Friday, November 6, 2009

Horrified

...is how I feel after watching Monster. After some brief research on the Web, I found out that Aileen Wuornos is not the only woman serial killer in the world. Among others, there are several Egyptian women serial killers who were the first women in Egypt to be executed by the state. They are so famous that there are several dramatic works based on their lives. What is this fascination we have with murder? Why is it especially interesting to society when it is women commmitting the crimes? Why is Crim Law some people's favorite class to take? Are these women, who have been abused by men to the point of deciding to kill them, victims of Battered Women's Syndrome? Or is there no excuse for what they have done? Certainly the first killing we see in the movie Monster was justified by self defense. But the killings after that, one particularly offensive because of the man's offer to help Aileen, are less and less justifiable. Does crime always lead to more crime? Aileen's attempt to go straight demonstrates that perhaps this is true, as she is shunted from applications at legal jobs straight back into prostituting her body to the policeman that is called on her when she admits her past to a prospective employer.

Serial killing is defined in this Wikipedia post. The article notes that most serial killers are mentally ill, particularly labeled as psychopaths. Was Aileen a psychopath? Certainly she was ill, but was she lacking in empathy and guilt (the definition of a psychopath)? She seemed to feel very guilty about her crimes, and empathized with the man who tried to help her even as she felt compelled to kill him as well. Yet in other ways she was definitely acting as a psychopath, in that she hated all men and did not feel she had any choice other than to kill the ones who wanted her services.

The movie's moral and ending seem bleak for all who fall into a life of crime. Despite trying to follow a legal life for a short period in the movie and despite honestly trying to help Selby, there seemed to be no choice for her from the moment she began hooking at age 13 to the moment she was condemned to Death Row in Florida. There simply was no moment for Aileen to choose a moral life, a legal life, the good life. She literally had no options, and one killing seemed to lead inexorably to the next, until the inevitable arrest and conviction led to her death. From the moment she started down a life of crime to the moment her life ended nearly 30 years later, she had no choices. She wanted to provide a good life for her brother and sister, which later turned into wanting to provide for her lover. All attempts to change the road she was on led her quickly back to her illegal life of crime. There is something inherently wrong in a system that gives a criminal no option, no choice, no opportunity for redemption. The end of the movie drives the negative point home for us: "hope" is a word for those who want to fool others. Yet I cannot believe that this is true.

I want to believe, despite a movie about true events to the contrary, that there is always a choice, that Aileen should have tried harder, that if she had truly decided to end her crime there would have been a good life. It might have been a tough life, a difficult life, but it would have been a good life in many ways, waiting for her on the other side. Not to get preachy, but in order for me to believe in a good higher power in the world, I have to believe that. I have to believe that in a choiceless life, there still existed a chance for redemption, a chance to turn back to God, a chance to be redeemed and lead a moral and crime-free life. The moral of Aileen's story is far too dark for me to believe. Although I know that as a white middle class female I will probably never face the choices Aileen did, I simply have to believe in a better world than she did. Otherwise the world would be far too bleak a place to live in.

3 comments:

Erin S. said...

So what you're saying is that you feel the need to believe in a just world?

Naomi said...

A just world, a fair world, a world where redemption and forgiveness could take the most hardened criminal and transform them into a morally upright civillian with a good life to lead.

Erin S. said...

A second way of distancing gender inequality as a problem is to relocate responsibility for causing or addressing it. One common approach is to blame
the victim, a tendency reinforced by the "just world" assumptions noted earlier. Just as members of subordinate racial and economic groups are presumed to deserve their status, women are often held accountable for the inequality they experience.


--Deborah L. Rhode, The No Problem Problem: Feminist Challenges and Cultural Change, p. 1776.

We read it the first week of class.