Plus: Is Boston the "most racist city in America"?
That subhead isn’t me trying to get you to click. “People will call this the most racist city in America” is a quote from the trailer for Murder in Boston, and while there’s probably important context around that remark, I sort of already know what the speaker means. While no large city is going to be as empirically racist as your average Southern sundown town, when marginalization is deeply historic and organized (see: Tulsa), that certainly raises your city’s ranks on some bizarro world Buzzfeed list.
The docuseries launched last Monday, with episodes airing on a weekly basis. This isn’t always how HBO rolls, and I’m curious about why they chose this old-school programming choice — but I’m also not mad about it, as it somehow feels more manageable to know I only have one episode to contend with this weekend, and that sticking with it remains open-ended.
I’m putting off telling you what this case is about because I so vividly recall the bitter arguments it spawned in my dorm; I was a freshman in college on October 23, 1989, when Carol Stuart was shot to death in what her husband claimed was a carjacking perpetrated by a Black assailant. This case of a lovely white couple attacked by an inner-city criminal spawned some remarkably racist broadcast news coverage (which I am sure we see in the film), coverage that I remember watching all the places folks gathered to watch TV in college settings, back when we didn’t each have our own screens in our back pockets.
The coverage allowed the worst assumptions and fears of urban life and Black folks to come to the surface, in some of my dormmates, the nation at large, and in Boston, where the cops operated with near impunity. The Boston Globe’s coverage wasn’t much better, and I assume that that paper’s co-production of this series is part of their penance. Because, as it turns out, it wasn’t some random Black guy at all — this was all a plot by Stuart’s husband (who actually shot his wife and injured himself) to get her life insurance.
My assumption is that this is a frustrating show that will illustrate how little things have changed — I’m thinking, here, of how quickly media rushed to blame one type of criminal for the slaying of tech guy Bob Lee when a fellow tech bro appears to be responsible; and in this case the suspect didn’t even spin a tale to implicate a marginalized group. Maybe that’s why HBO is dropping these eps weekly instead of presenting as a binge, so we can really think about ourselves as a society? If you’ve watched the first episode and have thoughts on the show so far, let’s hear them.
Also landing on HBO this week is Great Photo, Lovely Life, a doc from Rachel Beth Anderson and Amanda Mustard about Mustard’s grandfather, Bill Flickinger. According to the PR around the film, Flickinger was a lifelong sexual abuser — most frequently, the filmmakers allege — of children, something he admits to in the movie. (I haven’t watched the doc and am unclear if he’s been convicted of the crimes, hence my better-safe-than-sorry use of “allegedly.” Now you know why Sarah made that t-shirt.)
Flickinger’s alleged crimes were an open secret in his family, it appears, behavior enabled by standard patriarchal bullshit and the inconsistently applied concept of Christian forgiveness. All this makes me feel depressed just typing about it, but I’m still fascinated that Mustard made the decision to make this film. Anyone who’s stood up to the overwhelming pressure from their family not to make waves and to “go along to get along” is probably wondering how she did it, and what the personal repercussions were. Though this movie sounds bleak as hell, I’ll watch in hopes I can gain insight into how Mustard is using her investigation to heal.
Ugh, this makes my true-crime weekend sound so depressing! Where’s the fun jewel heist, or the low-stakes love fraud? Please save me from myself in the comments with recommendations of some lighter fare for this grey and dreary weekend. — EB
Tyler Goodson, Alabama man who shot to fame with "S-Town" podcast, killed by police during standoff, authorities say [CBS]
"Police bout to shoot me down in my own yard," Goodson reportedly posted to Facebook while allegedly barricaded inside his home; folks like you and I know who he is because of his quotes in the Serial spin-off about John B. McLemore. (According to Goodson, the late McLemore was “just about the only daddy I've got.”)
There’s some conflicting information on when Goodson actually died, the Tuscaloosa Thread reports. The New York Times, which now owns S-Town’s production company, notes that Goodson has made headlines in the past for allegedly killing his brother’s dog and allegedly stealing items from McLemore’s estate. “Please remember at this time that he is so much more than a character to the fans who loved him,” local mayor Jeff Dodson said. “This young man was a father, son, brother and friend to many.” — EB
Brittney Griner’s Russia Detention to Get Doc, Scripted Treatment From ESPN and ABC Signature [The Hollywood Reporter]
Griner has made a pretty sweet-sounding deal with Disney, from the looks of it: An ESPN Films documentary, a scripted series in development with ABC Signature (too bad American Sports Story is on FX!), and “an exclusive interview with Robin Roberts of ABC News, with an airdate still to be determined.” The topic of all, obviously, will be the months the openly gay WNBA star was in jail in Russia over weed possession allegations, an alleged crime that sure was an effective litmus test for racists and bigots. — EB
She was watching ‘NCIS’ with her dad — then he told her he was a fugitive [Washington Post gift link]
This is arguably promotion for Ashley Randele’s podcast, My Fugitive Dad, which dropped its first episode this week. It isn’t just press release rewrite, though, as reporter Jonathan Edwards speaks with Randele about her motivation to publicly discuss her dad’s theft of $215,000 in 1969 while an employee at a Cleveland bank. When we talk about how things might have turned out for DB Cooper, should he have escaped, this is the sort of life I imagine, and like Cooper’s crime, Randele’s dad’s seems relatively victimless. Maybe this is the dark-family-secret palate cleanser I’ll need after watching this weekend’s new TV options. — EB
Next week on Best Evidence: May December, Shatner, and the last Docket of 2023.