In 1973 Linda Blair starred in “The Exorcist” and the horror genre was redefined. In 1974 Linda Blair starred in a television movie aired on NBC. The movie was “Born Innocent”. In the movie Linda is a compulsive runaway that is sent to the state school for girls. Once inside we see a good kid go on a quick downward spiral due to the harsh realities of life there. Linda was going to gain mass attention once again with this movie. In 1974 this movie did something that was unheard of when the censors allowed a brutal rape scene to be shown on network television. An incident in real life involving children would happen later that year and some would try to blame the rape scene in this movie for it. The film and Linda would be shoved into the spotlight in a negative way and would lead to the scene being edited out in many future broadcasts. This movie is dark and incredibly realistic and it is from here that this week’s column comes from. Now sit back and meet Christine Parker. This is Movie Bad Girl of the Week.
Christine Parker has been arrested. She spends a full night in prison with prostitutes, alcoholics and worse. The following morning she is taken to a juvenile detention home to await going to court. While there she meets a girl named Josie who is leaving the following day for the state school for girls. Josie we will learn has been forced into a life of prostitution by her mother (this began when Josie was 10 years old).
Chris goes to court the following morning only to discover that her parents are tired of trying with her. This has been the 5th time she has run away in a 2 year period. They have signed her over to the state. Her brother who lives in another state was unavailable to see if he would take custody of Chris. The judge informs her that she will be going to the state school as no suitable foster homes are available at the time.
On the morning of her departure she is told a suitcase sitting on the floor is hers. She reacts with anger asking why no one told her that her family had been there. She is told gently that her father couldn’t stay. When Christine asks did he say anything she is told he said he was late. Chris very let down is taken to the state school.
When arriving at the facility she does not want to get out of the van. She is scared and upset. The facilities look very bleak. She meets the assistant superintendent, Miss Murphy, who lets her know that she is her liaison between the courts and her family. She also explains how the system works at the school and what steps she will need to take to go home again.
She next meets Emma Lasko who is the house mother and main caregiver to the girls that reside in Cottage 3. She takes her for her orientation which humiliates Chris being forced to strip and be inspected for contraband before being shown to her room.
She is brought to the cottage where she shares a room with an American Indian girl named Janet who happens to be pregnant. She meets the other girls quickly. She is accosted by a lesbian girl called Moco who asks if she would like to go with her. Josie whom she met at the detention center comes to her rescue. She settles into this new world in which she is highly unaccustomed and uncomfortable in.
The girls all go to class the next morning. It is there that Chris will meet counselor and teacher Barbara Clark. Several girls refer to her as Mom. You can tell she loves her work and truly cares about the girls. She voices frustration in class about the girls only wanting to get out, get high, get with a guy and end up back here. She sees Chris loves geography and talks to her after class to get to know a little more about the new girl. She discovers that Chris’ goal is to be a stewardess. She sees a light in Chris. She sees a girl with a bright future unlike a lot of the girls in her care. She is determined to get Christine Parker back home.
Moco along with her girlfriend Denny (we are never told if she is also a lesbian) tell Chris she’ll be happier once she meets Johnny. This confuses Chris. That night when she goes to take a shower she is overpowered by Moco, Denny and a few of the other girls. She is raped with a plunger handle. The handle is Johnny. Chris tells no one of the assault. Instead she becomes withdrawn.
After a couple days of humiliated and hurt silence something snaps in Chris and she flees attempting to make it over the fence. She is quickly captured and takes her first trip to isolation. It will be here that Barbara discovers that this young girl was sexually assaulted.
At a staff meeting they are questioning whether or not Chris should be allowed to go home for a 4 day visit. This is uncommon after an escape attempt. Barbara argues in favor of Chris going for the visit because there is a slight chance her parents will allow her to stay.
Chris gets to go home. It is here we will see she has a nightmare of a home life. Her mother seems to always be in a fog and her father is an abusive brute. Chris comes home late one evening and her father accuses her a fooling around with a boy. She denies it and he strikes her. She runs out and gets a bus to Tucson where her brother lives. They siblings are happy to see each other. Christine wants to stay with her brother and his family. Her dream is shattered when she sees that her brother has notified the authorities. She is transported back to the state school.
When she is going through her return orientation Emma makes a remark about the black eye she has from her father striking her. She figures a boyfriend did it. Chris is given lunch and talks to Janet about her pregnancy. She is then taken directly to isolation. Barbara sits outside her door talking to her once again trying to find out what happened. We see that Chris now has a very different attitude that is cold and dark. We can tell that her trust in adults is shot. Chris it appears no longer cares. In a move to improve her attitude Barbara gives Janet permission to visit. She tells Chris she needs her because she is the only one that has anything good to say about the baby she is carrying. This does improve her attitude.
During lunch one day Moco makes a foul remark about Janet’s pregnancy and Chris explodes and attacks Moco. The cafeteria explodes in a food fight. Chris and Janet are both put in isolation. They are blamed for starting it. The girls talk back and forth through their doors keeping each other company. Late one night Janet starts screaming that something is wrong with her baby. Chris yells until help arrives. Janet ends up losing the baby. At the funeral Miss Murphy makes a speech about what happened. This speech is a lie and Christine calls her out.
That night Chris decides to shower later than the other girls and wants to wash her hair Emma refuses to get the shampoo because shower period is over. She tells Chris to wash her hair tomorrow. Chris continues asking for the shampoo and the tension in the room rises. She attacks Emma to get the key to the cabinet where the shampoo is stored. A riot erupts and Denny strikes Ms. Lasko in the head with a lamp injuring the woman badly. The girls destroy the TV room. Suddenly as is started, it stops.
There is an investigation where Chris along with the other girls lie about how this happened. Chris says all the right things. We see Barbara looking at Chris with a sadness in her eyes. She confronts her outside and tells her she knows she lied and no longer knows what to do. Chris tells her “What’s the difference.” She watches sadly as Chris walks away. The bright, pretty girl is gone. Christine has slipped through the cracks and is lost forever.
What can we learn from Christine Parker?
Christine is a good girl gone bad. Here are some lessons this movie can provide:
All children are born innocent. As adults it is our job to make sure that kids are raised properly with morals, respect and values. Everyone will differ with the degrees that these are instilled and as an adult that is a choice.
Some kids are the result of bad family relationships and/or victims of their surroundings. Let’s take a look at some of the girls in the movie.
Josie’s mother forced her baby into a life of prostitution
Denny was being beaten before she could walk and has been shuffled from foster home to foster home.
Moco spent her life being told she was no good and now believes that to be the truth.
Christine kept running away because of the abuse in her household at the hands of a domineering father.
Are any of these kids bad? Yes, however it was the adults who should be loving and caring for them who fucked them up. This is the sins of the parents and it is hard to blame a teenager when they turn out the way they do.
Kids can be incredibly cruel, even to the point of sexually assaulting one of their own. Just because you don’t hear about it does not mean it is not happening. There are signs if you are paying attention. In the film the adults seem oblivious to Chris becoming withdrawn. If you see a child that has a very sudden shift in personality or attitude it could be a good indicator that something very bad has happened. If you are a teacher or a counselor or even an afternoon coach at the Boys and Girls Club it is your duty as an adult to notice these things. If you do, try and have a conversation with the child to see if something is bothering them and if they want to talk about it. You could be saving a child from a world of hurt.
Before things go sour Barbara learns that Chris wants to be a stewardess and travel the world. She sees a girl with a bright future. We need to encourage children to dream and have goals. All children deserve a bright future and can have it if they are taught they will have to work to earn it. A child’s dream is only smashed when an adult tells them “You can’t do that.”
Never turn your back on family. In this movie I loathe Chris’ brother. I understand that he is married with a wife and child. I understand that he is struggling to make ends meet. I don’t understand how he can turn his back on his sister knowing that A: She is in a state facility and B: What kind of home life she will return to. As family you should try to find a solution to a problem like that even if it was location someone who would make a great foster parent. This goes for all family, not just the kids. We all have bad situations happen. I am not talking about relatives (and we all have them) that are takers. I am talking about family that is genuine, caring and loving. Imagine if it were you.
We learn in the movie that Ms. Lasko made great strides in how the children were treated there. She has stood in the way and made it a better place for them to live. She says when she started the girls were being beaten with straps and it was now a country club compared to what it had been. However, through the entire course of the movie not one person working at the school talks to Chris to find out why she ran away from home! All systems that involve kids need work. No system is perfect. In this day kids’ problems are far more complicated than they were when we were kids. Now because of things like budget cuts or downsizing staff, it is far more difficult to give the children the attention they may require. Counselors and teachers alike are overwhelmed with the numbers of children they are dealing with on a daily basis. When you are short staffed it makes it that much harder. There are things we can do to help. If you work in one of these fields already I applaud you. If you do not and are able to, why not donate a little time to a cause. That time given freely could make a huge difference in a life. You can also feel good about helping someone who needed it, not because you had to but rather because you want to. In this movie Chris loses all faith in adults actually caring for or helping her. The rejection by her brother is the final blow Let’s stop children from slipping through the cracks, let’s keep that trust and faith and show that as adults we do care.
The children deserve a bright future. It is our job to see that they get there because they are our future as well. They will become doctors, lawyers, care-givers and someone who is a child right now will one day run our country. Until next time Embrace Your Inner Bad Girl because You Just Might Save a Child’s Life and Offer Him or Her the Future They Deserve.