Please don’t ask me why I sat through all four episodes of Monsters Inside: The 24 Faces of Billy Milligan, the latest true crime debacle from Netflix. The first two hours were excruciating. I almost gave up. But after I decided to write a review, I hung in there and, thankfully, things improved … a little.
In 1977, 22-year-old Billy Milligan was arrested for raping four women at Ohio State University. Thanks to fingerprints and the victims’ eyewitness accounts, it was a slam-dunk case. This pig was going to spend decades in prison. But then he faked having multiple personality disorder. A bunch of mercenary doctors took it seriously. Our garbage media ate it up, and the victims were forgotten, and Milligan was found not guilty for reasons of insanity.
From there, he was transferred to psychiatric hospitals where he drugged and had sex with fellow patients, enjoyed furloughs, sold his paintings for thousands of dollars, and had a bestseller written about him. But after being transferred to an institution he didn’t like, he escaped with the help of his brother and a friend and killed a man for his disability checks. But since this man’s body was never found, Milligan was never charged, and, after being recaptured, he was returned to another institution and then promptly released as cured.
Naturally, from here, this serial rapist and murderer was welcomed by Hollywood.
The first two episodes are so horribly over-directed by Olivier Megatron; they are nearly unwatchable. I don’t know what the thinking was; maybe to put us in Milligan’s head, but it was like watching the opening credits of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) for two hours.
What’s especially frustrating is that the over-produced musical score wouldn’t even shut up long enough so we could listen to Milligan pretend to be different personalities, one with a British accent, another with a Hungarian accent. Oh, and he got away with blaming the rapes on one of his 24 personalities, a lesbian he named Adalana. That’s not a joke.
I went into this cold. I had never even heard of Billy Milligan. Nevertheless, it is evident from the videotapes of the psychiatric sessions that he was faking it. It was a joke, a real clown show, but Netflix sure didn’t think so.
Oh, and Netflix doesn’t even bother to inform its viewers that Milligan took on these multiple personalities less than a year after the blockbuster TV movie Sybil aired. Gee, ya’ think maybe that was worth pointing out?
And then when Sybil’s real-life doctor, Dr. Cornelia B. Wilbur, shows up to examine and vouch for Milligan, I’m screaming at the TV: Why aren’t you telling Netflix viewers she was a fraud!? Sybil and Wilbur were total frauds!
The whole multiple personality/Sybil thing is one of the greatest and most lucrative hoaxes ever played on this country, and, naturally, our fake media ate it right up.
The third and fourth episodes are easier to watch. The presentation is less jittery, and some skepticism is finally allowed to creep in. People eventually start to use the proper word — can you say, sociopath? — but there is still one substantial moral hole.
When Milligan escaped, he did so with a ton of financial and logistical help from his friend, Jim Murray, and his brother Jim Morrison (no, not that one). Both men are interviewed and now believe that during the escape, Milligan did indeed kill poor Michael Pierce Madden to steal his disability checks. But not once does either man express any remorse for their culpability in that. In fact, they pretend like they had nothing to do with it when they had everything to do with it.
It’s just grotesque to watch them gloss over their own role in a horrible murder, and it’s even more grotesque that the docuseries lets them.
And at no point, not even at the end, are we informed about the fraud behind the Sybil case.
Some skeptics are allowed to have their say, the most impressive being Dr. Allen J. Frances, a professor of psychiatry, who brilliantly points out that the proof multiple personality disorder is a fraud is the fact that it disappeared just like any other fad. Real psychological problems don’t disappear, but multiple personality disorder sure did.
What I found most frustrating (other than wondering why talking heads were filmed in places like bank vaults) is the wasted potential. There’s a great story in the Billy Milligan saga, a story about corrupt doctors and authors and reporters who chase fame and headlines and riches. But, at the same time, four rape victims have to sit back and watch their celebrity-rapist feted by James Cameron.
But that story would require moral courage to tell, and if there’s one thing lacking at Netflix, it’s the moral courage necessary to challenge the establishment, to question the venal medical/media/Hollywood industrial complex.