There’s been an influx of fictionalized, true-life miniseries lately: from Inventing Anna to WeCrashed to The Dropout to Super Pumped. But none are as sensitive as the upcoming Hulu series The Girl From Plainville.
A brief recap: Elle Fanning plays Michelle Carter, the real-life teenager who was convicted of coercing her boyfriend Conrad Roy III into killing himself in a first-of-its-kind court case. The series follows Michelle in the events leading up to Conrad’s suicide and the landmark trial that follows. Check out the trailer (below) for some more context:
It’s a fascinating story, but it’s also a real story, and a fairly fresh one at that. And given that the show seems to center Michelle (it is called The Girl From Plainville, after all), Conrad’s mother Lynn St. Denis has some reasonable concerns that the show might glorify what Michelle did. Specifically, she told People she fears “there may be an attempt to defend some of her needless and evil actions.”
For their part, producer Patrick Macmanus defended the series to Entertainment Weekly. Speaking of Elle (who is also an exec producer on the project), he said:
“She wanted it to be an honest portrayal of not just these families and what they went through, but from what people are going through in general on a day-to-day basis when it comes to their mental health.”
He went on:
“At the end of the day, yes, I do want people to be entertained by the story, but more than anything, I hope that it’s the beginning of a conversation – that we help the conversation for everyone who’s affected by mental illness, not just teenagers.”
Early reviews of the show (which debuts March 29) may not assuage Lynn’s fears, but they do promise nuance and heartbreak. The Hollywood Reporter called the series “a compassionate and devastating portrait of two teens in trouble.” On the one hand, the review noted that Conrad (played by Colton Ryan) does “come to the fore as leading character in his own right” and that the show “takes pains not to romanticize or condone Michelle and Conrad’s choices.”
However, it also observed that the narrative complicates “the outside world’s understanding of Michelle as simply a villain and Conrad as her victim” and “ultimately offers no straightforward answers” about her character.
The silver lining for Conrad’s family is that the show may draw attention to their efforts to have suicide coercion criminalized in Massachusetts, Lynn explained to People. A proposed bill called Conrad’s Law would enact a penalty of up to five years in prison for acts similar to Michelle’s. (She was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2017 and spent 11 months in prison.)
Reflecting on her advocacy for the legislation, Lynn shared with People:
“I wanted to make a point that his life mattered, and that was the most important thing to me. I wish I knew how he felt when she was messaging that whole month . I wish I knew what he was thinking. Was she really a friend, or did she really care about him? I mean, for someone to do what she did, how could he think that she cared?”
She went on:
“He was just a vulnerable teenager that suffered from social anxiety and depression. … You never know how badly someone is hurting, despite what they show on the exterior.”
Of course, this situation is still so devastating for Conrad’s parents. It does call into question the ethics of turning another person’s trauma into entertainment for an audience.
What do U think Perezcious readers, is a story like Conrad and Michelle’s fair game? Or should Hollywood be treating these real-life tragedies (particularly ones from recent memory) with more respect? Let us know your thoughts in the comments (below).
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
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