With executive producer Jordan Peele’ “Lorena” documentary series on Amazon Prime, however, the zeitgeist is finally taking a strong (and necessary) turn toward the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements.
That’s because, as star Lorena Bobbitt and filmmaker Joshua Rofé explain the situation to Metro, the iconic tabloid news story of Lorena’s actions against her then-husband John Wayne Bobbitt were all anyone cared about at the time. Even now, when asked about the Bobbitt story, most people will remember the fact that Lorena cut off John Wayne’s penis and threw it into a field. Yet they won’t remember any of the details that precede it.
“It’s been so amazing and incredible to see the public be so engaging to this story now,” says Bobbitt, who now goes by the name Lorena Gallo. “Thanks to Joshua, everyone is finally getting to see what happens to the victims in these kinds of stories, and how traumatizing it all can be.”
She is especially happy to see the positive reactions to the documentary series from critics and industry professionals alike at the Sundance Film Festival, where it screened ahead of its mid-February premiere date.
“Back then, it felt like society had failed me. The media had failed me,” she adds. “Now I feel justified. I feel that the story came out beautifully, based on the work that Joshua has done, and that’s exactly how we wanted to portray it. We wanted to reach out to survivors, and not just survivors, but victims. We wanted to send a message to them with this, that they can be safe and that there is hope. There are communities of support out there for them. There’s a light at the dark tunnel and I’ve seen it.”
Gallo has always been willing to tell her side of the story whenever given the opportunity, but she has long been wary of most efforts to document it with as much detail as Rofé’s series does. That’s because, more often than not, most filmmakers have simply wanted to rehash the sensational nature of the Bobbitt story. Rofé, however, wanted to recast everything in a new and more thoughtful light.
“I was scrolling through Facebook back in 2016 when I saw a Huffington Post headline that read, ‘Lorena Bobbitt is done being your punchline,’” he recalls. “Melissa Jeltsen’s article argued that we as a society missed an opportunity to have a national conversation about domestic violence. Instead, it descended into one long d—k joke. After that, I went down the rabbit hole and read everything I could find about the Bobbitt story. Obscure pieces that were published for university publications and written by scholars of feminist and media theory. I read a lot about the 24-hour news cycle and quickly realized I was seeing all the pieces to a puzzle that, when you put Lorena’s story in the middle of it, helps it all make sense.”
“That’s when I knew that this was going to be my next project,” Rofé adds.
The young documentarian subsequently made contact with Gallo and began pitching her on his ideas for what the series would be. She admits she was “skeptical at first,” but once Rofé started talking about domestic violence, trauma and the media cycle, she realized what was happening.
The two immediately got to work on what would become Amazon’s “Lorena” series, which Gallo insisted focus on domestic violence and how it figured into her story. Rofé agreed. When, 10 months into the production, the first Harvey Weinstein story broke in the New York Times, however, they realized just how important their work was going to be.
“I felt really empowered to speak out even more at that point,” she says. “I felt that this wasn’t an issue that people were talking about enough. The reason why I did this documentary in the first place was I wanted to share my story so that others with similar experiences wouldn’t have to go through what I did.”
Gallo adds that her being a mother to a daughter who will soon be heading out into the world also influenced her decision to get involved.
“Eventually she’s going to become an adult and will have to experience the world,” she says. “I want her to feel free to walk around on her college campus without being afraid of being accosted or sexually assaulted by someone who will most likely get away with it.”
“Lorena” premieres Friday on Amazon Prime.