I’m not sure how I missed this earlier in the year, but Lifetime’s latest train wreck is going to be about Lizzie Borden. Starring Christina Ricci, Lizzie Borden Took an Axe is set to air on January 25, 2014; its poster has just been released, and as you can see above, it’s a doozy. As a Massachusetts native, I’m strangely proud of the tale of Lizzie Borden; like the Salem Witch Trials and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s works, it’s one of those “Weird MA” bits of history by which most people can’t help but be fascinated.
I am not, however, terribly pleased that Lifetime has gotten their grubby little hands on it. It’s kind of like if Lifetime had made Monster. AWFUL idea, right? Even with Christina Ricci, who generally I like, helming it. I’m fully expecting Lifetime to butcher the history, likely by doing these things to it:
- Tweaking the mommy issues. Lizzie’s biological mother, Sarah, died shortly after Lizzie herself was born. Her stepmother, Abby, was the woman who was found murdered. I’m betting that Lifetime is either going to milk this backstory for all it’s worth, painting Abby as the stereotypical evil stepmother—or else deem the detail too difficult to explain and pretend that Abby was Lizzie’s bio mom instead.
- Overplaying Lizzie’s church activities. Lizzie and her older sister, Emma, were brought up in a religious household; Lizzie taught Sunday school when she got older and spent a lot of her time working with the Christian Endeavor Society and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Is anyone else counting on Lifetime using this information to give their on-screen Lizzie a whole “pious on the outside, murderous on the inside” double life? Because I sure am. And history aside, this is the most trite and overdone murder movie convention EVER.
- Playing with the numbers. Contrary to the popular nursery rhyme, Lizzie Borden did not actually take an axe and give her mother forty whacks; nor did she, when she saw what she had done, give her father forty-one. In reality, her stepmother suffered somewhere in the neighborhood of 18 or 19 whacks, while her father got hit with 11. While that’s still rather a lot of whacks, it’s nowhere near the amount that 81 is; that high a number probably would have left the bodies looking something like mincemeat. But because this is likely going to be a horror movie rather than a biopic, I’m betting that Lifetime is going to stick to the 40-41 number.
- Courtroom drama-ifying it. There’s nothing more boring that a badly done courtroom drama. While the trial could be an interesting frame for the film, this is Lifetime we’re talking about here. A Lifetime courtroom drama is never a good idea.
- Solving the murders. Lizzie was acquitted, although she’s kind of gone down in history as having perpetrated the murders. The publicity for the movie so far is setting Lizzie up to have definitely committed the crime, and Lifetime’s movies aren’t generally clever enough to pull an unforeseen reversal on us.
- Making it sexy. MURDER IS NOT SEXY. But that poster certainly is. Facepalm.
But maybe that’s just me. At least it’ll probably be worth a drinking game. Anyone else have any thoughts about it?
Read more about the real-life Lizzie here.
Lucia Peters is BettyConfidential’s senior editor. Tweet me! @luciapeters