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Through A Glass Under The Glass.


Guest ModernDayMoriarty

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Guest ModernDayMoriarty

This topic may be rather distasteful to some. If you are at all uneasy with examining the topic of child abuse then I urge you not to read further. It is not my intetion to offend anyone, simply to raise awareness of lax storytelling around this issue. I believe this episode strikes truer than most I have seen into the problems surrounding Child abuse, the hatred of those who commit child abuse and the stories/dramas that are written about such events.

Over its three seasons, Millennium produced 3 or 4 episodes that dealt with the very thorny issue of child abuse. Of these, I consider 'Through a Glass, Darkly' to be easily the most credible and valuable. It is a very brave episode as it attempts to forage where few dramas dare to tread - the concept of foregiveness and/or understanding the mindset of a child molester. This is obviously very dangerous ground as dramas cannot be seen to be in way endorsing crimes against children or be seen to be justifying them.

But Millennium was not a program shy of interrogating a subject to see the truth. And the truth in this case is that most dramas, (Millennium included) take a very safe, very stylised, very popularist view of such crime. Child abductors/molesters etc are seen as the very definition of evil. They commit crimes against those who still have their innocence and cannot defend themselves or make sound judgements about what they will or won't agree to allow someone to do to them. So in crime dramas of all stripes, such criminals are usually played as vile, preverted sadists who have no motivation for what they are doing - they are just plain evil.

Well that is all well and good but it doesn't help us very much does it? I mean, whilst it may be nice to think of such people as sub-human monsters who need catching and often given a good beating by the arresting officers, it ignores completely the complexity of the problem. Such people do not cease to exist when they are placed in jail and there are people whose job it is to try and rehabilitate them for the day they will be sent back into society. There they will suffer media exposure, societal hatred and generally become victims themselves. But what's this? I hear you cry. Sticking up for them, what's the matter with you? Well, I do not condone crimes against children in any way of course. I think it is as reprehensible as the next man (or woman) but we can't simply label them as evil and try and box them away. 'Through a Glass...' goes as far as it reasonably could trying to approach this tough subject.

Because what if he had been guilty? No happy ending, no big misunderstanding, what if he had been guilty? Would we have any sympathy at all for him, would Frank? Well as C R Huntizinger says in 'Paper Dove', who cares what those animals think? Crime drama like Millennium tries to investigate the motivations for killers, explore why they do what they do and try to understand how our world can hold such people. But with child abuse it is different. The times we live in have drilled into people that this is an unforgiveable crime no matter the circumstances. They are evil and always will be until their dying day. So no-one wants to see a drama where the criminal has reasons, they aren't interested in being entertained by this subject in any way other than seeing a rabid animal caught and punished. They want to see the investigator appalled by the crime and fight to retain his objectivity in the face of such cruelty.

But Through a Glass rejects this at least for most of the episode. Brunelli is not a demonic monster. He is a sad, lonely man who deeply regrets what he thinks he has done. His time of punishment locked away and his remorse have truly changed him from what he imagines himself to have been. And the episode asks 'can there ever be forgiveness for a crime like this?' Will there ever come a time when we could accept him again? The episode would suggest no, certainly not. The town seethes with resentment towards him and the police are all over him. There is no attempt at understanding the problems of the criminal in these cases. Frank identifies why Brunelli acts as he does and explains what is making him do this but he uses this simply as ammunition rather than as a tool to understanding. Such people are like all of us - they have impulses and drives that predispose them to like certain things. Do people to have these drives? Did you request at birth to like certain foods? Did you ask to be born favouring redheaded people? Do people ask to be born attracted to their own sex, to their own family even for instance? Society has long been faced with the difficult task of evaluating people's strange drives and deciding which could be allowed and which could not. Down the years it was fancied that people became more tolerant and homosexuality for example was made legal. Greater understanding of people's need to relieve sexual desire directly led to a relaxing of the lawa governing pornography. It has simply been determined that attempting to stamp out these things was counter-productive and just plain wrong in many cases.

But what happens when someone is attracted to youth? Did they ask to be that way? No. Can they control themselves? Well this is a question isn't it? By Frank's own words, such people cannot help themselves. They are compelled to act out their fantasies. Now this isn't always true of course. The example of homosexuals marrying to try and conclusively deny who they are is well known. It is also well known that such things rarely work for long however. There are many real life examples and hundreds of dramatic examples of murderers who hated what they were, fought what they were but could not control themselves in the end. Shakespeare in particular is awash with this and moreover is considered the pinnacle of high literature. Generation after generation, people read and enjoy tales such as 'Titus Andronicus' and 'Macbeth' and actually emphathise with the killers because they study into it and feel they can understand the character's torments and pains. And yet this treatement is almost never transferred to child abuse criminals even though such cases occur every day. The recent film with Keven Bacon, The Woodsman, also examines this. They know what they are doing and thinking is horrific but they can't just make it go away.

So you understand that it is a real problem. With help can people like this change? Would we ever be comfortable around them and would we ever believe they had been cured of this? As many medical persons have stated, pedophilia is not an illness - it cannot be 'cured' anymore than homosexuality can be cured. So what possible chance is there for forgiveness when we cannot even bring ourselves to try and understand what these people's lives are like? What is it to live every day knowing you are a monster in the eyes of the world? But why should we right? Who wants to think like that? I understand completely and I find it very hard myself to imagine forgiving or co-existing near a known pedophile 'rehabilitated' or not.

But does blindly twisting the situation to make ourselves feel better help at all or does it feed the fear? Take 'A Well Worn Lock' for example. Joe Bangs is typical of the kind of pedophile normally found on TV. He is a perverted, sick man who appears to have no compassion, no motivation for what he is doing. He victimises his girls mentally and physically. CC is attempting to portray the child abuser as evil as he is wont to do. It is likely that Bangs represents men of power, city heads, army captains etc who have tasted power and are in terror of losing it. And it cannot be denied that this goes on but there are hundreds of dramas that use this same, safe format. The villain is utterly beyond redemption, he is caught and punished and the evil is stopped. MLM episodes like 'Wide Open' and 'Through a Glass Darkly' however try to explain that such easy labeling, such easy hatred is self-destructive.

Look at our attitude to child crimes. People blockade prisons when the criminals are moved, the crimnals are attacked and sometimes killed by other crimnals (themselves killers) because of what they have done. The media hound them finding out where they go and 'outing' them whenever they try and settle. As a people we live in abject terror of anyone we don't know talking to our children, we can't let them out of our sight without thinking someone has killed them. And seeing episodes like 'Through a Glass' you have to ask is this healthy in any way? Such hatred fuels itself and the loss of hate is at the core of Season 3. As in 'Wide Open' we have become besieged by our own fear. Child abusers provide an almost cathartic release for the public of communal mass hatred. Ask yourself if you would have batted an eyelid when the guys beat Brunelli at the station and later outisde the house if he had been guilty? Would you have been at all bothered then?

I confess that I would not have cared. Too easily I find that I can say 'They get what they deserve'. I have no faith at all that such people can be rehabilitated, I don't trust them, won't trust them... ever. But should I think like this? 'Through a Glass,Darkly' attempts as well as it can to show us the dangers of this attitude we have. Witch hunts on the radio, police harassment, civilians taking the law into their own hands and no thoughs whatsoever of foregiveness or understanding. Torelli asks Frank over the phone why, when God can forgive him, can Frank not? Why can't we try?

This is a very difficult topic I know and I will completely understand if people choose not to respond. 'Through a Glass, Darkly' remains for me one of the most important episodes of MLM I have ever seen because it makes me think so deeply of my own predjudices. Yes, it evades posing really difficult questions by switching the blame to another at the last minute. And that character is just as 2-D and evil as Joe Bangs. But what could they do? Would any of us be prepared, are any of us ready to watch a drama where a former child abuser is forgiven because he is truly sorry? Will we ever be ready for that in fiction or in real life?

That is by no means all of what I think 'Through a Glass...' is doing but I think that will do for now.

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Guest A Stranger

I'm with you on this being one of the series' best. I also agree that Brunelli not commiting the crime is sanatizing the story in a way. It takes away alittle form the original theme of forgivness. He's easy to forgive becuase he didn't do anything. But at the same time it shows how blind we can be when consumed by anger and fear. This is the same idea in "Monster," but handled much more fanciful. Thinking back, it's hard to tell they're even the same show. They handle the issue of child abuse so radically different. "Through a Glass...'" is much more affecting. This is also the first step by Frank in year three to acknowledge his guilt and pain. There is an ever-present theme in year three of Frank, and other characters attempting to overcome their anger and pain in an attempt to arrive at truth.

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Guest ModernDayMoriarty

Just as 'A Well Worn Lock' presents a very audience-friendly view of this subject (i.e it presents the villain as blacker than black in no uncertain terms and ends on a happy note), 'Monster' really didn't do it for me. As a commentary on the perils of losing all objectivity about crimes against children it is acceptable I suppose. Hellions like Danielle Barbikow are allowed to grow up wreaking havoc because of doting or distant parents who are unwilling to deal with their children's misbehaviour. The fear of disciplining children in the current climate just lets them think they can get away with anything. To an extent there is evidence that this has led to the 'Generation X' syndrome of loveless teens. 'Monster' simply tried to highlight the absurdity of the situation by having the child actually kill someone and get away with it because of societal hatred against even the hints of potential child abuse by adults. It had a decent message - it just smothered it in terrible humour and overly sentimental nonsense. It lacked power and definately lacked credibility. Saying that such children were already evil was also a criminal dilution of the problem.

'Through a Glass, Darkly' however, thankfully avoids the suggestion that 'some people are just born evil'. As I have said, it tries to tackle the problem of what to do about the problem of child abuse. It is obviously unacceptable for it to go on but simply demonising child abusers and locking them away does not solve the problem at all. Also, it explores in much more sensitive detail, the problems we face as a society with our own hatred of these people - a hatred so intense we see them everywhere.

The episode is very accomplished in this regard. Brunelli is very childlike himself and the hatred and suspicion towards him reach fever pitch because he doesn't fit into the accepted modes of conduct for adult men. He seems to be a man who never grew up properly. Finding the world to be a dangerous and often very sinister place, there are countless tales of people just like this. People who don't want to join such a brash, loud, confusing society and prefer the security and peace they felt when they were children. But this is not generally considered acceptable for men - they are expected to grow up fast and take on responsibility. Brunelli's father, whilst appearing to be essentially a good man, displays little understanding or sympathy towards his son's choices in life. 'He had to grow up sometime' he declares. It is considered unhealthy, wrong, abnormal for someone to be like this. This is compounded by the fact that such a close affinity for children in adult men is always going to be difficult in this climate. People fear the worst when they see and hear of grown men acting so friendly with children. As with the recent Michael Jackson trial, people assumed there could be only one explanation - guilty, guilty of child abuse. Now I don't want to get too into Jackson's guilt or lack thereof. The fact remains that even now, millions will still have that suspicion that he may have done it. The accusation was enough - Jackson is no longer a star. Brunelli sees children in pain and senses a kindred soul to whom he can try and offer comfort. It is like one child consoling another but this is not and likely never will be accepted by society. We are simply too terrified of child abuse, of deviation from normality. People like Brunelli should grow up or stay away is most people's attitude.

Brunelli's persecution is doubly tragic. First as has already been explained, the episode symbolically casts us all as child abusers because of our reaction to people like Brunelli. You are only as old as you feel they say. Well Brunelli is clearly more child than man so when people hate him, persecute and beat him, they are practically commiting child abuse themselves. Secondly however, it means that people overlook the misery of the children he was trying to comfort. People love their kids in the main but they don't always understand them. There appears to be a problem for the current and reletively recent generations to connect with the older generations. The 'Generation X' topic was of great interest particularly in American literature throughout the 90's, stating that children were growing up with less and less sense of purpose and security. There have been recent studies showing truly alarming rises in teenage suicides for example which of great concern to this writer. A very good expression of this problem can be found in the indie film 'Donnie Darko' - a very millenial film if ever there was one. So perhaps Patrick Harbinson was trying to remind us of this. By taking Brunelli away, by symbolically rejecting childhood and ignoring childhood misery as 'growing pains' or childish behaviour, we risk pushing that gap open even further.

It's a very powerful, important episode. The constraints of TV and censorship together with the likely reluctance of studio bosses to deviate too far from the established norm serve to rob the episode of credibilty and impact at the 11th hour. But if you read between the lines then there are many home truths to be learned from this.

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  • 3 years later...
Guest Laurent.

Amazing topic! I can't believe I missed it before.

I've always found this to be one of Millennium's most thought provoking episodes. Especially because the extent of human forgiveness is a subject that really interest me.

I agree that the "last minute switch of blame" is an easy way out for the episode. But it doesn't in any way diminished what was said in the rest of the story. The important thing was that no one was able to forgive him, even if he had paid the price of "his" actions and even if God himself could forgive him. In fact, the idea that he wasn't even guilty shows how ruthless society was against him, because their rejection had absolutely nothing to do with him. So basically, it shows that no matter how well he was going to behave after the condemnation, he would never have found forgiveness.

I also thought it was a nice thematic link that the man who actually abused the children of the town had chosen a childlike adult to cover for him.

Anyway, the actual issue was rehashed in The X-Files: I Want to Believe and this time without the switch of blame. Father Joe is also searching for human forgiveness, after having found God's redemption. But neither society nor the Church will forgive him. So what is the extent of human forgiveness? What is the extent of divine redemption?

I especially like that Scully won't even forgive Father Joe after he saved a woman's life, possibly many more future victims and maybe had a part to play in Christian's life if Scully can manage to save him too. Once again, Scully's voice of reason is heard in opposition to Mulder's will to believe that Father Joe's prayers were answered.

FATHER JOE:

Do you care to offer confession?

SCULLY:

I don't think you're...

FATHER JOE:

What? In a position to judge? And yet you've judged me, haven't you?

SCULLY:

You deserve to be judged.

FATHER JOE:

Do you know why we live here? The men who call this vile box of monsters home? Because we hate each other, even as we hate ourselves for our sickening appetites.

SCULLY:

This doesn't make it any less sickening.

FATHER JOE:

And where do they come from, these appetites, these uncontrollable urges of ours?

SCULLY:

Not from God!

FATHER JOE:

Not from me. I castrated myself when I was 26. And the visions weren't my idea either! Proverbs 25:2.

MULDER:

It's an injustice to the man's name.

SCULLY:

Well, considering his crimes against those young boys, who is really going to care?

MULDER:

I thought you believed him too.

SCULLY:

I wanted to believe him. I did believe him. I acted on that belief.

MULDER:

Why don't you just tell me what he said to you.

SCULLY:

He told me: Don't give up.

SCULLY:

And I didn't, and it saved your life. But I've put that boy through hell. And I have another surgery scheduled for this morning, because I believed that God was telling me to. Through a pedophile priest, no less.

MULDER:

What if Father Joe's prayers were answered after all? What he were forgiven, because he didn't give up.

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  • 5 months later...
Guest quentin compson

"Through a Glass, Darkly" was a very good episode, and a very intense one, even without the gory scenes we often get with Millennium.

Tom MacCleister was simply great as the falsely accused man. Even when you're led to believe that he is probably innocent concerning the present crimes but still responsible for those twenty years ago, you cannot help but feel some kind of compassion for this man. I agree with the OP that too often, the complex issue of paedophiliac people is dealt with way too superficially - and the writers have done a great job here to avoid the stereotypical depiction of a paedophile as pure evil.

However, the twist that leaves Brunelli completely innocent certainly mars the theme of forgiveness a little bit - it doesn't change anything for Brunelli, as he feels he is guilty and needs to be forgiven, but it does change a lot for the viewer.

Another thing that impressed me was the portrayal of this small-town witch-hunt climate that has been depicted very well several times both on Millennium as well as on the X-Files.

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"Of all the animals, man is the only one that is cruel."

(Mark Twain)

"Wild animals never kill for sport. Man is the only one to whom the torture and death of his fellow creatures is amusing in itself."

(James Anthony Froud)

"The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary. Men alone are quite capable of every wickedness."

(Joseph Conrad)

"Nothing is easier than to denounce the evil doer; Nothing more difficult than understanding him."

(Dostoevsky)

"Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth."

(OscarWilde)

"It has been said that time heals all wounds. I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue, and the pain lessens, but it is never gone."

(Rose Kennedy)

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do."

(Eleanor Roosevelt)

Edited by Earthnut
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DarleneSignaturePic1.jpg

"Time is too slow for those who wait; too swift for those who fear;

too long for  those who grieve; too short for those who rejoice.

But for those who love, time is eternity."

(Jane Fellowes)

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  • Elders (Admins)

I also like this episode, not just for the twists in the story but because of what it showed about the psychology of abuse. The lawyer, Jarrett, who is the perpetrator of the original crimes, as well as abusing his daughter, has managed to control his wife and brainwash Brunelli. But what about Brunelli's father and the rest of the townsfolk? Did they believe in Brunelli's guilt solely because of Brunelli's confession, or did Jarrett control their thinking in some way, or was it that they were just thankful someone had been caught and maybe Brunelli had been some kind of scapegoat just because he's not very bright.

I think the episode was a subtle look into how the "truth" gets masked by people seeing what they want to see or believe what they've heard. There's been plenty of real-life cases where people's belief as to the identity of the "victims" and "perpetrators" turns out to be completely false.

As for the forgiveness, I think what was important about that was although Brunelli had been programmed to believe he needed to be forgiven, it did turn out to be the other way, especially in the case of his father. Brunelli was the one who needed to be able to extend forgiveness and that would have been challenging for him after almost a lifetime of emotional abuse. On first viewing, I thought the very last scene was almost cutesy, until I realised that it wasn't Brunelli's father or the girl, Shannon, being nice to Brunelli and in a way saying sorry, it was that Brunelli still had the humanity within him to treat other people gently.

I definitely agree that Tom McCleister was incredible in this role. After reading Missy Crider's interview about how she tackled her role in "In Arcadia Ego", I'd love to know how Mr McCleister approached the role of Brunelli.

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Libby

"Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape." Terry Pratchett

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Very valid points. Our justice system is set up where the rights of the accused sometimes outweigh the rights of the victims, unfortunately. Somewhere down the line over the last two hundred years the scales were tipped in that favor. Being well into my second decade in law enforcement, I can pass on a few tips I have learned about child molesters.

1) For every one that is put in jail, ten more don't get caught (at least ten).

2) Rarely have I seen a convicted or accused child molester that did not look like someone's average joe next door neighbor. 99% of them have no prior criminal history. There are very few child molesters who look like "monsters" per se. All the better to fit into your neighborhood as teachers, coaches, etc.

3)An accused child molester will rationalize his behavior at all costs once confronted with evidence (DNA, fingerprints, etc.)"He looks older than he is." "She acted like she was 18, I didn't know she was 10."

I will concede one of your previous points. Most of the sex offenders I have dealt with do lust after children to the same extent that men lust after women and vice versa. Here is the problem. They lust after the power they have over the children, not the sexual gratification. Hurting a child, making them submit to their will, dominating them, is much more important than the sexual gratification part to sex offenders. Most of them are remorseful only to the extent in which it will help them obtain leniency. But, if you listen in on their jailhouse phone calls to their relatives and friends, you usually hear a very different version of the events. These calls are very useful in front of a jury on the rare occasion an offender actually goes to trail on a sex crimes against children charge. If you can get an offender to admit they had sexual contact with a child, to come clean, the actual story they tell is usually grim and the look in their eyes as they describe the act is chilling at the very least. There is a very valid reason they are often deemed "sexual predators". If you are a parent, as I am, it makes you want to pick up your kid right then from school, take them to your house, lock the doors, dig a trench around your house and fill it with oil. They know exactly what they were doing. They know exactly how wrong what they are doing is. They come up with intricate, completely fabricated stories before the fact in case they are caught. That is pre-meditation. You have just now forfeited your rights to re-join the human population in my humble opinion. Personally? I think possibly giving them a choice of alligator wrestling with their hands tied behind their back or skydiving with no parachute should be the only two options available on sentencing. I have no sympathy or remorse for their plight if/when they are releasd from prison. A mandatory/minimum life sentence might make a difference when it comes to sex offenders. We have lobbied for many years on the law enforcement side of this issue but it always gets marked off with the legislators as "too harsh". Gunslinger.

Edited by ethsnafu
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"Have I run too far to get home?"

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Guest Laurent.

Hail Gunslinger!

Very good post! and I enjoyed your insights. Have you ever followed the effects of chemical castration on child molesters? I have heard of it, but really don't know where it is allowed and to what extent...

If I understand your point about the mandatory life sentence, the problem seems to be that these criminals spent their lives posing as normal people you can trust, so that in no way can you judge their rehabilitation in a penitentiary institution, right?. Making it almost impossible to give them a second chance without risking someone's safety.

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