Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I Don't Like Mondays - Channel 4

The story behind the song..... (repeated on More 4 Wednesday 25th Jan 10.00pm)

On the morning of Monday 29th January 1979, 16-year-old schoolgirl Brenda Spencer took the .22 calibre gun her father had given her as a Christmas present and aimed it at the school playground directly opposite her family home. She killed two men and injured eight children. All she would say at the time was "I don't like Mondays, it livens up the day." The incident inspired the Boomtown Rats' number one hit song. It was the first school shooting of its kind, a phenomenon that would spread across America and culminate in the infamous Columbine tragedy. This film examines allegations surrounding a seemingly ordinary suburban family behind the eerie detachment of Brenda Spencer's original statement. I Don't Like Mondays secured unique access to Brenda's prison parole hearing in September last year and includes exclusive and revealing interviews with members of Brenda's family as well as her victims. The film traces the bizarre events of that day and asks how and why it happened.

The program started and ended with the song. At the end, the Police chief condemned the song as idiotic, and the NBC reporter had similar comments. Most incredibly, one of the girls shot refered to the fact that she heard the song every Monday at about 2pm, when she started work and enjoyed it!

Most interesting was the interview of her father, Wallace, in the last part. He still lives in the same house that faces the school and the time of the interview was when the kids were leaving school. He was in total denial of his part in the incident (interestingly enough, he married his daughter's cell mate), and didn't believe the way he raised his daughter had anything to do with it. His ex-wife believed he was the one who should have been in jail.

Brenda Spencer was tried as an adult rather than a minor. She pleaded guilty to killing two people, and did not face a jury. This may have spared her the death penalty, Obviously, many of those who were shot or who lost a family member all wanted her dead and believed she would do it again if released. This was not a view shared by those detached from the incident.

Ultimately she is a fairly stupid girl/woman whose ambitions were to find any excuse to get out of jail and work on a fork lift truck. A lot of her parole hearing related the shooting to the abuse she suffered at the hands of the father, though that seems to be de rigueur for elicting sympathy these days.

The Spencers were as a family made disfunctional by a father who wanted to have affairs yet be able to return to his wife and thought nothing of the consequences of giving a 16 year old girl a rifle for Christmas.

I don't believe she would reoffend if released. In the context of the light sentences handed out to the happy slapper murderers in this country yesterday http://www.london-se1.co.uk/news/view.php?ArtID=1964, she seems to have had a bad deal. I guess it all depends on whether you believe prison is to rehabilitate or punish. Her notiriety, the first school spree killer, has ensured she is still behind bars.

Having watched the programme, I do feel that Mondays, unlike Bowling for Columbine which condemned the lax US gun laws, came across as a nasty opportunistic song. People were affected by this incident, and hearing the song must bring back a lot of bad memories.

I never felt the song was apt for either Live Aid or Live 8. It's never been one of my favourite songs, but watching this, made it seem even lesser. Maybe it's time to retire it.

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