I mean, exponentially darker.
This shocking information is probably only going to resonate with my generation–the women who read those books back in the early eighties. When they were paperbacks—you know, with the cut-out window on the front cover and the girl looking through it from the second page?
When I was a pre-teen reading the first in the VC Andrews trilogy, I didn’t question why the kids had to be locked in the attic–as the mother explained, they had to stay hidden until their grandfather died. Otherwise, she would lose her inheritance. For a pre-teen, that’s enough of an explanation. I just went with it, waiting for the part where the brother and sister get it on Blue Lagoon style. But as an adult, forced to at least notice the billboard advertising the new Lifetime movie while crawling along with the traffic on Santa Monica Boulevard, I couldn’t help trying to remember what the big deal was. I mean, why would the grandfather be so angry that he had grandchildren? Wouldn’t he be happy? Don’t grandparents love to have as many grandchildren as possible?
Well, I Wikipedia‘d it and learned about a plot point that was definitely lost on me back in grade school. And, after talking to multiple women in my age range, I’m discovering that at least most of us missed it:
Why couldn’t the grandfather know about the kids?
BECAUSE THE FATHER OF THE FOUR BEAUTIFUL KIDS WAS THEIR MOTHER’S HALF-UNCLE!
THE FOUR BEAUTIFUL KIDS WERE ALREADY PRODUCTS OF INCEST THEMSELVES, BEFORE THEY STARTED UP WITH IT ON THEIR OWN!
I can only speak for myself, but when I was twelve years old, I thought the grandmother calling them “Devil’s Spawn” was just a really mean way of insulting them.
So my question is, did V.C. Andrews purposely make that detail too sophisticated for children to understand? And was this even supposed to be a children’s book to begin with? I mean, back in 1980, did she expect the conversations to go like this:
“Honey, what’s that you’re reading?”
“Oh, it’s just a book about four kids who get locked in an attic for years and since they’re all alone for so long with nobody else and nothing to do, the brother and sister start falling in love and having sex. But what makes it even weirder is that the four kids are products of incest themselves. So it’s like double incest. Creepy, right?”
I saw an ad for the TV movie that said something about how “the book your parents wouldn’t let you read is now a Lifetime event.” That is incorrect. I don’t think anyone was kept from reading that book. Sure, we had to hide Judy Blume’s Forever but I don’t remember Flowers in the Attic even being controversial when it came out. Our parents were probably thrown off by the cute cut-out-window cover with the girl looking through.
And the fact that we could all read that book so innocently and undisturbed back then is a real testament to how technology has changed our lives, and our privacy. A worldwide Flowers in the Attic frenzy amongst pre-teens could never happen today. Someone would figure it out and then it would go viral on the internet and our parents would block it from all electronic devices. Who knows—Amazon might even yank it.
For those of you who are too young to feel the enormous sting of this discovery, try to imagine how you would feel if in thirty years you found out that you missed all the cues that Bella was really adopted, and that Edward was once her real father.
I haven’t yet met anyone who already knew this life-altering piece of information, so if you did, please comment!
One thing I do know…expect the Flowers in the Attic eBook sales to skyrocket because the reaction I’m getting universally is: “Wow, I think I need to go back and read that again.”
Well, I know what I’m christening my iBook gift card with this year