Lorena Bobbitt was a late-night punchline. She’s finally getting her due.
On June 23, 1993, a Virginia manicurist named Lorena Bobbitt cut off her husband’s penis with a 12-inch knife. The incident inspired a national media circus: tabloid headlines, late-night gags, “Saturday Night Live” sketches, T-shirts saying “Love Hurts,” a made-for-TV musical, the third verse of a “Weird Al” Yankovic parody track, and a ballad to the tune of the theme from “The Beverly Hillbillies.”
But there was much more to the story — and now, 25 years later, it’s being revisited.
A new book on cultural history and an upcoming documentary series take a closer look at the case, rejecting sensationalism and reframing Bobbitt’s ordeal in the era of #MeToo.
Bobbitt, who was charged with “malicious wounding” and put on trial, claimed that her husband at the time, John Wayne Bobbitt, had subjected her to years of physical, sexual and emotional abuse, forcing her into sex on his demand. In the early morning hours before the attack, she alleged, he came home drunk and raped her.
Lorena Bobbitt’s acquittal in January 1994, as The New York Times wrote at the time, “highlighted the plight and rights of abused women.” In the popular imagination, however, she would remain a punchline, the main character in a grotesque, half-remembered American sideshow. The larger context — domestic violence, sexual assault — faded from view, only barely making its way into the national conversation.
The journalist Allison Yarrow profiles Bobbitt in “90s Bitch: Media, Culture and the Failed Promise of Gender Equality.” Jordan Peele, the Oscar-winning writer and director of “Get Out,” is co-producing a four-part Amazon Prime project called “Lorena,” the streaming giant announced earlier this year.
“On the 25th anniversary of this incident, and as awareness continues to increase surrounding violence against women, I look forward to the opportunity to tell aspects of my story that haven’t yet been told, and that I hope will give some measure of support to other victims of this horrible epidemic,” Bobbitt, who remarried and now goes by Lorena Gallo, said in a news release about the docuseries.
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