AMERICAN CRIME: Ways To Make It “All Go Away”


Aubry’s (Caitlin Gerard) alive – but coming back to reality in the throes of withdrawal and without drugs is quite distressing. No one in American Crime wants to face the truth. Except, maybe Aliyah (Regina King), Carter’s sister. Truth can be very difficult to face. Aliyah says it well: “If they hurt Carter now it all goes away; their lies, their mistakes.”

The wish to make something painful “go away” is human nature.  More so for those who have something very difficult to face, as the characters in American Crime certainly do. We try to make things “go away” with a variety of different methods. Psychologically, these are called defenses. Some are healthier than others. And, sometimes, as we see in Hector (Richard Cabral), the escape is downright self-serving lies.

Blatant lies aside – let’s look at how various characters use their particular brand of psychological defense. In general, defenses serve the purpose of managing unpleasant feelings by making it seem as though they don’t exist. Barb (Felicity Huffman) changes reality. She more than softens it. She doesn’t want to face her racism for what it is or her mistakes in parenting. She exists in denial. So does Alonzo (Benito Martinez). If they did their best (and therefore nothing wrong), there’s no reason for guilt or shame.

Guilt is one thing. There are others. Aliyah changes her identity to escape something in her past; she disowns her family ties; she doesn’t want to be who she was. Aubry too rejects her family and her past – and escapes with her addiction to drugs. She constructs reality-altering fantasies, too, and uses unrealistic convictions to drastically minimize her actions as well as potential consequences. Gwen (Kira Pozehl) has an extreme reaction common to psychological trauma, not only to brain injury. She can’t remember what is too horrifying to know.

None of these characters want to know some truth about themselves, their pasts or their feelings. Carter (Elvis Nolasco) isn’t immune to this either – but right now he’s caught in the middle of it all. His story – we still don’t completely know. Except that doing what he needed to do to make Aubry happy (his psychological defense against losing her) has gotten him into serious, serious trouble.

How will it end? Aliya is doing the right thing. She’s facing up to her contribution to Carter’s unstoppable impulse to run. But, can she single-handedly fight to make truth prevail? Questions need to be asked. The real answers found. But, only if there are others who can also face their truths will the outcome be anything less than tragic.

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