The Horror Honeys: Lizzie Borden: America's First Feminist

Lizzie Borden: America's First Feminist

A Horror TV Honey Premiere Recap by Lisa

The Lizzie Borden Chronicles (2015) Lifetime Network

We all know the story of Ms. Lizzie Borden. In fact, it is such a fantastic tale that there is a delightful rhyme for it. The female killer has always been a source of heightened curiosity. How is it possible that the fairer sex could be capable of such a heinous act? Well, because we are, indeed, equal to men, but it is our smaller stature, higher voices and innate compassion that is natures greatest camouflage. Sure, all of these things can be yielded as weapons, but isnt that exactly what makes all of it so very confounding? For better or worse, it is much easier to accept violence as a normal reaction from a man than from a woman and further than that, if a woman is driven to murder it must have been elicited by another persons actions. Enter Lizzie Borden: a woman who committed two brutal murders, but no one really knows why and this has captured our twisted imaginations for over 120 years.

January of 2014 saw the Lifetime movie Lizzie Borden Took an Ax starring Christina Ricci as the famed ax murderer. As one would expect from the Lifetime network, a certain amount of liberties were taken with the retelling of this story, most notably, the uncomfortable feeling that you were watching a snuff film when Lizzie murdered her father. Perhaps Im revealing too much of my psyche here, but that scene looked and felt like a Skinemax sex scene and I know that Im not the only one who felt that way. As a stand alone film, Lizzie Borden was an interesting, albeit strangely sympathetic, portrayal of Ms. Borden. The mere fact that everyones favorite Addams Family member was playing the killer rather than someone who looked more like the real Borden added to the strangely romantic notion that she was just a woman ahead of her time. If the uncompromisingly fierce and fantastic Kathy Bates had played Borden, would we have found her nearly as sweet and charming? Dont think so. While this TV Baby was in no way clamoring for more of this story, apparently, everyone else was and now we have a series on our hands. 

Bloody = Sexy

The Lizzie Borden Chronicles picks up four months after Borden was acquitted of the murders of her father and step mother. Lizzie and her sister Emma, an exceedingly matronly looking Clea DuVall, are trying to put their lives back together and repair their reputation. Too bad for them a private detective has been hired to look into Lizzie and her unfortunate luck of being surrounded by people who wind up dying under peculiar circumstances. Our Pinkerton agent, Charles Siringo, is a taller, more macho version of Dr. King Schultz from Django Unchained. This is both a compliment and a dig. Every single time Siringo shows up on screen, a modern, yet old-timey western type of song begins playing to make sure that we understand that this guy is tough stuff and he means business. 

Most ruggedly handsome detective ever?
In fact, the music on Lizzie Borden is a character in itself, in the sense that is dictates to you when you should be getting amped up. Every other scene is a poor mans Kill Bill . If you dont like Tarantino, you still know exactly what Im getting at  and this has proven very distracting for this viewer. Although I absolutely appreciate the tongue in cheek manner that they are delivering this story, the overt need to gloss everything up and make it seem ultra chic and cool is so self conscious that it borders on embarrassing. To make matters worse, we are now being force fed the notion that Lizzie Borden was one of our first feminist activists. Only two episodes in and Lizzie has already killed two more people and assaulted another and all of this was done in the name of standing up for the fairer sex. Thats right abusive pimps, if Ms. Borden sees you roughing up your girls, she is going to go all medieval on your ass and this is where they lost me. 

I sincerely appreciate what the writers are going for, but the notion that a person can be equal parts homicidally insane and a fighter for justice is offensive to all people who genuinely fight the good fight. Im sorry Lizzie, but you dont get to hack your father up for the mere pleasure of it and then kill people because its the right thing to do. You, madame, are no Dexter Morgan and the mere idea that Dexter could be both things at once is exactly what made his character so difficult to keep rooting for. You simply cant have it both ways. If youre just one card short of a full deck, then Im totally buying a ticket for your crazy train, but if you are cray-cray one day and then the 1800s answer to Gloria Steinem the next day, I just cant get down with that. Why? Well, because Ill never really be sure where your motives are coming from and, therefore, wont know if I should be shocked and appalled or if I should be rooting you on. That is far too much thinking for a campy docudrama on the Lifetime network. 

Marry me. Please. 
All of this being said, though, the show is gorgeous, all of the actors are spot on and its fun to see the the origins of crime scene investigation. Bonus: Mr. Jonathan Banks shows up for two episodes as Mr. Flowers. Basically, imagine Mike from Breaking Bad in a different time period.  Mr. Banks has now officially joined Mr. Denis OHare in that upper echelon of actors who I have an obscene love for and if he were a series regular, I would also be a regular viewer of Lizzie Borden, but hes not. The Lizzie Borden Chronicles are a fun, soapy escape from reality, but they in no way merit appointment television. If these were the dog days of summer where we have been trained to accept a lesser quality of television, Lizzie Borden would reign supreme, but why on earth would I visit Massachusetts when I can just go to Westeros? 

The Lizzie Borden Chronicles airs on 
Sunday nights on the Lifetime network