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Crazy Bitches on Trial

April 20, 2014

“…[C]riminals are an exception among civilised people and women are the exception among criminals… As a double exception, then, the criminal woman is a monster.” – Cesare Lomroso, Italian Criminologist, 1893 The public’s fascination with women who murder is palpable, if not dangerously obscene. Apart from its statistical rarity, female killers (or those accused) fascinate us because we’re shocked when we see such beauty contort into the face of a monster. Simply put, stories of vicious vixens, blue-eyed butchers and crazy bitches on trial – plucked seemingly out of pulp novels or crime flicks – turn our cranks. In literary terms, they also stir up the power of myth, elegantly explored by the late Joseph Campbell. As American author Nancy Friday discovered in her research for "Men in Love", straight male fantasies often weave together the love and hatred of women. In modern culture, this pathology can be greatly observed in the way that real life women accused of murder are spun as femme fatales by the media, the prosecution and the public. The femme fatale is an image that became popular near the end of the nineteenth century, characteristic of the art and literature of Aesthetes, Decadents, and Symbolists. Many painters, poets, and novelists fell under the heady sway of the femme fatale via the seductive and dangerous myths of Medusa, Judith and Pandora. An exploration into these artistic archives can show us how many of the artists were moved to transform the femme fatale into irresistible creatures that bathed in the glory of luring men to their destruction. Across cultures, the femme fatale has taken on many guises through popular culture and art. Made tangible through their sensationalist play in the public forum, we are enthralled with female “monsters” who are both murderous and attractive. Like a modern-day Lilith or Medusa, these women are seducers of men or devourers of children—and occasionally, both. When angered, her exquisite face contorts and her supple body seethes as folding flesh turns into hissing coils of Medusa’s snakes. Popular entertainment and the media play as much of a role in evoking these mythologies today, as did the Greek plays and bourgeois paintings of yesterday. The question is, though, whether these age old mythologies as told through true crime stories are enlightened fantasy or reflect a more disturbing pathology. In a society saturated with media and reality TV, these ancient mythologies have slipped seamlessly into our national crime narratives. In fact, so much so that our psyches may no longer be satiated by the "fantasy" femme fatale. We want blood. We want to feed on and devour the women who represent these ancient fears and desires. Read the full article: http://spottedcouchartcrimeblog.com/2014/02/19/crazy-bitches-on-trial-2/

 

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