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Docuseries 'Lorena' looks at what led a wife to cut off her husband's penis

'Lorena' re-examines the infamous Bobbitt story through the 20/20 lens of hindsight in the #MeToo era

10 February 2019 - 00:00
Lorena Bobbitt's story is retold in a new docuseries, 'Lorena'.
Lorena Bobbitt's story is retold in a new docuseries, 'Lorena'.
Image: Supplied


WHAT: Lorena - a four-part documentary series.

WHERE: Amazon Prime Video.

WHY: Because, a quarter of a century after the dick jokes and the novelty T-shirts and the porn movies, something happened then that we couldn't really grasp until now.


In the early hours of June 23 1993 in the small town of Manassas, Virginia, a young woman - born in Ecuador, raised in Venezuela, recently come to the US - couldn't take it anymore.

After four years of an abusive marriage to her clean-shaven, patriotic-by-day, drunken-anal-rapist-by-night husband, Lorena Bobbitt decided enough was enough and went to the kitchen, fetched a knife and sliced off the appendage of her tormentor, John Wayne Bobbitt.

She then picked up her husband's penis and drove away, chucking it in a field opposite a nearby convenience store before phoning 911 and trying to explain why she'd done what she'd done. It was later recovered by police, rushed to a hospital in a cooler box and re-attached to the body of its undeserving owner.

The story quickly became one of the biggest and most covered, commented-upon and eagerly followed of the '90s - an era that we can now see as ushering in the morbid fascinations of reality television that we take for granted but which at the time seemed to indicate a distinctive change in the way the media covered and audiences absorbed the sordid details of other people's horrifyingly trashy lives.

The '90s were the age of not just the Bobbitt story but also the Anita Hill hearings, the sickening testimonies of the Menendez brothers, the racially divided spectacle of OJ Simpson's Bronco chase, the real-world soap opera high jinks of the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan fiasco and finally the highest-office-in-the-land affair that was the Clinton-Lewinsky sex scandal.

WATCH | The trailer for the documentary series Lorena 

Produced by Jordan Peele and directed by Joshua Rofés, Amazon's new four-part docuseries re-examines the Bobbitt story through the 20/20 lens of hindsight in the #MeToo era. It attempts to recast the events of that June night and their consequences in the light of the present challenges to the patriarchy and as a seminal event, which, through its coverage by the salaciously hungry '90s media, helped to contribute to the rise of the current Fox News, Twitter, Donald Trump what-the-hell normalcy of our current moment. 

Whether or not it's successful may depend on whether you're old enough to remember the hysteria that erupted following Lorena's decision that she was not going to take it anymore by doing the one thing that makes all men's testicles shrink just thinking about it.

At the time the sympathy of many public commentators and reporters was firmly with ex-Marine hero John Wayne and against his crazy-bitch, knife-wielding, emasculating, hot-blooded Latin wife. That was in spite of, as the series clearly reminds us, overwhelming evidence that John Wayne was a drunk, wife-beating rapist.

While his wife was certainly not without her own flaws and missteps, making her fateful decision was no joke and ultimately she was, and still is, far less of a dick than he is.

The fact that the Bobbitt story became material for insensitive jokes that cast John Wayne as a victim remains a sad indictment of the toxic masculinity that we now accept as a problem that needs fixing but which, in June 1993, we didn't have the guts to acknowledge.