On Friday, Lorena premiered on Amazon Prime. The four-part docuseries, executive produced by Oscar winner Jordan Peele, looked at the infamous true crime story of John Wayne and Lorena Bobbitt, a young couple living in Manassas, Virginia who became the center of a media superstorm when Lorena cut off her husband’s penis in June 1993.
The crime became fodder for every comedian, late night host, and radio DJ who joked about about Lorena’s actions, and portrayed John Wayne as the victim in a crime that not only wounded him physically but, insulted his manhood. Meanwhile, the media painted 24-year-old Lorena as an explosive Hispanic woman who was so unable to control her emotions that she violently attacked her husband in the middle of the night.
What all of these people, except for a few admirable entertainers such as Whoopi Goldberg, failed to acknowledge was the horrific circumstances surrounding this incident. During the four years of their marriage leading up to the incident, Lorena endured countless incidents of abuse and rape. John Wayne Bobbitt, a former Marine who was incapable of keeping down a job, berated Lorena endlessly and consistently threatened her immigration status in this country. Friends, co-workers, and neighbors all witnessed Bobbitt’s violent behavior. Lorena called the police multiple times to no avail. The day before the infamous crime, she attempted to file a restraining order but was told by a court official to come back when his secretary returned from lunch. In short, mere hours before she attacked her husband, Lorena Bobbitt was bruised, broken, and seemingly without options.
Lorena begins with John Wayne’s side of the story. His family talks about how admirable and kind he was, his lawyer says a psychological test proved his client was too simple to lie, and the man himself claimed over and over again that he was a nonviolent individual. After the first hour, you wonder if John Wayne was a victim.
During the remaining three episodes of the series, director Joshua Rofé dives into the reality of Lorena’s life with John Wayne. The truth of their relationship is horrifying.
Raised in a Catholic family in South America, Lorena emigrated to the United States at 18 to pursue the American Dream. A year later, she met strapping young John Wayne, a blue-eyed Marine that fit perfectly into the dream life she wanted for herself when she moved here. Married only months later, it wasn’t long before John Wayne’s demons came out, and he started raping and abusing his wife regularly. Unable to hold down a job of his own, Lorena worked tirelessly to keep her and her husband afloat, all while trying to meet his unrealistic standards.
She attempted to appeal to her family, to his family, and to the authorities with no luck. She threatened to leave; John Wayne Bobbitt said he would find her and kill her. Leading up to that fateful night, Lorena paints a picture of a woman, like so many others, stuck in a hostage situation with no outlet for escape. Yet, on the far side of the trials, John Wayne, not his victim, was the one who achieved fame. Nearly 26 years after the fact, watching Lorena leaves one wondering why. Why was John Wayne granted a level of celebrity following the trials when the truth about his behavior had been revealed? Why does everyone only remember her crime but overlooks his years of unthinkable cruelty?
The fourth and final episode of the docuseries gets into the reality of abuse and its victims: how the system treats these people, the infrastructure (or lack thereof) to handle these crimes, and the media’s disinterest in shining a light on this widespread problem.
Ultimately, Lorena Bobbitt came out on the other side of the ordeal a better person. She went to college, married a wonderful man, had a child, and dedicated her time to helping battered women and children. She’s risen above the jokes made at her expense and found a way to turn her tragedy into a positive motivator to inspire and help others. But even with this in-depth look at her story, will people remember Lorena Bobbitt for her charitable work or for attacking her ex-husband in the one way you’re never supposed to go after a man?
Lorena is available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video now.