Full disclosure: I'm a pretty huge fan of Bret Easton Ellis as an author. I think that his celebrity persona (read: asinine comments and relentless Twitter-feuding) and latest Hollywood ventures have distracted from the fact that his novels are actually pretty great, if, like everything else in his life, a bit controversial. After writing and producing the independent film The Canyons, the notorious author is venturing into the world of television. According to reports, Bret Easton Ellis and Rob Zombie are creating a TV series about the Manson family. And, even as a fan of the author's, I'm thinking it might be a bad idea.
Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with violence on TV. I've been open about my love of the hyper-violet NBC series Hannibal, and even let the world know about my guilty-pleasure obsession with The Following. In fact, it's the latter that this project will easily draw the most comparisons. My concern is that, when telling a true, horrific, violent crime story, should we really put a horror director known for films like The Devil's Rejects and the author of American Psycho as the people running the show?
As much as I like both Zombie and Ellis's work, I worry that this isn't the right pair to tell this story. Ellis's credentials — what he does best — is satire. American Psycho is the best example of how Ellis used violence as an allegory, and he did it remarkably well, despite the massive controversy that followed the novel's publication. Zombie's films are violent and often portray the killers as sort of antiheroes. It's different than typical horror fare, which portrays a very clear line between the good guys and the villains, and it works. If this show was not about a real life crime story, I would be really excited to see what these two could cook up together. But this quote from Zombie sort of sets off alarms for me that maybe it won't be the most sensitively handled piece of American history ever:
I have been obsessed with this insane story since I was a kid, so obviously I jumped at the chance to be involved in this incredible project. After speaking with Bret, I immediately realized that we shared the same vision for this epic madness.
Right, but here's the thing: it isn't exactly an "insane story." I mean, of course it is, and yes, it's intriguing to learn about, if also disturbing. But this isn't the same kind of story as that of Joe Carroll's cult on The Following or Hannibal Lector's cannibalistic tendencies. Those are fictional horror stories, and there's a certain level of spectacle that we can allow for stories that are created in the mind of the writer. The Manson family murders aren't merely an insane story — they are tragedies. And they should be handled as such.
That being said, I'll reserve my judgements for this duo until after I see the finished work. Perhaps Ellis and Zombie have a great plan for handling the real life story in a way that's both entertaining, intriguing, and sensitive to the surviving victims of the Manson family. As a big BEE fan, I'm crossing my fingers it works out.