How Accurate Is 'Kidnapped: The Hannah Anderson Story'? Lifetime Is Turning a Kidnapping Case Into a Cautionary Tale

Lifetime makes a habit of taking real stories and turning them into 85 minutes of quickly produced thrills, and in the case of Kidnapped: The Hannah Anderson Storythe story itself is true, though Lifetime's angle on it is, technically, fictionalized, as it portrays the kidnapping period; even though the film seems to be following the outlines of what happened, Lifetime didn't consult with Anderson, who's the only person who actually went through the kidnapping. But the facts of the case seem to be matched up to the broad strokes of Kidnapped. Hannah Anderson is a California teen who was kidnapped for several days by James DiMaggio, a family friend. DiMaggio also set fire to his home before abducting Anderson, and according to the autopsy report released by CNN, Kristina and Ethan Anderson, Hannah's mother and brother, were also restrained before their deaths in DiMaggio's house. 

After DiMaggio kidnapped Anderson, he escaped with her to Idaho, where a group of horseback riding tourists saw the pair together, suspected something was wrong, and notified the authorities, who were able to free Anderson. There is also video released by the FBI to ABC News that shows Anderson's rescue. Instead of getting into Anderson's mind, it seems like Lifetime is transforming the story of a very harrowing, horrible event into a screed against... social media. Yes, in this bizarre behind-the-scenes video, the cast of the film spends an inordinate amount of time warning about the dangers of posting vague messages on Instagram or texting with people. 

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But that desire to blame Anderson for her own kidnapping was — and still is — real. Because of that devil, social media, Anderson was allegedly answering questions online via the site Ask.fm, many of which raised the same questions Kidnapped suggests. In those online chats, Anderson soundly denied the speculation that she was somehow collaborating with DiMaggio. That denial was echoed by the San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore at a press conference, who called Hannah a "victim in every sense of the word."

In an interview with TODAY, she described how DiMaggio's attention towards her escalated from a friend of her father to a confidante when her parents were getting divorced. But eventually, he started sending her disturbing messages. In Hannah's words, he wrote "I don't want to see you kissing your friends or anything like that, because I have a crush on you. Not a crush that, like, feeling a crush as in — like family, like I care about you." But she tells TODAY she started to pull away immediately, and "he got upset about that and would always text me and say that I was rude and I was trying to stay out of his life. And basically I was, after that." Lifetime's story, however, is playing things a little more ambiguously, judging by the trailer. 

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Personally, I don't really think that Lifetime will be the place to work out ethical quandaries about a 16 year-old's possible participation in her own kidnapping and a double murder. But I guess that Kidnapped: The Hannah Anderson Story will be basing even its controversial elements on the actual story. Hopefully they're able to maintain some respect for the actual survivor of the crime, Hannah Anderson. 

Image: Jack Zeman/Hybrid LLC

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