SPOTLIGHT: Lydia Loveless on Leaning into Lifetime Movies
Photo by Megan Toenyes
EDITOR’S NOTE: Lydia Loveless is No Depression’s Spotlight artist for September. Read our feature story on her and her new album, Daughter, here, and look for more from Loveless later this month.
I’ve been watching Lifetime movies my whole life. As a kid I would watch them with my mom, on the rare occasions when she could enjoy whatever garbage she wanted in peace. Sometimes my sisters and I would watch together and roast the melodrama while secretly enjoying it more than we let on. As an adult, my most preferred way of viewing is late at night on tour. That’s when my anxiety is through the roof and everyone around me is snoring away to their 10th SportsCenter loop. I gently pick up the remote off the nightstand and switch over to the Lifetime Movie Network, where the certainty of a formulaic plot brings my brain from a 10 to a 5. If I’m lucky I catch a movie from the beginning, and I can be asleep before I find out if the seemingly perfect boyfriend of the main character is in it for love, revenge, or insurance fraud.
I’ve felt trapped in that late-night-on-tour headspace a lot since mid-April, about a month after I played my last show in public until who knows when. That’s when the romance of being forced to stay home started to wear off. I began the lockdown with the childlike hope that it would be over soon, like a power outage during an ice storm. I would read all those books I’d meant to or finally finish that idea for a novel I’d been batting around. I’d wake up at 5 a.m., pump some iron, and come out on the other side a more well-rounded person. I realized fairly quickly these things weren’t going to happen. I became more and more consumed by dread. Much like on tour, the isolation, coupled with fear that I’ll never see my loved ones again, takes over and I find myself still awake at 3 a.m. most nights. As my boyfriend sleeps deeply beside me, most nights I find myself drawn to my old flame, Lifetime. The Lifetime Movie Club, to be exact. Scrolling through an app on my phone doesn’t quite have the same spontaneous magic that flipping through channels with a crusty remote does, but it’s the end result that I need. I scan the self-explanatory titles: Deadly Vacation, Killer Attorney, The Wrong Broker. With their uniform artwork, usually a photo of a woman gasping in fear, each one promises sweet comforting absurdity. In one, a teenager who has just been accepted to Whittendale (the Lifetime Movie Network’s fictional university) might have a fling with the standard mysterious new kid at school, only to find out he’s her mother’s ex-boyfriend’s son who’s out to avenge his father’s broken heart. In another, a seemingly well-adjusted woman will move into a suburban neighborhood to start a new life. A handsome, but married, gentleman neighbor comes over to welcome her with a fruit basket. Everything appears to be fine until she begins to tell her mother (who isn’t really there) in the mirror that she must have Fruit Basket Man, and nothing’s going to stand in her way. My personal favorite is the one where a newly single art gallery owner meets a sexy rich man. She doesn’t feel ready for romance, but her nymphomaniac BFF encourages her to “get back out there” and get serious with this guy. What our protagonist doesn’t know is that her BFF is actually already dating her new love interest — and they’re going to kill her for her life insurance. Tale as old as time, right?
The movies aren’t made to be intellectually stimulating. I don’t watch them to for spiritual edification, but to take a load off my mind and give myself room to breathe so I can get back to work. I simply can’t relax enough to play guitar unless I have seen The Wrong Boyfriend pushed down the stairs by his fed-up ex. I’ll be far less argumentative with my mother if I know the Killer Contractor isn’t really a murderer, but simply his client’s long-lost brother, trying to find a way to overcome his anger issues and reconnect with family. I will fall asleep and have fewer nightmares of death once I know that a Killer Psychiatrist is tucked away safely in a mental institution and led to believe he works there. I haven’t even stopped at simply watching them — my sister and I have written exactly 1½ Lifetime screenplays since the pandemic began. Sometimes we just watch together (for research), texting each other at the most ridiculous snippets of dialogue. It makes me feel less alone and fixated on how powerless I feel for exactly 90 minutes. From the opening aerial shot of LA to the final crossfade of a family BBQ before the credits roll, I’m surviving the pandemic one Lifetime original at a time.