When I was younger, I was fascinated by made-for-TV movies. There was the one about the brain transplant patient who gets the brain of a tall, svelt, beautiful woman and is confused when she looks in the mirror to see someone fairly average when she expects to see a very different picture.
Then there was the one with the identical twin sisters (played by the same actress, of course). One twin fakes her death and then comes back to impersonate her sister and steal her husband - or something like that. I don’t think I was supposed to be watching that one.
The melodrama in the fictional movies would likely have me splitting my sides laughing these days. (You have to admit the brain transplant one was priceless.) As I got older, and we got cable, I got to see them all on repeat on Lifetime. Made-for-TV movies are great late-night entertainment. (Trust me on this.)
Then there were the movie accounts of real-life people. Fictionalized biographies, I suppose. All of them had plenty of melodrama (or they wouldn’t make the cut on Lifetime). There was one fictionalized biography that affected me pretty deeply. The Karen Carpenter Story aired on CBS in 1989 and I remember my reaction to it as if it was yesterday. And let me just say from the start that I get way too invested in stories like this.
I had some knowledge of The Carpenters’ music before watching this movie. My parents owned several LPs and I listened to them along with The Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul and Mary, and (my personal favorite) Simon and Garfunkel fairly regularly.
Listening to Karen Carpenter sing was intoxicating. I wanted to be her. She was the first really cool person to share my name and that was pretty exciting.
Until I watched her story.
I got angry when I realized what she did to herself. How could she DO that to herself!? Why didn’t she see how amazing she was and take care of herself? I was only 11 and I didn’t realize how troubled she was. It was years before I was able to listen to her music. I don’t think I had a full awareness of her death before watching the movie.
I’m well aware now (though I wasn’t back then) that the movie doesn’t accurately portray her life and death, but I am still amazed at the disappointment I felt over the fictionalized account of Karen Carpenter’s existence.
That kind of childhood disappointment looks very different as you get older and change the lens through which you see the circumstances. I no longer feel the anger and dismay that I remember so well from over 20 years ago. I don’t feel let-down either. But it is terribly sad that Karen Carpenter died so tragically.
I think it’s terribly sad that any person (particularly the female gender) gets to the point that they abuse their body to fulfill an impossible image that is, frankly, not even that attractive.