Many people live and breathe by the internet. It’s the first thing they check in the morning and the last thing they see before going to bed. It has replaced the TV as the constant companion and redefined interpersonal relationships. There are no strings when you’re talking to a bunch of pixels. Don’t want to interact with someone on Facebook? Unfriend them. Someone offends or bores you? Close the chat window. The ease of accessibility, the anonymity and the furtive nature of the internet lured two every day people into an internet relationship which led to a shocking and tragic murder. “Talhotblond,” a documentary chronicling the crime will send chills down your spine and haunt you for weeks afterwards.
“Talhotblond,” is the true story of an internet romance gone awry. The eponymous “Talhotblond” was that: Tall, hot, and blond. She has the face of an angel and the body of a Greek goddess. She is Jessi, an eighteen year old softball–playing high school senior from West Virginia. Her internet love is Tom Montgomery, a 46-year old balding machinist living in Buffalo, NY. Tom’s life is going nowhere and his marriage is on the rocks. He is also having ongoing problems with impotency. Tom’s chat ID is “Marinesniper.” While he was a marine for a short time, he never saw combat, and never qualified as a sniper. The two start chatting on POGO, a popular online gaming site. After Jessi sends Tom provocative photos of herself, she wants to know what he looks like. He describes himself as being “6 feet tall, with bright red hair and big shoulders”; and subsequently sends her a 26-year old photo of himself in uniform. It is a striking picture and it pleases Jessi very much.
Their online liaison continues and sizzles into the wee hours of the morning. Like most relationships, their romance has ups and downs. Their online affairs turns serpentine and perilous when angelic Jessi turns out to be a vixen and an attention whore. During one of their rocky periods, Jessi starts an online relationship with Brian Barett (screenname: “Beefcake”). Barett is, in real life, one of Tom’s co-workers. Suddenly the linear relationship morphs into a triangle.
And that’s when things become treacherous and eventually murderous.
For a society with a taste for the prurient and a predilection for the fast and easy, it’s completely understandable how people can be enticed into spending time on a spicy name and a coquettish avatar. Even the briefest of encounters with social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter, or chat programs sparks a realization that the internet significantly lower inhibitions. What people might hesitate to say in real life whether on the phone or face-to-face, is less of an issue on the internet. You can’t see the approval, the disapproval, the smile, the laugh, the sneer or the glare. There are no judgments. It comes as no surprise that after sending Jessi sends Tom photos of herselt that they quickly embark upon a steamy, tumultuous – and exclusively online – affair.
“Talhotblond,” while only 75 minutes, makes a statement with a huge exclamation point! The rush of talking to someone new is compounded because you’re not really sure of who or what they are. It’s happening too fast. Words are spilling out onto the screen and you’re admitting things to this stranger that your closest friends might not know. Social etiquette is much more relaxed when you’re online, lowering the bar for emotional extremes and the use of questionable language. Modesty vanishes and you’re professing love to someone you’ve never seen nor met.
The internet is a wonderful invention. Like fire, it can be a friend, but it can also hurt you in a terrible way if misused. This true crime award-winning documentary entertains, but leaves you wondering whether time on the internet is truly well spent. The movie’s cautionary message is that “everybody lies online.”
One of the best documentaries in recent history and timely as well. Don’t spoil it for yourself by looking up the story. You won’t be disappointed.