Amy Fisher, Michael Shy Bo, Sara discussed on WNYC Programming
Stories that kind of live in your head in these weird fragments. We don't realize the degree to which we're filling in the blanks in our head. Right. So you hear about somebody like Amy Fisher, who, you know, shot. This other woman, wasn't she some sort of teenage seductress and like that's kind of just living in my head is almost like a meta narrative. But I'm filling in all the blanks like I couldn't tell you the sort of Massapequa Mary Magdalene know that Z something like that. And so you're like, Well, you know, she seems like a terrible person. But you haven't really given it that much thought and you're telling the stories to each other and the one who isn't telling the story is observing for the rest of us. You make a point of not knowing much about what The other person is about to tell you. Yes, I've been interrupting my boyfriend the last year every time he brings up JonBenet Ramsey. He's like, Oh, that reminds me of the time that they found And I'm like, Don't tell me anything. I know Sarah is eventually gonna tell me all about JonBenet Ramsey and I want to preserve that in my head is sort of little bits and bobs of a story. I really don't have the details of and one of us does a ton of research and walk the other one through and we try to make it sort of normal to come in with false understandings of these stories, Basing our understandings on the information that we had at the time and often times it was just really bad. You mentioned research, but you're not interested in obtaining New documents or exclusive interviews. You're interrogating the public record reading books that have already been written, poring over old news articles. Is it about the real story that was hiding in plain sight? For me, it often is, And I think I am a historian who is frequently mistaken for a journalist. The joy of this show is that I get to do stories that pretty much it was hard for me to be able to write about, because if you're going to talk about something that happened in recent history off, and it will have to be because you have found Some new, exciting piece of information. And with this I love the chance to not have to make up an excuse to just talk about not just getting to the bottom of who this person was, but trying to more deeply understand. Who we were when we did what we did to them. It's also really shocking. How easily findable the correct information was, then and now I mean it. Just pick one example. One of the most radicalizing episodes that I've done of the show was the Terri Shiavo case in which there was this woman who was in a persistent vegetative state and her husband was trying to end her life and her parents who were conservative Christians. We're trying to save her and I thought going in. It was gonna be this like very murky issue of your bio ethics and who can say when life begins and ends and then you start looking at the actual documents, and it turns out that every single independent doctor who examined Terri Shiavo said that she was completely brain did that She had received excellent care from her husband. He actually quit his job. And went to nursing school so that he could provide her with better care. And there was no chance of recovery. So a pretty straightforward story. All of the information was on inside. And yet, when that was presented to the public, it was seen as a sort of well, Both sides have really good arguments. And isn't it true, Michael Shy Bo that you haven't been giving your wife this great care the information was there like there are court documents, but it appears that people just didn't present that information to the public at the time. It's incredible telling a story chronologically. Really does seem to be key, because so many of these sort of moral panics and maligned women come to us as these fully formed figures, and we don't get all of the factors that brought them to that situation until much later, right? We're we're kind of doing it in this like memento order every time I mean, I think one of the reasons nineties scandals about maligned women are so interesting is that this is the era of the two month true crime book. Amy Fisher had three TV movies made about her that aired roughly simultaneously. Two of them were on the same night. It's amazing, and there is this idea at the time, I think people had That if you were the subject of all this attention, you must be profiting. You had to be deriving some kind of Benefit from that It couldn't just be more trauma heaped on top of the trauma that had already brought you to that degree of fame, and it has been really hard in these stories. For us as a public to get past the idea that if someone is a subject of all this attention, they must have one in some capacity. The person at the center rarely is heard. Certainly in these 90 stories, and Amy Fisher was ordered by her lawyer to not talk and present her story to the public, and because of that she was the only person who wasn't able to tell the public who she was in the Anna Nicole Smith episode. You observed that we were focused on her having all the power that Amy Fisher was assumed to have derived from her notoriety in the case of Anna Nicole Smith. It was like her breasts were worth half a billion dollars, leaving no agency for her elderly husband. But what all these tabloid women's seemed to have in common when they are perceived to have power. It's almost always through sex, and it turns out if you dig into their story, it's about Other peoples exploitation of it. I just think it's very scary to the people who write these stories that these women have any power at all. Yeah. This idea that a girl can grow up with nothing and decide to Provide for herself and her child by exploiting her own sexuality. I mean, I just believe it with the paradox that we're fine with explaining women's sexuality. If it's like a man or a corporation doing it. But if the woman is profiting off of herself declaring her own value, that's where we draw the line. This episode hasn't aired yet. So Sarah maybe do earmuffs. But Another really good example of that is Vanessa Williams, who famously was the first black Miss America and was the first Miss America to relinquish her crown because she took a bunch of nude photographs. The summer before she became Miss America. She wanted to become an actress. She was obsessed with Meryl Streep. She thought that modeling was away that she'd get into being an actress. She meets a photographer. She ends up working for him for a couple months as his receptionist. They become close. One night, he says, Hey, have you ever tried nudes? There's a sort of photographic technique that I want to try with silhouettes. So we're not going to be able to see your face is just gonna be shaped. Why don't I take a couple photos? I'm never going to release them and just me testing this stuff out. Don't worry about it. And she says, Yeah, sure. I trust this guy. No big deal. To me that is very legible as a human story. You know you do something for somebody else because they ask you to, and it would be a little bit awkward. If you said no. Then she becomes Miss America, and he's hard up for cash, and he sells the photos. Most Americans learned that story in this inverted pyramid way as The next issue of Penthouse is going to have Miss America in it. When you learned it in that order, it's like, well, she must be getting paid. And this is her way of cashing in on her fame, and that became the story. The people who actually did cash in on this were the photographer and, of course, the publisher of Penthouse. She got nothing, but she was cast as somebody who had all of the power in this situation. What makes the perfect story for your show? Our stories often break down to a few archetypes, and we often will see people regardless of their individuality, regardless of the setting, regardless of the moment, acting in basically the same way. And making the same mistakes and receiving the same warnings as in a lot of other stories that we've already told humans do the same things over and over when you see them all in a row. It's just staggering, and I think the two Most obvious categories that I can name. There are the maligned women and the moral panic. And it is remarkable how often abuse lies at the opening chapter of so many of these stories. Have been surprised at how central abuse especially domestic abuse has been to the stories that we've looked into. We haven't talked yet about are now 15 episodes. SYRIZA on the O. J. Simpson trial. I remember when that was going on that you know you would hear these stories and kind of like this weird, hectoring tone of like, well, nobody's talking about Nicole Brown Simpson and No, The victim has been lost in all of this. But yet they didn't really do anything to correct that. They were just sort of scold their audience and then move on with covering the trial, and so what? Sara did. What we did in those episodes was just start with the story of Nicole before we got to the murders. And that's best understood as a story of also escalating domestic violence, and it makes perfect sense when you hear it in that order, and from her perspective, it's like, oh, it all falls into place. It was also, I think a lot of shooting the messenger back then..