Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Rape of Eve
 by Colin A. Ross

[Guest Review by Jonathan Poletti] (Manitou Communications)

Is there a weirder story than The Three Faces of Eve? — and not just because of the movie, which was fake. That no doubt helped it become a movie, from which lurid "multiple personality" sagas like Sibyl derive. And, too, powerful cinema about the merging & disintegration of personality, like Ingmar Bergman's Persona, and Donald Cammell’s Performance, and songs like Siouxie Sioux's "Christine." 

But none of it went near the real story. Christine or 'Chris' Sizemore told her side a few times, notably in a 1977 book, I’m Eve. Another was hiding in plain sight, like in a 1989 New York Times story when she's suing to get the rights to her life back, and her old doctor is asked by the New York Times how much he made off it? "Dr. Thigpen said he did not know..." After his death it became clear he made a lot of her story up, and kept her suppressed while he picked up the checks & awards. 

Colin A. Ross, a psychiatrist, starts the clean-up with The Rape of Eve, which reads like a prosecutor’s indictment. As a teenager Thigpen buys the book Joe Strong, The Boy Magician & his course is set. From supporting his family with a magic act, he graduates to psychiatry, then a free-for-all of experiments with everything from shock treatments to frontal lobotomies. But his showman instincts roar to life when a young woman diagnosed with schizophrenia is brought to him, having just tried to strangle her kid.

She comes off as magical too, as dangerous to herself, therefore, as others. I’m Eve includes descriptions of her psychic abilities, premonitions that comes true, distance healing, etc. “They were simply another confusing facet of her already inexplicable existence…” Ross notes her father was known across town for energy medicine. “He could heal diseases and could cause wounds to stop bleeding with the pass of a hand.” One begins to imagine, at least, a competing narrative of a girl from a shamanistic clan scooped up by a trickster who has no ability, or interest, in making her well.

If she was even sick? In I’m Eve, the psychotherapist she credits with her 1974 ‘integration’ appears to think her a victim less of mental illness than cultural repression of feeling. “She escaped reality by utilizing a very complicated and distorted lifestyle, classified by society as an emotional disturbance,” he writes. In a later book, she comes to her own realization that her personalities "were entities, whole unto their own rights, who coexisted with my birth personality before I was born.” She read Thigpen's book about her, and was dismayed. "The whole thing was wrong. None of them seemed like real people." 

The indecency of Thigpen's use of her is laid out for inspection, with contracts & letters comprising a chunk of Ross' book. The treatment with Chris was a little less than three years, less time (Ross thinks) than an "integration" could've taken, but Thigpen had little interest in therapy. If vaguely enamored, he also sniffed a product he could sell, and under the guise of writing a "medical monograph" gets her to sign away her life rights for $3. The movie earns her $5000 more, and that was it, with the studio trying to enforce its ownership of her for the rest of her life. 

Even in his book, Thigpen is creepy. Eve Black's legs were "attractive," though Jane was his favorite: “her smile was fresh and lovely…perfectly feminine…naturally sensuous.” In a documentary film he made of her, she's made to try on dresses, as he critiques, i.e. “You look mighty cute.” In the letters, he seems to feed off control of her as he navigates media & film to promote his version of her life. He writes her marriage counsel in 1955: “Perhaps by now you have learned that a wife cannot manifest any fierce independence. Whether she likes it or not a wife’s first consideration should be her husband’s welfare and desires.” Ross alleges Thigpen fondled her sexually, as well as facilitated an unwanted abortion & hysterectomy, while he watched. 

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