The Burning Bed (TV 1984)

Farrah Fawcett stars as a woman savagely battered by her husband for thirteen years.  For what sees an eternity, we see a brutal, controlling husband who beats, rapes, and emotionally abuses his wife.  She then murders her husband by dosing him with gasoline and burning him alive.  The viewer hates the husband so much at this point that the murder seems perfectly justified.  She is then charged with murder and must fight her case in court.

Based on the surviving woman's (Francine Hughes) version of her actual life, the film presents a worst case scenario of husband against wife domestic violence, in support of a commonly used murder defense called "The Battered Wife Syndrome".


Annually, men represent 41% of spousal homicide victims in the US and most of the female murderers will walk free due to this defense.  Just as in the movie, courts accept the testimony of the murderer, while her victim's testimony is not available to hear.  In no other murder circumstances is vigilante justice acceptable and it should be noted that this defense is available only to female murderers who claim to be victims of domestic violence.  Given that the police are eager to help battered wives and that women's shelters are abundantly available, this "license to kill" seems completely unnecessary.

This current situation makes "The Burning Bed" just as political as "Fahrenheit 911" or "Why we Fight", so it invites debate.

The most famous study of domestic violence, Murray Straus et al. 1980, found that one woman in America will be assaulted by her partner every 17 seconds and that one man will be assaulted by his partner every 19 seconds.

Feminists and chivalrists seized upon the first statistic to create hundreds of tax funded domestic violence shelters and counseling centers across the country, with virtually all of them refusing to help any male victim over the age of 12.  (Battered fathers and their children are also turned away.)  Even the police and the justice system are reluctant to help battered husbands.

The second Murray Straus statistic involving battered husbands was completely ignored.

The Straus study further found that violent households could be divided into three categories. Roughly one quarter of them involved husband on wife abuse, one quarter involved wife on husband abuse, and one half of violent households involved mutual spousal violence.


Francine Hughes was arrested and convicted a few years after the murder of her husband, for abusing and assaulting her children.  Her oldest daughter testified against her mother saying that her mother had assaulted her over a number of years.  Her violence toward her children and that she murdered her husband, makes it likely that the actual Hughes household involved mutual spousal violence and that Francine's account of events may have been selective.

Given all of this, I find "The Burning Bed" to be a one-sided political film and that justifies a rating of four burning bras.  I give it an entertainment rating of only one star, because I disagree with the political angle and I hate to see anyone being bullied or hurt.

There is one film about a male victim of domestic violence called "
Men Don't Tell".  The huge difference is that he does not then murder his abusive wife.  His victory is just to escape the violence.
                       - Reviewed by: Paul G.

Duration: 1 hour and 35 minutes
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Stars indicate entertainment value (out of a maximum of five stars).

Happy males indicate pro-male content, or honest treatment of important aspects of men's lives.

Male-bashing & negative stereotypes (puking).