A mother's tragic epiphany
Lifetime premieres 'Prayers for Bobby'
by David Alex Nahmod
In 1982, 20-year-old Walnut Creek native Bobby Griffith jumped off a freeway overpass and ended his tormented life. The young man, a fledgling writer, was torn between his desire to please his Christian fundamentalist mother and his homosexuality. Twenty-six years later, the church that taught Mary Griffith that she needed to "cure" her son continues to preach intolerance toward LGBTs.
"It's not something I did out of malice," Griffith now says. "I can forgive me. It's harder to forgive the church."
In Lifetime's new made-for-TV film Prayers for Bobby, acclaimed actress Sigourney Weaver recreates the woman Mary Griffith was, and portrays her amazing transformation into a staunch advocate for LGBT youth. For more than 20 years, Griffith has been one of P-FLAG's keynote speakers. Her message to parents is simple: accept and love your LGBT kids for who they are.
"We have a huge responsibility to get this right," said Weaver in a recent interview. "But it's important that we not demonize religious people. I'm hoping this film will open their eyes."
"And Sigourney is excellent," Griffith added. "She reached the depths of where I was at the time."
Prayers for Bobby, based on a book by Leroy Aarons, is a tragic yet uplifting story about intolerance and redemption. The first half of the film shows Bobby struggling to come to terms with who he is, while his well-meaning mother attempts to "heal" him with a steady diet of Bible quotes. Bobby cried out for help, but Mom could not hear him.
Weaver said, "I think there are universal things that bond parents. We want our kids to be safe. While the family loved Bobby, they were not guided well by their church. They were driven by a desire to do what was best for Bobby. I'm a parent myself – sometimes we can't see what's in front of us."
How did she feel about playing a
"I didn't think about offending her," the Oscar nominee replied. "If this story can help one person, then it's worth it. It wasn't my intention to impersonate Mary. I felt that I had to take their essence of what happened and run with it. Mary had given me permission to go where I could to tell the truth."
The truth can be heartbreaking. A few months after Bobby's death, Mary Griffith came to a profoundly sad realization. "I did this," she cried. "I killed my son!" Weaver's performance is particularly effective in this haunting and unforgettable scene.
Griffith admitted that she found the film difficult to watch. "I hope it brings hope to people," she said quietly. "Love has got to be from God. That was distorted in my life."
Both women spoke out against Prop 8. "Prop 8 is unconstitutional," said Weaver. "Gays are part of history. Everyone has the same rights, no exceptions. I can't believe they put it on the ballot."
"What shocked me is that people don't realize they're messing with their own 14th Amendment rights," added Griffith.
Griffith went on to discuss her newly out lesbian granddaughter with pride. She continues with her youth advocacy work, though she's had to cut back a bit due to health problems. She still goes to church. "I'm good no matter where I go," she said.
Prayers for Bobby airs on Lifetime Sat., Jan. 24 at 9 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 25 at 8 p.m.; Tues., Jan. 27 at 9 p.m.