A BOY’S LIFE

by Matt on March 8, 2006

boy

It cannot be uttered enough — Mississippi needs a large shipment of smallpox to eradicate its subhuman population. Not next month, or even tomorrow, but now. If there’s a more revolting, illiterate, dirty, muck-ridden, deplorable state in the Union, I’ve yet to find it. And yes, I realize there is an Alabama [Ed Note: Florida?]. The most recent proof of Mississippi’s failure to embrace modernism is the HBO documentary A Boy’s Life, one of the most disturbing movies I have ever seen. Disturbing not in the sense that I give a shit about these people, but disturbing because I wonder how widespread this crap really is.

Part of HBO’s America Undercover, A Boy’s Life follows the tragic days and nights of young Robert, a sick, twisted little shit who lives with his insane “maw-maw” (grandmother, for those aware of the English language) and his younger brother. Robert was shipped to his grandma’s after his mother — the portly and toothless Robanna — decided that, at 15, she was too young to raise a child. Apparently such self-awareness didn’t prevent her from getting knocked up again, however (by a different father, as if I had to tell you). Robert is a charming young lad who talks about cutting off his own head, has (so far) killed at least four cats and three dogs (yet claims to love animals in a school art project), and screams with a hellish rage. He’s just the sort of kid to inspire the borderline to perform a crude self-castration.

We follow Robert around — from home to school to meetings with social services — and while it is clear that the boy is fucked, it becomes even more clear that any psychosis he has (and such things are debatable given that his teachers love him) is as a result of living with his grandmother. This woman should enter the ranks as one of America’s most vile villainesses, believing as she does that squalor is an acceptable environment for a growing boy. She allows the youngster to play with firearms (and mocks him when he can’t squeeze the trigger), keeps ammunition within reach, asks him repeatedly what he would do to people with a knife (at one point he says he’d stab a man in the heart, an answer that seems to meet with her approval), and provokes him time after time, seemingly to “prove” that he’s disturbed and needs her help.

At one point, old Anna inflicts bruises on her legs (causing her to be hospitalized with dangerous clots) in order to blame the boy. No one in the film believes that Robert did it, but the events demonstrate how far Anna will go to keep the young boy in her clutches. It shouldn’t surprise us that Robert’s mother is also a mess. She also suffers from hypochondria (leading to a classic scene where Anna berates a nurse for being a quack because she doesn’t “properly” diagnose her daughter, as if her home remedies and snake oil are the equivalent of modern medicine) and still believes that she could have been a top model before being saddled with children (I saw her “beauty shots” and believe me, I wouldn’t even give her a shot for Miss Tupelo). Robanna has a twisted relationship with her mother and at one point threatens to jump from a speeding car (she even opens the door), but it is apparent that mother Anna is the source of all this pain and anguish.

And should it surprise us that Anna has been married four times? Or that she physically forced Robert to take medication that made him even nuttier? It was revealing that after Robert was taken away and returned to his mother, the outbursts stopped, as did the need for medication. But even if Robert is better off with his mother, it is still a depressing reality that bad grammar, revolving-door boyfriends for mommy, and pipe dreams will dominate his life. Where are the books? The life lessons? The sense of fun and play? And can a boy really recover after being in the same room with a woman who placed her hand on his mother’s head and asked for Jesus to heal her of all afflictions? As I watched A Boy’s Life, I came to several conclusions:

  • There is a correlation between religious belief and poverty. Ah, fuck it: if you are poor and without hope, it is because you believe in God. Dispense with the Almighty and find your way out of the din.
  • Poor white trash love the following: dirty T-shirts from concerts and gatherings (usually involving motorcycles) held years before, guns, mangy dogs, home hair care, guns, and television.
  • There are now people naming their children Shaquille.
  • Social workers have the worst job on earth, second only to teachers in rural school districts.
  • Despite the attempted objectivity of a documentary, it is impossible not to judge these people. White trash deserve every ounce of scorn they receive.
  • So these are the people who made Trent Lott a Senator.

Okay folks, now you may secede.

About

Matt is the site’s Longest Serving Critic and chief misanthrope. He divides his time between classics of cinema and the most ridiculous movies he can find on Redbox.
Follow Matt: @mattcale52

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