Sunday, June 29, 2014

CWE: "I Know My First Name Is Steven" (1989)

Summary: Made-for-TV movie based on the true story of Steven Stayner, a California boy who was kidnapped at age 7.

Part 1:

  • Unquestionably one of my favorite made-for-TV movies, along with "Sarah, Plain and Tall" and "Escape from Sobibor." And maybe "Old Man." I'm trying to decide if these movies have something in common or not. I could make an argument...
  • Although I guess this is technically a miniseries since it was sold in two parts.
  • Arliss Howard is uncredited. Which, you know, when you play a pedophile... Also he looks a bit different than what I think of him looking like. Of course, this was 25 years ago.
  • Oh, the days when a kid not coming home was more about him disobeying than something happening to him. And whipping a kid with a belt was not considered abuse.
  • Wow, the grandfather is just awful. "You got too many kids, should've drown a few."
  • "Hope he doesn't hit you too hard."
  • And he just gets into the car. The perils of not teaching kids not to get into cars with strangers.
  • Driving around with the kid on her lap in the front seat.
  • The horrible irony that Stevie's grandfather lives not very far from Parnell's (Wikipedia says "several hundred feet away")
  • Never taught his phone number, never taught to not get in a car with strangers. Very much not to blame the parents at all, but you gotta prepare your kids.
  • Hard to watch the kid playing Cary Stayer, given his future.
  • Mmm. Hot chocolate made with warm tap water.
  • Disturbing that they think the grandfather might have taken the kid.
  • The suggestion of sexual abuse is also very effective and disturbing.
  • It's so sad to read how Steven blamed himself for much of what happened -- for getting in the car, for believing Parnell, for not running away sooner.
  • Not sure how to feel about the psychic.
  • Oh, Murph, if only you were a little bit braver.
  • Parnell keeps threatening to turn if Murph, saying he'll get 20 years. He actually got 5 years, and served 2.
  • Oy. Parnell's so confident that he just sends a 7-year-old off by himself. And Steven immediately tries to call his parents, but doesn't know the number.
  • A sad face lets a 7-year-old by cigarettes? Oh, 1972, you really were a different world.
  • Yes, let's embarrass the kid on his first day in class.
  • Hey, it's Beth Grant!
  • Wow. "You should just be happy that you have a father." No one wants to hear Steven when he says that things are wrong.
  • Steve tries to run away again, but doesn't get very far. At least the dog is a good excuse.
  • Skip forward to 1980.
  • And Steven knows exactly what it means when Parnell pays a little too much attention to his friends.
  • "At least if he's doing it to them he's not doing it to me." Sob.
  • "You can be replaced." Gah.
  • Smoking in the restaurant, drinking a beer. At 14.
  • Oh yes, the very very young Bryan Cranston.
  • And no one believes the friend when his mother reports Parnell for molestation.
  • Now the abduction of Timmy White. And his terrible wig. 1980s wig technology is clearly not all "The Americans" makes it out to be.
  • That's a much more blatant kidnapping, with the kid screaming and fighting.
  • All the stories that Parnell told Steven get echoed back to Timmy. And Steven recognizes it.
  • And Steven's done. He won't watch Timmy go through what he did.
Part 2:

  •  I generally prefer part 1. Seeing how Steven and his family separately deal with the situation interests me a little more. Or maybe part 2 just isn't the happy ending we'd hoped for.
  • OMG "Parker Lewis Can't Lose" is on Netflix! Oh, not streaming. That's sad.
  • Steven takes Timmy to the police station, but gets caught trying to turn him in.
  • And we have a title. "I know my first name is Steven. I think my last name is Stayner."
  • "It seems to me you have to make a choice between the two of them." What? I mean, I guess it's "you need to give us the name of your kidnapper" but ... dude, the kid does not have a choice here.
  • "Did something happen to Cary?" Oh dear. Not yet.
  • Percolator! Thanks to Wikipedia, I now know how one works.
  • Did they just leave Steven in that interview room all night? Doesn't seem very nice. He's both a kidnapping victim and a hero for returning the kid.
  • Oh, and now you have to stand in front of the man who kidnapped you and raised you for 1/2 your life and identify him as your kidnapper.
  • Media circus alert!
  • In general, aftermaths do interest me, so I'm surprised that I like the second half less. In too many cases, the story would end there, when Steven gets returned home. We've still got more than an hour left.
  • Cary is off camping in Yosemite. Ack. I know this movie was made 10 years before he became the Yosemite Killer, but it's just eerie.
  • Urgh. Steven already clearly blames himself -- "Pretty stupid, huh?" -- and repeatedly denies that Parnell molested him.
  • Also, no one kidnaps a kid and just leaves him alone.
  • Oh, Cary talking about how their parents don't really care about him and how everything changed when Steven left...
  • Then there were the photos.
  • Parnell was convicted of kidnapping and sexual assault 20 years before. He got 4 years.
  • And his dad blames Steven for not stopping it. At 7 years old. Sigh.
  • Wow, way to be careful with the evidence there, deputy.
  • Gah, people are awful.
  • People still being awful. I can't say I blame Steven for hitting him.
  • Drinking and lots of sex to drown out the feelings and "prove" that he's OK. And again -- he's 14.
  • Mom wants to discipline Steven and get him back to how he was/"should" be. Dad just wants to let it all go.
  • Jody's very sweet.
  • Steven's struggles are hard to hear -- how no one ever cared what he did before or if he screwed up. How difficult it is to feel like everything he does is wrong. How he feels like a disappointment to his parents.
  • How is he (not) graduating? I though he was 16 at this point. I must have missed another year somewhere.
  • Don't do it, Stevie! Don't jump! OK, I know he doesn't.
  • OK, it's 1981, which means that he's 16. Again, what was up with the graduating?
  • Sigh. Hard enough for Steven to testify to what Parnell did. Harder with his family and girlfriend in the courtroom.
  • So they go have sex by the lake.
  • "Are you satisfied? Now he's not coming home." "He never did come home."
  • 84 months. With 64 months stayed. Which I think he served concurrently, so that's 7 years total. He got out in 5.
  • Oh, and Jody's pregnant.
  • Steven moves out. Because he just doesn't fit into that life anymore. It's horrible and sad to see. But it's actually probably better for his relationship with his parents.
  • "Why do you hate yourself so much?"
  • Again, he blames himself over and over. "Why did I let him do it to me?" How many people who suffer abuse have the same self-hate? The honesty is painful.
  • Gah. And the epilogue. Steven Stayer, killed in a motorcycle accident in 1989, just 4 months after the miniseries aired on NBC. Oh, this DVD has Parnell's 2004 conviction of "attempting to purchase a child" on it too. He got life for that one.

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