EIGHTEEN, IT WOULD BE SURPRISING. HE IS SO CLEAN-CUT, IN FACT, THAT HE MAKES THE MINISTER LOOK LIKE A PHILANDERER. HIS MANNER IS THAT OF SOMEONE EDUCATED BEYOND HIS YEARS. DURING THIS MONOLOGUE, HE PLAYS WITH A LARGE RING SHACKLED TO HIS INDEX FINGER.
The playwright George Bernard Shaw said that capital punishment would only be effective if it were performed publicly, so people could see it and be deterred. I’m not sure what benefit people will gain from the televised executions of these three people. A sense of closure, I suppose, whatever that means.
Marsh Lane, 12/24/02.
STANDING OUTSIDE A PENITENTIARY IN THE NIGHT, LANE SPEAKS AS IF IN RESPONSE TO THE PREVIOUS SPEAKER…
If it was up to me, they’d all be injected with Liquid Drano. Merry Christmas, assholes.
Interview with Jenny Cloud, “Night Hook,” 12/24/02.
TODD MARTIN INTERVIEWS JENNIFER CLOUD, CONVICTED MURDERESS, INSIDE HER MAXIMUM SECURITY CELL. TODD STILL LOOKS A LOT LIKE ALFRED E. NEWMAN. JENNY’S HAIR IS FLAT PRESSED AGAINST HER HEAD, SHE WEARS MINIMAL MAKE-UP, AND APPEARS THIN AND FRAIL, DESPITE HER LIFELESS EYES. SHE IS FATIGUED, ACCEPTING OF HER FATE, AND RESOLUTELY EMPTY.
I don’t have any particular plans for the holidays. Someone said they’d be bringing in brownies. I might answer my emails. They’ve been piling up.
Q. What would you like to say to the families of the students you killed?
A. Sorry about that. (Chuckles) Nothing I could say would make any difference. It would only provoke more agony. We accomplished what we set out to do. I don’t want to hurt anybody else. I could be turned loose right now and I would never take another life. The pressure had built up and I needed a release.
Q. Can you explain that pressure?
A. [STARING DIRECTLY INTO THE CAMERA—SHE IS USING ALL HER REMAINING ENERGY TO MAKE THIS POINT, ONE WHICH TO HER IS CRUCIAL] Do you know what it’s like to want people to stare at you because you’re beautiful instead of because you’re a freak? Don’t you prefer to eat because the food is delicious instead of because you’re hungry? I gave a ton of love to this society and they spit in my face. I was bleeding and they thought it was funny. They’re going to kill a butterfly with napalm. I don’t care what they do. I’m beyond feeling. Those kids we killed during recess--well, recess is over.
AS WE HOLD ON HER FROZEN IMAGE, A BELL RINGS AND RINGS PROLONGEDLY, TO THE POINT OF AUDIENCE ANNOYANCE. HER IMAGE SLOWLY DISSOLVES AND WE REVERSE DISSOLVE INTO ONE SCENE OF CLOUD LYING DOWN ON THE MEDICAL TABLE IMMEDIATELY PRIOR TO HER EXCEUTION. AS THE STRAPS ARE PUT IN PLACE, WE SEE THAT WE HAVE ACTUALLY BEEN WATCHING ALLEN WRIGHT. THE PHYSICIAN INSERTS THE CANULA INTO HIS ARM AND RUNS THE POISON IV. PULLING BACK AGAIN WE SEE THAT WE HAVE BEEN WATCHING ANGUS PAYNE. ANGUS LOOKS UP AT THE CEILING—PRAYING? DEFYING? WAITING FOR INTERVENTION? THE ANSWER IS DELIBERATELY AMBIGUOUS. BEFORE THE “MEDICINE” CAN HAVE ITS EFFECT, WE FADE TO BLACK AND HOLD FOR A COUNT OF SEVEN, THEN RECOIL IN THE BRIGHTNESS OF THE NEXT SCENE.
Regina Lucas, “The Damned Truth,” 1/1/03.
AGAINST A BACKGROUND OF ALMOST HORRIFYING SUNLIGHT, WE BEGIN ON A TIGHT SHOT OF REGINA, ONE WHICH SLOWLY PULLS BACK, REVEALING HER TO BE SITTING OUTSIDE THE PRISON, THE EVENTUAL VASTNESS OF THE SCENE—AND HER MINIATURE POSITION IN IT—ALMOST TAKING PRIORITY OVER HER MESSAGE.
The long national nightmare is over. Shortly after midnight this morning Jennifer Cloud, Angus Payne and Allen Wright died by lethal injection. The executions were televised by every network in the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan. The sponsor of the world-casts, Langston Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer of the ethyl-cyanide used in the injections, reports the telecast received the largest market share in the history of television, with a record 2.8 billion homes tuned to the grisly affair. Yet the sensational story may not be quite over, as reports of a possible spiritual resurrection of Allen Wright sent men and women with cameras to the Nostalgia Cemetery where the deceased murderer and born again Christian is expected to be interred.
OVER CLOSING CREDITS, WE END WITH THE MOST SWINGING VERSION OF “TAPS” EVER PUT TO MUSIC.