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08/16/2002 Entry: "Victimization"

Recent Rape Victims to host Prime Time series.
Phase 5 - The Fetishization of Victimization
by The People

Less than sixteen days after the dramatic abduction , rape and escape of two California teens, NBC has tentatavely inked the two girls to host a prime time "Reality" show called "Survive This"

Fiction writers throughout the the country throw up their hands, stultified.

"There is just nothing left in the realm of fiction that can compete with what is underway in the real world at the moment," said New York Writer Daniel Summers, "I mean, jet airliners slamming into the twin towers live and now, fresh rape victims hosting national TV series - It's just too wierd. Like the craziest thing Kurt Vonnegut could dream up."

Those sentiments were echoed by East Village author Derrick Colby, "The scriptwriters for the Illuminatti, who are the ones that are surely behind this recent dark period of history, have a certain taste for blood that you will not see even in the hardest of criminals in penitentiaries - The figures in the inner circle take the prize in terms of the bloody, grewsome nature of their particular ritualistic fetishes. This recent flood of child abductions is the work of the Illuminatti for sure."

Survive This!
The two girls kidnapped and raped in the Antelope Valley are set to go Hollywood.

NBC is poised to make a stunning announcement regarding Tamara Brooks and Jackie Marris, the two Lancaster teenagers who catapulted to fame after their August 1 abduction by career criminal Roy D. Ratliff, New Times has learned.

Although sources said a press conference isn't scheduled until next week, they confirmed that the network is continuing its relationship with Brooks and Marris by signing them to host their own prime-time reality show. Tentatively titled Survive This!, the show is slated as a mid-season replacement to debut during February sweeps.

NBC came under heavy criticism for courting the rape victims, who appeared on the network's Today show just after their rescue. Yet therapists and sex-crime experts consulted by New Times said NBC may actually have done the teens a service by exposing them to worldwide publicity.

"The network, of course, realized that it could get high ratings by putting these rape victims on camera, but it also helped them in the process," said nationally recognized psychologist Cindy Pequot. "They are going through the healing process by telling their story to millions of viewers, and that's a good thing."

Added the girls' newly hired publicist, Lynne Balzac, who coincidentally holds a master's degree in psychology, "It's easy for the public to question why Tamara and Jackie want to put themselves before the public eye again and again, but I have one word for what the girls get out of this, and that's closure. In fact, I'd call having your own television show closure with a bonus, wouldn't you?"

Other mental-health professionals told New Times that trauma victims don't really need extended private healing time, as psychologists and psychiatrists once believed. All the media exposure, plus the seven-figure deal each of the girls is expected to get from NBC for the reality program, will go a long way toward helping them to feel better, the experts insisted.

"Look, I wouldn't want this to happen to my son or daughter," said UCLA Rape Prevention Services director Martin Finoogian, "but you have to think of how fast Roy D. Ratliff will fade from their minds when these two girls are faced with the pressures of not tanking in the ratings so they can keep those million-dollar paydays coming in."

Survive This! will feature the crime victims introducing a new slate of contestants each week in what promises to be a show that will push the already expansive boundaries of reality television. NBC staffers, who asked that their names not be published, described the concept as "groundbreaking," "alarming" and "actually kind of sick."

"I'd say it's Survivor meets Hannibal Lecter," said one network executive, who described a frenzy of activity at NBC's Burbank studios as everybody gears up for the program. "Frankly, we couldn't not do this show after the kind of summer we've had. I mean, the news guys have gone wall to wall lately on all of these kidnappings and murders.

"You can't believe the numbers they put up during the Runnion thing," he said, referring to the kidnapping and murder of five-year-old Samantha Runnion in Orange County. "And the mother! Jeez, you just can't find more compelling television!"

He continued, "I mean, Tamara and Jackie, their story just couldn't have unfolded more dramatically for TV. The Amber Alert [highway crime-warning] system had been put online, what, an hour before the girls were abducted? And the pursuit and shootout, the stories of the girls struggling to get away as they were being driven to their supposed deaths. I don't know who said it, but as soon as someone down here muttered, "We couldn't have scripted this thing any better,' I think we all had the same thought: Why the hell not?!"

Survive This! will be much more difficult to cast and produce than other reality shows because the winnowing down of contestants will be a twofold process.

"On the one hand, we will have to go through thousands of videotapes sent in by teenagers who desperately want one thing more than any other -- stardom," said the show's producer, Billy Slattery, the only person connected with Survive This! who would speak on the record. "Sure, you might question Tamara and Jackie's parents for letting them go on national television literally hours after they were sexually molested by a multiple felon, but when Tamara told the L.A. Times "I guess you could say I'm like a celebrity,' wasn't that right on the mark? And, you know, who could blame her? You have to understand what a little television time means to kids. I know I'm not going to stand in their way."

As he sifts through the tapes, Slattery said, he'll be looking for star potential and attractive faces, like those of the hosts. "Good looks definitely don't hurt when you're looking at putting people on TV. And to put it bluntly, jailbait sells! One thing you've got to say for Ratliff -- he may have been a psycho with a deathwish, but at least he had good taste in victims."

But selecting a pool of dozens of eager and comely contestants out of thousands of potential candidates is only half of his headache, the producer said.

"Then you've got the other pool. We're getting considerable cooperation from the State of California, which, it turns out, is desperate to parole multiple offenders like Ratliff. Overcrowding or something, I think Governor Gray Davis' office said. But some of these guys just don't look the part. And some, after rotting in prison for a decade or two, have lost that fire down below and just aren't the predators they once were, if you know what I mean."

But sources at NBC said that by the time shooting starts in a couple of months, casting difficulties will be solved.

"I tell you the part I'm looking forward to most. Each week, Tamara and Jackie will share with contestants and the public the techniques they learned when they fought off Ratliff," said the network executive. "Now, if that's not public service, I don't know what is!"

NBC is keeping Brooks and Marris under wraps until the press conference. Consequently, they couldn't be reached for comment for this article.

Survive This! contestants will be briefed by the girls before they are helicoptered to a remote, secret location. If things go according to plan, NBC will have placed several paroled repeat sex offenders in various locations miles from the drop zone. The contestants will have 48 hours to find safety at a remote building made to resemble a rural sheriff's station. NBC hasn't decided who will portray the show's "sheriff," but staffers said overtures have been made to both Orange County sheriff Mike Carona and Kern County sheriff Carl Sparks.

"Who knew these guys would turn out to be so good on television?" said the NBC executive. "I just hope we can get one of them!"

Taking a page from Survivor, the Survive This! team plans to make ample use of Steadicams, infrared lenses and "confessional" video techniques. But in a Blair Witch twist, contestants will be given their own cameras to document their terrifying ordeals. "We actually got that idea after hearing the stories told by Jackie and Tamara," Slattery said. "We realized that viewers missed out big-time because the girls had no video of Ratliff inside the van. That would've been juicy! We're not gonna let that happen again."

Asked if he's worried about the implications of unleashing career criminals on young victims for the sake of entertainment, the network exec threw up his hands. "You have to give the people what they want! And what they want, frankly, is graphic TV. We're in the television business, and this show will benefit NBC on a lot of different levels. Think of the tie-ins we'll be able to do with the local news programs, not to mention the kind of things we'll be able to do with ET and Access Hollywood. I can see a screaming Pat O'Brien running from a violent perp as he takes part in a little first-person journalism."

Choosing winners, said Slattery, will be the trickiest part. "We're still debating that. Is it the most harrowing escape? Is it the contestant who escapes the most unscathed, or the one who escapes the most, well, scathed? Clothes getting ripped of would boost ratings.

"We're toying with a celebrity panel to decide the winner," he said. "Katie Couric [who interviewed the girls on Today] would be a natural for this. We might want to include a rape expert to provide useful commentary for the public."

The aforementioned Pequot (self-dubbed "rape counselor to the stars") told New Times she has been approached, but admitted she's wary about the show.

"I'm just not sure what the message of this program will be," she said. "On the one hand, I suppose it's about Tamara and Jackie showing how empowered they are by fame, and to that I say, "You go, girls!' But, on the other, do we really need to make more rape victims famous? That would tend to dilute the celebrity of being a victim of sexual assault, wouldn't it? I mean, everybody remembers Richard Hatch, who won on the first Survivor series. But can you name the woman who won the next one? Or any of the other winners? After a while, the public loses interest. Tamara and Jackie are just lucky they got there first."

http://www.newtimesla.com/issues/2002-08-15/faultlines.html/1/index.html | originally published: August 15, 2002

Viewer Commentary: 4 comments

If enough people just say no to all the crap on TV, Radio, Newspaper, Magazines and speak loudly of the deception in Washington - it will catch on... Remember Network -- truly a movie for our time... I for one am not going to take it anymore - shove cable up their rears...

Posted by Power to stop the madness @ 08/16/2002 10:50 PM EST

It's a sad commentary on the state of our society that I had to read over half of this before I realized it was satire.

Posted by chris @ 08/16/2002 11:19 PM EST

hey man, gives me something to do all day.

Posted by paul from cell block 9 @ 08/22/2002 01:45 PM EST

They're cancellng Farscape and yet they're gonna shovel this down our throats?

Posted by King Arthur @ 09/09/2002 11:27 PM EST

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