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Trauma-Scene :: THE BEST LITTLE GIRL IN THE WORLD Gets a Check-Up

June 30th, 2009 by aunt john · 8 Comments

the best little girl in the world

In the hazy, gimlet-soaked recesses of your Aunt John’s mind, the year 1983 holds two distinct memories:

  1. ‘70s pop superstar KAREN CARPENTER succumbed to anorexia nervosa
  2. My middle school health class teacher, in an attempt to educate her students about the death of Ms. CARPENTER, traumatized a room of sixth graders by making us watch her taped-from-the-T.V. VHS copy of the 1981 telepicture THE BEST LITTLE GIRL IN THE WORLD

The movie, despite its stellar cast of JENNIFER JASON LEIGH, CHARLES DURNING, and JASON MILLER, did little to hold the attention of our rambunctious class. Collectively, we groaned at the JONI MITCHELL title track (“Songs to Aging Children Come”) and I remember we were more interested in watching the commercial breaks than the movie itself.

Fearing a mutiny, our teacher stopped the film and struck a deal with us along the lines of if we still hated it after the doctor’s office scene, she would gladly put the film away and we could go back to reading about hygiene, acne, or whatever the usual lesson plan entailed. Foolishly, we called her bluff, agreed to keep watching and this is what we saw:

With the simple drop of a medical gown, a pre-teen chorus of thirty or so horrified gasps reverberated around the room. Needless to say, we watched the rest of the movie in disturbed silence waiting for another peek at JENNIFER JASON LEIGH’s emaciated ribcage. Instead we only got the death of a spunky, pre-THIRTYSOMETHING MELANIE MAYRON.

the best little girl in the world

Long out of print, THE BEST LITTLE GIRL IN THE WORLD is currently available on YouTube starting HERE. Did anyone else have to watch this in junior high health class?

Tags: Telenasties · Trauma-Scene

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11 years ago

Actually, we saw this in high school. Along with the one with Lea Thompson as the girl with the drinking problem and repressed memories of sexual abuse.

11 years ago

I didn’t see this in school, but I remember watching it on TV. Yikes! I also watched The Karen Carpenter Story on TV. I think it came out in 1989.

unkle lancifer
11 years ago

Have you guys seen SUPERSTAR the karen Carpenter story told with barbies from director Todd Haynes???

It is great and can be watched here:

11 years ago

I love those Learn A Lesson movies from the 70s & 80s! For some reason I always get this one mixed up with the one where Viveka Davis does drugs (which I belive is called “Not My Kid”!)

I was also gonna mention the Karen Carpenter As Essayed By A BARBIE Doll movie but someone else beat me to it. I was – no joke- riveted!

Amanda By Night
11 years ago

I only saw this movie for the first time a couple of years ago. Yowza! Very effective, if a little dated. Lovin’ on JJL big time. She’s so amazing.

Does anyone remember a spoof that was clips of this intermixed with the Exorcist? I swear it exists!

11 years ago

Yes, our teachers made us watch this.  But it was not surrounding Karen’s death….which was 1983, it was WELL before that!  I actually saw this….before she died in 1981 when it was first released on tv, I think.  I could be remembering this wrong, but wasn’t it a TV movie of some kind? 

9 years ago

It must have come out in 81, as I will never forget watching it on primetime tv, then going into my 6th grade class the next day, & throwing my entire lunch into the trash for the first time! Unfortunately, it marked one of the biggest before & after moments of my life (on a par with before/after having a child). I guess you could certainly say I was traumatized 🙂

(BTW, I’m not trying to suggest in any way that this made for tv movie, alone, “caused” me to develop anorexia. I think that type of declaration is so overly simplistic that it would clearly be inane. I’m just saying it was a media moment that crystallized a bunch of issues into a course of action for me as a kid.)

Antaeus Feldspar
Antaeus Feldspar
8 years ago

Amanda –

I know the spoof you saw! It was a segment of a show called “Fast Food Films,” where they would take dated, cheesy or weird videos and recut them to make something new. “Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell” became the health class film “Womanhood: Your Precious Journey”; the earnest 70’s dramedy “James at 15” became “The Berletz Language Course in Jive”; and TBLGitW became … “The Anorexorcist.”