Jordan Peele Carves Out the Truth in the Hulu Docuseries Lorena
Written by Celeste Erlander
For many, the name “Lorena Bobbitt” will likely be a familiar one, and funny at that. The mention of the woman who cut off her husband’s penis is usually met with a chuckle, a smirk, a hilarious re-hashing of the national scandal. Details like the police’s scramble to find the severed appendage, or Lorena’s initial statement explaining her violent action – her husband, John Wayne Bobbitt, orgasmed and she didn’t – are easy punchlines.
The domestic scuffle rose to a national scandal almost instantly, aided by relentless media coverage and headlines such as “Latest wedge between the sexes is also the sharpest” (Doylestown Intelligencer, 1993) and “She wanted a divorce. He got a separation!” (Chen, 2019). Overnight, Lorena was painted as a jealous and impulsive woman, heartbroken over her impending divorce. Meanwhile, her husband John was portrayed as the innocent golden boy, a former Marine with “all-American good looks” (Chen, 2019). At first glance, the story appears rather clean-cut, but not everything is what it seems.
Producer Jordan Peele delves into the truth of the story with his new, four-part series Lorena, which premiered at Sundance and is currently streaming on Hulu. In the first episode, viewers are thrown into the dramatics of the case: phone calls with the police; testimony from the microsurgeon who performed the reconstruction operation, an interview with Kim Masters, writer of the Vanity Fair article “Lorena Bobbitt: Sex, Lies and an 8-Inch Carving Knife” (Masters, 1993). We are swiftly pulled into the taboo tabloid story of the 90s: – shrew of a wife cuts off husband’s penis in spite.
However, the next three episodes pull back the covers on the deeper, darker truth. Without giving away too many details, let’s just say that looks can be deceiving. Viewers are also guided through theatrical courtroom battles – Lorena was accused of malicious wounding, which can lead to 20 years in prison, and John was charged with rape.
The conclusion is anything but tidy, and life must go on for both Lorena and John post-national scandal. But sometimes lemons can be turned into lemonade. Today, with her Lorena Gallo Foundation, Lorena shines a light on domestic violence and abuse, maritalrape, and sexual assault, focusing in particular on immigrant women in the United States (Medeiros, 2019). On the other hand, John, after first trying and failing as an actor, now finds himself alone without much to show for other than three failed marriages.
Perhaps most importantly, Peele succeeds in clearly showing the public’s unabashed focus on Lorena’s one action – and shows how today we can now reexamine it within the context of years of abuse and marital rape. Director Joshua Rofé has described how the #MeToo movement recontextualized the entire story. No longer is it a humorous tale of a wife gone wild, but rather a darker tragedy of helplessness, abuse, and what the media will do to a woman it decides not to believe.
(n.d.). Latest wedge between the sexes is also the sharpest. Doylestown Intelligencer.
Masters, K. (2019, February 15). SEX, LIES, AND AN 8-INCH CARVING KNIFE. Retrieved from https://www.vanityfair.com/style/1993/11/lorena-bobbitt-interview-sex-lies-carving-knife
Medeiros, M. (n.d.). Now, Lorena Bobbitt Is Using Her Story To Help Others. Retrieved from https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/where-is-lorena-bobbit-now-2019-jail
The Way The Media Actually Handled Lorena Bobbitt In The '90s Is Crushing, Joyce Chen: https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2019/02/224498/1993-lorena-bobbitt-headlines- news-stories