Menendez: Blood Brothers

Our first stop on the journey through rhetorically analyzing the Menendez case is the Lifetime TV-movie dramatization, Menendez: Blood Brothers, released in 2017 and directed by Fenton Bailey. It stars Myko Olivier as Erik, Nico Tortorella as Lyle, and Courtney Love as their mother, Kitty.

If you are unfamiliar with the case, the Menendez brothers murdered their parents but their defense for the murders was that from childhood they had endured sexual abuse from their father while their mother turned a blind eye.

Lyle Menendez and Nico Tortorella’s portrayal of Lyle

 Menendez: Blood Brothers details the events leading up to and following the murders of Erik and Lyle’s parents, Kitty and José. Like most dramatizations, they took quite a few artistic liberties, especially in regards to the alleged sexual abuse and neglect of the brothers at the hands of not only their father but their mother as well. This is to be expected in the dramatization branch of True Crime. However, for a case as ambiguous as this one, it presents a problem of which narrative to believe. From the get go, the filmmakers only wanted to portray the brothers as a product of their tragic circumstances and, through no fault of their own, murdered their parents. Essentially, Erik and Lyle were put on a pedestal of victimhood. 

Erik Menendez and Myko Olivier’s portrayal of Erik

The laughable, made-for-TV movie opens with Erik dictating his screenplay to his mother which turns out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy as it details a son murdering his parents for money. About 15 minutes into the movie there is a scene in which Jose goes into Erik’s room and it is implied that he sexually abuses him. In truth, there was never anything in the real case to prove beyond a doubt that the boys were ever sexually abused. We aren’t implying that they never went through it, but that the dramatization makes the decision for the viewer in that regard. Not only is there a strong bias when it comes to the sexual abuse allegations within the case, there is also a gross mishandling of the topic in general. For survivors of sexual abuse/molestation, some of those scenes can be hard to watch. The way in which creators chose to portray the alleged abuse was distasteful and insensitive to say the least. To make matters even worse, the acting from just about everyone in the film is so over-the-top that it is hard to take anything seriously. One instance in which the acting makes the film unbearable to watch are the scenes in which Erik hallucinates conversations with his mother played by Courtney Love. In these scenes Erik’s mother is treated like his guardian angel figure/conscious, but this does not fit well within the grand scheme of the film and seems incredibly out of place. To put it plainly, this movie is as campy as you can get.