Lifetime: NOT Showing Graphic Murder = “Untold Harm”
This past Saturday night, March 23rd, the Lifetime basic cable network aired its “Lifetime Original Movie” Romeo Killer: The Chris Porco Story. The movie graphically detailed Porco’s real-life axe murder of his father in 2004.
Of course, television “dramatizations” of true crime are nothing new. The classic 1960s ABC series The Fugitive took its premise from the Sam Shepperd case. All three broadcast networks aired movies about teenaged “Long Island Lolita” Amy Fisher, her twisted relationship with Joey Buttafuoco, and Fisher’s attack on his wife. And NBC has garnered several series franchises from Law & Order’s penchant for adapting stories “ripped from the headlines.”
But Romeo Killer is not merely another true-crime film. Two aspects in particular were disturbing. The first was the movie’s explicit gore. Trailers for the film show multiple close-ups of the victim’s corpse drenched in blood. With “charming” serial killers now dominating television – Showtime’s Dexter, Fox’s The Following, A&E’s Bates Motel, and NBC’s forthcoming Hannibal – did America really need one more show about a blood-soaked murder?
The second disturbing element was the publicity surrounding the film. Porco had filed an injunction claiming that Lifetime was violating his rights in using his name and image without payment or permission. While there was some legal back-and-forth, ultimately, a judge allowed the movie to air.
While it is beyond grotesque for a murderer to whine about being deprived of his rights to his name when he has deprived his own father of his life, the ruthless greed of Lifetime is hardly deserving of praise. In its own court filing, Lifetime sobbed that NOT showing the murder-themed movie would have “a devastating financial and reputational impact on Lifetime, with millions of dollars in investment, lost revenues, and untold harm to its brand.”
Sickeningly, the entertainment industry’s trade press portrayed Lifetime as civic-minded crusaders bolding “fighting back” against censorship, and “winning the right” to air their seamy film. No one believes murderers should profit from their crimes; but apparently, if the entertainment industry does, then that’s different.
So: Lifetime doesn’t care about the justice due victims of horrific crimes, or about the ethics of exploiting a gory murder. All it cares about its “investment.” Lifetime – a channel which airs a series glorifying prostitution – worries that NOT showing a movie about an axe murderer will have a negative “reputational impact” on the network. And the entertainment industry’s own journals applaud the network, rather than asking why anyone had to show a movie about a real-life murderer to begin with. These facts tell Americans everything they need to know about the state of Hollywood today.