Plainville Girl. Available March 29 on Hulu.
Plainville Girl is being billed as a true-crime miniseries account of the peculiar 2014 suicide-by-manipulation of a Massachusetts teenager named Conrad Roy III, and the resulting manslaughter trial of his girlfriend, Michelle Carter, who was charged even though she was miles away in another town at the time he died. It’s an entertaining story.
However, the main attraction of the show again is something different. The third hour is when Michelle, who has just been released from jail, learns of one of the conditions to her bail: she must not use any computer or mobile phone, nor text. What am I suppose to do? Do?” In silence, she gasps for air. She responds to her lawyer, his own amazement stretching in another direction.
The riveting is at the heart of it all Plainville Girl isn’t the story of a murder but a bewildered look at the gnarled and bewildering relationship between teenagers and their phones, a culture in which nearly every idiotic and incoherent word is recorded for posterity and passion is measured in emojis. Michelle and Coco, as his friends called them, lived only a few miles apart. They often pledged cyberlove to one another. However, the relationship was nearly entirely electronic. There were occasional phone calls and text messages interspersed with so many that cops had to print all of them out. Eight cardboard boxes filled up when they printed them all.
It was disturbing to hear the text stories, especially in the time before Coco died. They also took up an interest that had fascinated them: Coco’s suicide. It was something they had discussed for many weeks. (Her: “What about hanging yourself or stabbing yourself?” He: “Carbon monoxide, helium gas. He: “Carbon monoxide or helium gas. I would like to die. Their conversation became more urgent a week before the event. Michelle cautioned him that he shouldn’t bully me or say he was going to do it and then get caught. Keep pushing the button!
Coco was killed the night he drove his truck into the parking lot. After closing all of the windows, he turned on the water pump and filled the vehicle with carbon dioxide. Michelle was his companion twice. They had long conversations lasting more than 40 minutes each. Coco died after the conversation was over. Phone calls do not leave any record, unlike text messages. Michelle, however, sent a text message to another friend.
Michelle said, “I could’ve stopped him.” Michelle wrote, “He got out the car as it was running and got scared. I called him back and told him to get in the car again. Although I had the power to stop him, I chose not to. It was enough for me to just say, “I love and miss you.”
The message is taken seriously by the police. The chief is told by the leading investigator that these are “fucked up texts”. Michelle’s friends thought Michelle was an actress and drama queen. They are now less impressed. Michelle’s friends shrugged, saying that people will “say anything” to get their approval.
This story was based on an account from Esquire magazine, Plainville Girl is neither the first nor the most incisive television account of the case. Though it does a reasonably good job of recounting both the tale of the suicide and the thorny legal issues it raised—is encouraging somebody to kill themselves really a criminal act or just a reprehensible and even demented (but legal) form of free speech?—Plainville is a drama and its strong suit is its characters. HBO’s 2019 excellent documentary gives a much better overview. I Love You, Now Die.
However, it is difficult to understand the digital adolescent psychological tangles or even observe it clearly. Plainville Girl is a better bet. It portrays Michelle (played brilliantly by the emerging star Elle Fanning) as an emotional vampire who greedily appropriates Coco’s fascination with suicide when he’s alive and his family’s fractured grief when he dies. Untethered, she’s also a fantasist who imagines herself as a high school musical melodrama star. Glee. The show’s most chilling scene is one in which, to play her self-assigned role as the martyred girlfriend, she stares into a mirror while mimicing a grieving tribute to a departed Glee character. Is it possible to plagiarize her emotions? Do you think she knows? Or care?
Themes that are prevalent throughout the book include self-deceit and fractured identity. Plainville Girl. Coco Ryan (Colton Ryan): The beleaguered Coco Homeland) is so alienated from his own life that he longs for a checklist that would tell him how to live it. According to his mother Chloe Sevigny (his mom), he relied upon one. They told us that he needed to see a doctor, so we got him one. He needs to take some medication, so we give him the pills. “What were we to do? Chain him to the radiator?” Prosecutor Katie Rayburn (Aya Cash, The Worst!Although he isn’t sure Michelle did anything wrong, he is excited about the possibility of creating a precedent. Rayburn discovers many lies in Michelle’s texts and says: “You know what lies?” People guilty. Another prosecutor responds: “You know which lies?” Teenagers.” “In Plainville GirlWho lies, do you think? Everybody.