Help! My life is a Lifetime movie
Rather than making movies of the week, Lifetime’s new weekly series dedicates itself to women who are victims of society’s crimes. Sure, the 1980s flicks were questionable, but using real life women makes the tales seem more realistic and more true to life.
Remember Lifetime in the ’80s? It was laughable. It looked like it only existed to keep Meredith Baxter-Birney’s career alive with movies of the week dedicated to terrible crimes committed against women. Lifetime’s ability to boil down the worst actions in society into two hours of melodramatic triumph didn’t exactly appeal to the masses. Instead, it made it pop culture fodder. However, Lifetime movies weren’t created for the masses; they were created for half of the population that typically finds themselves victims the other half and speaks to those experiences. My mother practically watched Farrah Fawcett’s Burning Bed on loop, and I know that my childhood babysitter subscribed to Lifetime when she didn’t care about other channels. However, in 2012, Lifetime took advantage of the reality documentary trend. Rather than create movies that seem laughably unrealistic, despite the incredibly truthful underlying story, they’re creating stories that speak to women’s specific experiences based on individual women’s difficulties.
One of those includes Leandra Ramm. I last spoke to her regarding American Idol back in the summer of 2012, when she auditioned for this year’s new Nicki Minaj/Mariah Carey/Keith Urban season. Aware of how American Idol typically focuses on the sympathetic story (aka the sob story wrapped up in the perfect sound bite), she introduced herself as such by describing her talent first and then her background. At the time her life reminded me of a Lifetime movie. She was stalked internationally for years by Colin Mak Yew Long, who electronically introduced himself to her in 2005 as the director of the Singapore Music Festival. He originally contacted the New Jersey Opera Theatre after watching Anderson Cooper interview her and indicated his interest in using her as a performer. Because the NJOT forwarded him on, she accepted his communication attempts. However, she eventually discovered he wasn’t a director of the Singapore Music Festival. Instead, he was an obsessive fan with a history of stalking women.
Leandra Ramm’s experience is unfortunately all too common. According to the Bureau of Justice statistics, “1 in 4 stalking victims reported some form of cyberstalking such as e-mail (83%) or instant messaging (35%).” Additionally, the electronic age has made it all too easy to appropriate, misuse or steal someone’s identity, particularly for those who are college students and in graduate school. According to Identity Theft Assistance, ”11.7 million persons experienced at least one type of identity theft in a 2-year period.” And, the BSJ reveals that even without the internet added, stalking still affects every 14 out of 1,000 adults annually.
So, while Lifetime might have decreased its production of Meredith Baxter-Birney films, these reality-docu-drama re-enactments still speak to the female experience. Unfortunately, according to the bureau, women are still “at greater risk than men for stalking victimization”.
So, how do you avoid cyber-stalking? Well, be safe. Tighten up your facebook privacy settings and don’t leave your page open to those not in your friend network. Don’t post pictures of yourself on-line. Don’t tweet/facebook where you’re going in advance or when you’re there. Leandra also suggests being careful who you talk to and avoiding posting social media personal information altogether. Back in the ’90s, when the internet started ramping up, a couple guys e-mailed me through my school’s website. One claimed he was a creative writing major at USC and another claimed he and his brother lived in Vancouver and invited me to sleep on their couch and to audition for X-Files and other U.S. shows filmeds there. Now both sounded perfectly realistic and up my alley. But, interestingly, when I indicated I might visit the USC area with friends, the creative writing major inexplicably disappeared. And, I decided that I enjoyed breathing more than pursuing a putative Sci Fi acting career.
So, learn from Leandra’s experience, who unsurprisingly became more involved in advocating for cyberstalking awareness. Google those who contact you. Google your dates. And, google yourself. There are a lot of sites that post your address, unless you explicitly request they do otherwise. Find out who they are and contact them. Consider signing up for monthly credit checking/identity theft alerts. What annoys me is when I go to CVS or Anthropologie, they consistently recite my address out loud every single time. If they’re not your doctor’s office, they don’t need to confirm your address out loud every single time. Hand over your driver’s license and tell them to shut the hell up or request they not read it out loud by adding it to your profile.
No one wants to be a Lifetime movie. And, no one wants to re-watch those 1980s gems. But, as long as crimes targeted towards one sex by another exist, a need for Lifetime’s made-for-TV movies (reality or fictional) will exist. Are the docu-drama recreations a little schmaltzy? Yes. But, still it’s better than watching 1980s padded shoulders. And, let’s be honest, if Lifetime, a channel dedicated to female experiences, didn’t tell a woman’s story, who would? If you have an experience you wish to share, don’t worry, they’ll handle it well. Leandra was incredibly happy with their thorough research and how they handled her story. If you’re interested in applying or seeing the story of other women, including Leandra, go to Lifetime’s My Life is a Lifetime Movie.
For tips on CyberStalking awareness, check out the below sites:
- Safety Web on CyberStalking
- How to Prevent On-Line Stalking
- Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
- Halt On-Line Abuse