Many people assume that Manson Girls is the story of Charles Manson and the Tate/LaBianca murders.
It is not.
I had no interest in telling Manson’s story. Manson Girls is a film about an American Tragedy. It’s about how America raised a nation of female serial killers, and it’s told from the perspective of eight of the girls, starting from their teenage years, before they met Manson, and ending before the Tate/LaBianca murders.
Let me back up to why I wanted to tell this story. My father died last year. Upon his death, I discovered that I was left out of his will and trust. His second wife coerced him to leave his full estate to her and her two nephews. I was his only child and he raised me as a single father. I warned him that she and her family did not care about me. For years, I talked to him about protecting me from them, but he didn’t believe me. Immediately after his funeral, the step-monster kicked me out of my childhood home and tried to have me arrested for driving my father’s car. She kept a letter he wrote me before his death. To this day, I do not know what my father wanted to say to me when he realized he was dying. I felt betrayed, abandoned, neglected, used and abused. I felt tossed out like yesterday’s rotten trash. I’m a grown woman, with close friends to support me during times of distress. I have a career that is my passion, which I could turn to during moments of despair. I’m financially self-sufficient, so I did not need the money to survive. Imagine if something like this happened to me when I was a child, a teenage girl, with no close friends to support me, no passions to keep me focused, no money to survive. I thought of the Manson Girls, as young girls, before they met Charlie.
It was at this moment that I started the re-writes for Manson Girls. I decided I wanted to tell the story of eight of the girls, from their teenage years through to the minute before the Tate/LaBianca murders. Manson Girls is a movie about how neglect, rejection and abuse can transcend into hopelessness, despondence and ultimately, violence. I could relate; there were times that I wished serious harm onto my step-monster and her family. There were days that I hated my father for not protecting me from them. Fortunately, I was mature enough to know how to avoid reckless rebellion and amoral abandon.
Imagine a young Linda Kasabian kicked out of her home by her step-father, with a mother who wasn’t strong enough to stand up for her. Imagine a young Leslie Van Houten, pregnant and alone, while her parents were going through a divorce. Imagine a young Susan Atkins being sexually molested by her older brother and his friends while her mother was dying of cancer. Is it any wonder that Susan “Sadie” Atkins goes on to be a drug addict, a stripper, a prostitute and a murderer, all by the age of 20?
I am by no means condoning the violence they enacted on the victims they murdered. The families of Sharon Tate, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, and the other murder victims have every right to believe the Manson Girls are vile, soulless human beings. I personally believe Charles Manson is a monster that should never be released onto society. But before they became America’s most infamous killers, they were America’s most neglected and abused children. They had the common thread of parents who did not care for them, teachers who did not protect them, church leaders who ignored their pain. So many men do not understand, that to be a man is not about how many children you have; it is about how many children you raise...with compassion and decency and kindness. So many women do not understand that giving birth to a child is only the beginning step to becoming a mother...it’s your duty to nurture and safeguard that child for the rest of their lives. If the Manson Girls had fathers, and mothers, and teachers, and priests, who valued them, who spent time with them, who protected them from neglect and abuse, could it be possible that they would not have become such easy prey for a psychopath like Charles Manson? After all, Manson himself, was once a neglected nine-year-old child, with a mother who didn’t want him and a father who didn’t know him...
Susanna Lo is an award-winning director and screenwriter. Her upcoming film, Manson Girls, is scheduled to begin shooting in 2011. Her novel, Alma Of My Heart, was released by Stay Thirsty Press in November, 2010.
All opinions expressed by Susanna Lo are solely her own and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.