Documentary Releases: Lorena (2020) - Reviewed

Chances are you’ve heard of Lorena. In 1993 she cut her husband John Bobbitt’s penis off. What followed was a media, radio, and late night talk show circus. Stand up comedians had a field day. It was a topic of epic proportions and everybody had an opinion. Yet, do you know what happened afterwords. Do you know why Lorena did it? And where are the two now? 

In many aspects Lorena is a shocking look at a chauvinistic society that existed not too long ago. Echoes of that sexist macho-ism still exists today. The “idea” of domestic violence at the time wasn’t something that was taken seriously. Many lawmakers and politicians scoffed at the idea of the term “spousal rape”. They considered it a private problem between a man and his wife. Perhaps the most appalling revelation is that few women’s shelters existed in 1993, despite many women campaigning a significant need. 

This documentary does a good job exploring the background of both Lorena and John. We get to see who they were, and how they were raised before they met each other. It provides a good canvas to fully grasp the story. The incident at hand is covered in detail, and comically, goes into a brief side-story about how this event led to the word “penis” being approved to be published in papers and said on television. The first few weeks words like “package” and “member” were used in lieu of the actual physical anatomy. Before the incident the word “penis” was considered offensive. You know what was also offensive? Not taking a woman’s accusations of sexual abuse seriously. The most fascinating part of this four part documentary series is the aftermath and the separate paths John and Lorena went on to live afterwords. 

Lorena’s court trial is eye opening. Multiple witnesses take the stand in her defense, and police reports and photos of strangulation bruises and black eyes paint revealing picture. Lorena’s trial shined a spotlight on an issue that had been glossed over for decades. It can be a hard watch at times as Lorena struggles to keep her composure as she recounts the multiple occasions she was choked and sodomized until she bled, despite desperately pleading each and every time she did not want to have sex that way. At the time she was a 100 lb 24 year old woman. John Bobbitt was an ex-marine who towered over her. 

Today the incident is still portrayed as a joke. She is know as “the woman her cut her husband's penis off.” Several clips from Howard Stern’s radio show are used. While Stern has made a career with his chauvinistic shocking opinions, these clips haven't aged well and just come across as disgusting. Then again this is the same guy who had porn stars disrobe in his studio and described their bodies to his creepy listening audience. All of his clips are cringe worthy scenes that prove how far we’ve come as a society. Yet that fact he is still on the air proves we have not come far enough. 

John Bobbitt became a celebrity after the incident, and ran with any opportunity that came his way. Several of them are highlighted in this documentary. Most would be comical if they went so pathetic. Both Bobbitt and Lorena agreed to be interviewed for this documentary. It’s not surprising they have conflicting accounts of their marriage. How did they move on from the media circus? How did they progress from accusations of being both victim and villain? There is so much more to the story than just the incident, and it’s worth a watch. 

Lee L. Lind