Hi Readers! Thanks to one of you recommending this film — “Indictment: The McMartin Trial” — my husband and I just watched it today (a mere decade and a half after it came out, on HBO). Now all I can say is: Put it at the top of your Netflix cue.
As Wikipedia puts it so pithily:
A defense lawyer (played by James Woods) defends an average American family from shocking allegations of child abuse and Satanic rituals. After six years and $16 million, the trial ends with the dismissal of all charges.
Along the way, we watch pedophile panic seize the city, the country, the courts and the media. Almost unquestioningly, they accept the idea that dozens and dozens of children were raped and tormented by all the McMartins (even the old lady in the wheelchair), who were also supposedly busy making kiddie porn, taking the children to orgies at the car wash, and lopping the ears off bunnies, whose blood they guzzled.
Tot orgies at the car wash? Dead daycare bunnies? The stories are sickeningly reminiscent of the testimony at the Salem Witch trials, where witnesses swore they saw one “witch” turn herself into a cat, while others flew through the sky.
In modern-day L.A., as in Salem, a good portion of the public lapped it up (like bunny blood!). And today, even though the McMartin case was settled in 1990, it echoes in our collective eyebrow-raise at the idea of a man working in day care, or even in the idea of trusting ANYONE with our precious children. Because…you never know.
The movie itself, by the way, is superb. Great writing and swift pacing bring home the fact that we may THINK we are a country of rationality and fairness, but not once the media get a sexy story, we’re not. And meantime, if you want to make a buck or a reputation, all you have to do is tell us, weepily or angrily, that it’s “for the sake of the children.” — Lenore