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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Megan is Missing

“While even pornography is protected as free speech, the courts have consciously undermined religious speech and freedom of religion for years. — Ernest Istook

Gregory Giangrande writes on Fox News Opinion; Lessons from the Weiner scandal for the Facebook generation:

“What took Anthony Weiner down weren't the lies or the attempted cover-up (but will they ever learn?) — it was the pictures — these humiliating images are all too easy to conjure up. They evoke a visceral reaction. And the images will vividly bring back the whole embarrassing episode whenever he tries to resurrect his career.

So let this serve as a lesson to the hundreds of millions of social media users:

  • There is no Internet privacy.
  • There should be no expectation of Internet privacy.
  • And if you think there ever will be Internet privacy — you're fooling yourself.
  • The casual and careless way people bare themselves, pun intended, online can come back to haunt you personally and professionally.

Anthony Weiner initially denied "with certitude" that he sent the pictures. And no one knows with certitude what the future holds for him. But we can say with certitude that given the online habits of the current generation — there will be a future president, governor, senator, congressman, CEO, etc. who will be reminded of the Anthony Weiner episode regretting some of the careless decisions they made and wishing they had learned a lesson from history.”

Last night after returning from dinner at our local iHop my wife, daughter and I decided to watch a movie on our cable provider’s “On Demand Pay for View” channel. After perusing through over a hundred or so titles that we had not seen we decided on what we thought would be a good mystery flick titled “Megan is Missing.” Boy, were we wrong. This is one of the most disturbing films I have ever seen, and it is based on a completion of accrual events.

The film is about two teen age girls Megan and her best friend Amy It was written and directed by Michael Goi. The story line goes something like this:

Megan Stewart, 14, and her best friend Amy Herman, 13, though opposites in personality, are best friends. Megan carries the front of being the most popular girl in school, but this masks a lifestyle of hard partying, drugs, alcohol and indiscriminate sex. Amy, unpopular and socially awkward, clings to her relationship with Megan as a lifeline to social acceptance. Together, these two young girls forge a deep friendship based on their mutual needs. The two girls regularly communicate by web chat cameras or cell phone, and even meet boys online. As Megan seeks friends who are different from her usual posse of hanger-ons, she is introduced by a friend online to a 17 year-old boy named Josh in a chat room. Megan and Josh bond quickly, leaving Amy feeling a bit left out. One day, Megan goes to meet Josh in person, and she is never seen again. Amy launches into a concentrated effort to find her friend. As the media swirls around the story of Megan's disappearance, Amy discovers the horrifying truth about what happened to her friend. Based on research into seven actual cases of child abduction, Megan Is Missing is an uncompromising, gut-wrenching view of the world children live in today. Harrowing in its realism, the film uses only fact-based incidences to depict the lives of ordinary kids walking in the midst of extraordinary evil.

Megan Is Missing is of the "found footage" genre, and it's based on multiple cases of actual child abduction. The film features a claim that everything you will witness during its 85-minute running time is based on actual news footage, home videos, computer files, webcam chats, and cell phone transmissions, but what they don't tell you is that it's all obviously altered to translate into a film. In other words, a re-enactment; I assume the girls who the characters in the film are based on didn't spend their waking hours videotaping every conversation they had. A title card at the beginning of the movie may lead people to believe the filmmakers are playing the entire movie off as being legit footage of the girls when it's obviously not the case.

When the movie begins, we're immediately introduced to both Megan, 14, and Amy, 13, who, according to title cards, were abducted in 2007. They're an odd couple, to say the least. Megan is very promiscuous for her age and confesses to being sexually abused as a child and giving her first blowjob at the age of ten to an older man who looked like the "creepy killer guy from SE7EN." Amy is the polar opposite: shy, virginal, socially awkward, gets along with her parents. Somehow they find enough common ground to be best friends. The relationship between the two (in the film) seems genuine and not based around ulterior motives of any sort. As the film progresses, Megan makes contact with someone in a chat room named "Josh". Megan tells Amy about a proposed meet-up between she and the mysterious Josh, and it's the last time Amy speaks to her best friend.

Trailer from the film Megan is Missing

One of the things that surprised me about the film was how gradually it built up to something I wasn't expecting at all. It starts out with subtlety. Lots of BFF-ing, annoying dialogue, stereotypical (and probably far-fetched) teenage behavior, and "girl talk", for lack of a better term. And then comes certain revelations in regards to Megan, which I mentioned earlier, that adds a new dimension to both the film and her as a character. And then the abduction and the weird news footage, which bordered on comedic. Following the abduction and the news footage, however, the film takes a turn equal to getting a bucket of ice cold water dumped on you when you're least expecting it, and even at that point it's still rainbows and puppy dogs compared to the last twenty minutes of the film, which goes to some incredibly dark places literally and figuratively.

Not since The Exorcist has a movie affected my wife and I as much as this one. Whereas the Exorcist used its characters, plot and moments of shock value to lure you in for the inevitable knockout punch, Megan is Missing uses circumstances surrounding actual events involving children that took place over a number of years and affected different families. Because it's rooted in reality, it hits closer to home in general more than director William Friedkin could have ever dreamed of with The Exorcist, and the great thing about Megan is that it doesn't rely on graphic visuals and shock value so much as it does driving a certain point home and making you realize what kind of people are preying on children. Rarely do films haunt me long after I've seen them; I have a feeling this will be one of the few exceptions.

In the Exorcist, based on William Peter Blatty’s novel of the same name, the devil enters young Regan MacNeil (played by Linda Blair) through her experimentation with a Ouija board she found in the basement of her Georgetown home — sort of a medieval chat room. The film’s most memorable scene no doubt is when Regan’s head spins a full 360 degrees as she is processed by the devil.

In Megan Is Missing young Megan Stewart does not need an Ouija board to meet her human devil she meets him through the Internet. “Josh” her human devil is not a 17 year-old skateboard enthusiast with a rebellious nature he is in fact a slick talking adult serial killer who knows how to play young, impressionable girls, especially ones with low esteem, into his snare.

How many times, when we turn on the nightly news do we hear of a young teen or college co-ed gone missing. And how many of these cases turn out badly causing the family or loved ones years of grief. In many instances these cases end up in the Cold Case files of the local police departments and the perpetrators are never apprehended or brought to justice.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the U.S. Department of Justice:

The U.S. Department of Justice reports

  • 797,500 children (younger than 18) were reported missing in a one-year period of time studied resulting in an average of 2,185 children being reported missing each day.
  • 203,900 children were the victims of family abductions.
  • 58,200 children were the victims of non-family abductions.
  • 115 children were the victims of “stereotypical” kidnapping. (These crimes involve someone the child does not know or someone of slight acquaintance, who holds the child overnight, transports the child 50 miles or more, kills the child, demands ransom, or intends to keep the child permanently.)

Since 1997, the AMBER Alert program has been credited with the safe recovery of 523 children. To date there is a network of 120 AMBER Plans across the country.

According to the latest online victimization research,

  • Approximately one in seven youth online (10 to 17-years-old) received a sexual solicitation or approach over the Internet.
  • Four percent (4%) received an aggressive sexual solicitation — a solicitor who asked to meet them somewhere; called them on the telephone; or sent them offline mail, money, or gifts.
  • Thirty-four percent (34%) had an unwanted exposure to sexual material — pictures of naked people or people having sex.
  • Twenty-seven percent (27%) of the youth who encountered unwanted sexual material told a parent or guardian. If the encounter was defined as distressing — episodes that made them feel very or extremely upset or afraid — forty-two percent (42%) told a parent or guardian.

Through September 2010, Child Victim Identification Program (CVIP) has information on more than 3,100 child victims from around the world seen in sexually abusive images.

Through September 2010, CVIP Analysts reviewed seized child pornography collections from more than 25,000 investigations across the country, through the Child Recognition and Identification System (CRIS).

CVIP has reviewed and analyzed more than 41,078,300 pornography images and videos.

This is a growing problem as the use of iPhones, iPads and notebook PCs increase among children of yet ever younger age. Children of 5 and 6 are being targeted by these online sexual predators. They are skilled in knowing how to lure them into their grasp by offering them goodies or self-esteem appropriate for their age. As we see on the news, on almost a daily basis, even college aged girls are not immune from these sick predators.

No parent should allow their child access to the internet or chat rooms without constant oversight and supervision. No child should have an Internet access device in the bedroom or other room where a parent is not in the immediate vicinity. Facebook and My Space included.

While some parents think these devices are cute and help their children with their school work they are also like the Ouija board and can let the devil in the guise of a sexual predator into the child’s home and life.

In closing I would recommend that every parent of a pre-teen or teen aged girl see Megan is Missing. It is not a film to watch with young children, but teens over 14 might benefit from watching it with their parents. While it is disturbing in its content it is also like a bucket of ice water in the face and a good lesson for those who think they are immune from Internet predators.

7 comments:

  1. Hi Fred,

    Thank you for your review of my film. I obviously made the movie as a wake-up call to the world about the way young people use electronic devices for social interaction today, and the ease with which a psychologically adept predator can infiltrate their lives. Kids know so much more about using communication devices than their parents do. Many parents still think that the person to fear is the creepy guy in the back of porno theaters wearing a raincoat, but today that is not the case. I agree with my friend Marc Klaas that every kid over the age of 10 should have their own cell phone, because the GPS inside it enables quick tracking. Ultimately, we have to be more vigilant about who moves into our neighborhoods (as in actually KNOWING who our neighbors are) and teach our kids responsible social networking habits. It's a shame that the impact my film has on viewers scared away 57 film festivals from showing it, because they didn't want the controversy to alienate their corporate sponsors. I'm hoping that the message gets out anyway.

    Michael Goi
    Writer/Director
    Megan Is Missing

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  2. I just finished watching this movie, and I am a person who actually decided one day to watch "The Top Ten Most Horrifying Movies", the top of which was "August Underground's Mordum", a fictional (though very realistic) snuff film. That film, in my mind, though its spot on the list was well deserved, didn't horrify me as much as the realism behind "Megan Is Missing". Perhaps because "Mordum" is assumed to be false and you are EXPECTING the torture and gore that goes along with it. In "Megan Is Missing", everything is implied, and excruciatingly realistic. Michael Goi, you made me rethink everything I do online, as well as what my kids might be exposed to. The twisted habits of others are so well hidden that, sometimes, people like the killer in the movie are never caught. This movie should be watched by all families, despite the terror implied, or "discomfort". It may save lives.

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  3. Thank God for Michael Goi for putting a spotlight on what might happen beyond the taking of a child, and into the possibilities of the horrors that the victims experience after they are taken. Being taken is only the beginning of something that no living creature should experience, and to think that so many children lose their innocence and ultimately their lives in such terror SHOULD make all of us sick. This has become a sick world.
    Long gone are the days when children were safe on their own. When I was young, I lived in New Orleans. I took a city bus across town often on my own. I walked the streets alone, and went shopping with my friends in downtown New Orleans alone, totally unconcerned. Child abductions, children being taken and sold into sex slavery, tortured, murdered. These things didn't happen in America. Then came the Warren Supreme Court, ending prayer in schools in 1962 and then Madalyn Murray O'Hair and her American Atheist Activists who managed to ban Bible-reading in public schools in 1963. What a long way we've come! Aren't we glad we took God out of our schools. We're now reaping the results. Everything is relative now. If it feels good, do it. When you sit down to watch a television show, be prepared to see sex, including oral sex, homosexuality, bi-sexuality and beastiality promoted. Be prepared to hear the "F" word spouted by little children. Be prepared to see anyone who doesn't want to take a puff on a joint as being a dead bore and a loser. How many 13- and 14-year-old kids in middle school are pregnant or have had one or multiple abortions? What on earth have we done? And what kind of monsters has my generation and the one that followed created by not watching out for their sons and allowing them to be molested by parents, guardians, relatives, and neighbors, all because we were too busy living our lives, having a good time. smoking those joints or snorting those lines to be the parents we were supposed to be and making sure that our children were safe. We have created both the monsters and their victims. God help us all.

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    Replies
    1. Grateful Grandma; WOW! I couldn't have said it better. Thank yo for reading my blog and taking the time to comment. God Bless.

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  4. I am a pre teen & even I get how stupid girls my age could be soo dumb & talk to strangers on facebook. I just finished watching this movies by myself on Netflix thinking it was a nice movie but then all the goresom stuff that was happening i just felt disgusted & sick to the stomack. I now know that when my mom is being "mean" & "bossy" its for my own safety & I NEVER want to leave my moms side i love her with all my heart! From now on i will listen to my mom & know the worry that she goes through EVERY single day, about me. Im glad to have a mom who loves & cares for me, shes a typical mexican mom. This movie has caused me to open my eyes about all the predator online in the world. Its so sick the stuff people do these days. I really do think that I'm traumatized from this movie. Well I agree with you a hundred percent!

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  5. This movie needs to be seen by every teenager and parent alike. Although mainstream media, in recent years, has emphasized the dangers of child predators and the internet, it can never be emphasized enough. Megan is Missing portrays two teenage girls; Megan, who is promiscuous, outgoing, popular and engages in risky behavior is being raised by her single mother who she doesn't get along with. Amy is a quiet, reserved. socially awkward, "daddy's little princess" virgin teenage girl who lives in a nice home with both parents. So there you have it...perhaps the SCARIEST TRUTH about this film. Every child is vulnerable regardless of how much you love them, what your social status is or the strength of your family values. Teens especially need a hard reality check when it comes to their own safety. Whether it's trying to make them wear a coat so they don't get sick or stressing the importance of being responsible behind the wheel. They show teens those graphic drunk driving videos for a reason. This is why I believe "Megan is Missing" to be a top choice in raising awareness about the dangers on the Internet.

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  6. Grateful Grandma, I totally agree, when your school teaches you about religion and God and following God Almighty's law YOU CANNOT, I REPEAT CANNOT GO WRONG IN LIFE. No deserves that but this is why parents attempt to stop kids from wearing make up and growing up way too fast and all those unacceptable clothes....it has to stop....

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