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The Tale (HBO)

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Jennifer has it all, with a loving boyfriend and a great career as a journalist and professor. But when her mother discovers a story - "The Tale" - that Jennifer wrote when she was 13, detailing a special relationship Jennifer had with two adult coaches, Jennifer returns to the Carolina horse farm where the events transpired to try to reconcile her version of events with the truth.

Premiered May 26, 2018, on HBO.

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Wow.  That was so intense.  I loved the way it was written to get everyone’s perspective and how the main characters perspective on the past changed once she saw a picture of herself at 13 and how small/young she really was.  Not the young teen budding into womanhood that she originally saw in her mind, but a prepubescent child.   The acting is so good by everyone, this is one show that will stick with you because it is so disturbing and you can see how it could really happen, that it did really happen to the gal who wrote it.   

Edited by MarMar
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The Tale deeply affected me. I hurt so much for young, innocent, sweet Jenny and the woman she became, carrying the pain like it is a fragile baby bird, protecting it from the elements.

While our stories are different, some similarities hit me hard. All stories of assault share common threads: predation, shame, disgust.

I hit puberty early--I had to start wearing a bra in third grade and started my period in fifth grade. When I was 12, I was preyed upon by two older teenagers (unrelated), one of whom was my mother's best friend's 19-year-old son. I have never told my mother about this.

At the time, I felt special, like young Jenny, because guys were paying attention to me. I am the oldest of three daughters. My sisters are three and four years younger than I am and I was left to care for them at age nine while my mother worked two jobs. My parents split when I was five. I was a latchkey kid at six, in ~1980. My homelife was chaos, like Jenny's.

When I told my latest/current therapist about the incidents (and these were just two of several others on the spectrum of assault when I was 12-13), I said, "They weren't that bad; I wasn't raped or anything." She was taken aback, and discussed with me how the incidents were traumatizing. Indeed, with these older guys, I was coerced into doing things I absolutely wasn't ready for or comfortable with. I had only ever kissed a boy before then. I recognize how the assault helped cement my distrust of men that started with my deadbeat father.

The resounding message of the movie for me is that the mind protects us from the horror of the truth until we are ready to face and process it.

I'm never going to be able to look at Jason Ritter the same way again.

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My sympathies, @bilgistic, for encountering anything even remotely similar.

I second the “wow” for The Tale. It is stunning, riveting, horrifying, with some of the best storytelling and film-making that I’ve seen in years.

Calling it unflinching seems like such a cliché, but the word fits. I kept expecting the camera to pull back or cut away—because that is what TV does—but The Tale doesn’t let you, the viewer, turn away or avoid any part of Jenny’s discovery. And that is its power. It lays bare just how subtle and manipulative abusive relationships, or even adult-child interactions, can be, too.

Everything about this seemed authentic, even the portrayal of Jenny breaking away from the abuse. It was a fraught decision that she built up to, I’m sure, but I liked how simply it was executed: Jenny calls and says she’s not coming, and then further severs contact by retrieving her horse a week later. This might seem like an odd thing to like, but having the “Oh. I don’t have to be around that person.” realization can be one of the most empowering moments a child (or adult) can experience. And most abuse stories focus on escape or rescue… on extrinsic action. The Tale subverts that by showing how a child, a girl, can make a decision to protect herself and then set it in motion. Which is powerfully important.

This is now the baseline against which I judge all child-abuse movies and shows, I think. Near the end, I began to think back to 13 Reasons Why. Not to take away from its attempts to discuss teen mental health, but The Tale makes it look stereotypical now.

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Not to nitpick but if the present was supposed to be 2018 wouldn’t she have had to be 13 in 1983 not 1973 since her mother said she was 48 when referring to her getting married?  I thought maybe the present day was 2008 but her IPhone was too recent.  

I thought the movie was good but there wasn’t much of an outcome.

Edited by Laurie4H
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The outcome was adult Jennifer’s self-awareness that she was sexually abused as a child. The outcome was her deconstructing “the tale” she wrote as a child to reframe it as abuse. She also called her abuser a rapist to his face—that was the breakthrough. Mirroring documentary film-making, this is about the process of exploring and exposing a truth, not about an, again, extrinsic label like "justice".

I’m guessing it was set a decade or more ago. The Tale is autobiographical, and the director, Jennifer Fox, mentions being in her 40s during her investigation.

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@Kostgard suggested this film to those of us in the Leaving Neverland thread in “HBO Documentaires”. I am watching it now. 

The film was very good, but if you are triggered I would not recommend watching it. Laura Dern did a good job, and Common played her boyfriend. (He is not a central part of the story but I’m shallow and think he’s cute). 

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