Lifetime has a long history of using true crime tales as the basis for TV movies that are directly based on the news. However, the dramatization of Gabby Petito’s recent murder in the film The Gabby Petito Story, which had its debut on Saturday, October 1, has drawn criticism from social media users. The mother of Petito Schmidt is now commenting on the way her daughter’s passing was shown on television.
Schmidt stated in a statement issued by The AWARE Foundation, according to Newsweek, “We believed our fans should know that the Lifetime movie about Gabby Petito has no relation to the Petito family and they did not grant their consent.” “Lifetime decided to produce the film on their own.”
According to Lifetime, the movie “explores Gabby and her tumultuous relationship with her fiance Brian Laundrie and what may have gone wrong on their cross-country trip that may have led to Gabby’s sad murder.” The film “will bring to life Gabby and Brian’s fatal love story, including the warning signals that Gabby’s life was in danger, the accompanying search for her, the final discovery of her murder and, eventually, Brian’s suicide” as the one-year anniversary of her terrible death approaches.
Twitter users recently blasted Lifetime for approving The Gabby Petito Story, especially so soon after Petito’s passing, according to Newsweek. (Petito, 22, vanished in August 2021 while traveling with his fiancé, 23-year-old Brian Laundrie. She was ultimately discovered in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park, while Laundrie was discovered in Florida’s Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park more than a month later, along with a journal in which he acknowledged to having “finished [Petito’s] life.”
Twitter user: “This is really horrible.” “Foul. Almost a year has passed since she vanished. Just so many things are wrong with this.
“@lifetimetv, y’all are cruel and should be ashamed of yourself for profiteering from a girl’s murder and a family who’s still traumatized and mourning,” said another user in response to the tweet.
It was originally “inclined to agree that it was too soon” for a TV movie on Petito’s murder, according to The Gabby Petito Story director Thora Birch, who also portrays Schmidt in the film.
But eventually, she said, “I grew to be perplexed by that assumption since it sidesteps the real query when it comes to relaying Gabby’s story, or that of so many others who have suffered domestic abuse: How should one approach such a sensitive endeavor? “Merely deciding not to participate doesn’t honor her memory, and doesn’t bring attention to circumstances that are all too often.”
How does Lifetime have a “Gabby Petito Movie” out already?
— BiasedGirl (@BiasedGirl) September 28, 2022
Lifetime has been making movies based on true events for forever but idk, something about that Gabby Petito movie feels extra icky to me.
— Melissa (@Melissa2day) September 27, 2022
Since many years, mainstream news and real crime programs have been under fire for their exclusive focus on violence against white women, generally ignoring the pervasive issue of violence against women of color. For instance, Utah has one of the worst rates of murdered and missing Indigenous women. However, the Hollywood production occupying Utah’s forum for domestic abuse discourse doesn’t seem to address these victims or the subject at all.
True crime is the focus of whole news channels and TV programs, delivering viewers’ homes daily horror stories about missing and murdered women and children. Audiences that would have shunned channels like CNN and Lifetime have been drawn in by the emergence of prestige documentaries and radio shows that examine real-life true crime cases. Since true crime has become such a pillar of culture, experts have tried to figure out why it appeals to women, who make up the majority of true crime viewers. One research indicated that when it came to picking violent reading material, women tended to read actual crime more frequently than men did.
Ella Dawson, a writer and cultural critic, slammed the announcement on Twitter along with many others and dubbed the filmmakers “vultures” for making money off the case less than a year after Petito’s passing.
Critics like Dawson think a higher bar should be set for the narrative of true crime stories and the Gabby Petito film. She sought for proof that Petito’s family was involved in the project but was unable to locate any, which she cites as an issue because the Hollywood portrayal would make their suffering worse.
The plots in a lot of real crime fiction, according to Dawson, can be two-dimensional and neglect to address the more fundamental reasons of abuse. She asserts that “I believe the overwhelming majority are expressing straightforward stories that don’t deal with bigger mechanisms of power. It requires a lot from your viewers, isn’t the easiest to consume, and isn’t the most soothing. Are we cooperating with the bigger causes that continue to make domestic violence a major problem?”