Monday, December 20, 2004

reflections upon a documentary on Aileen Wuornos

Yesterday, I watched AILEEN: LIFE AND DEATH OF A SERIAL KILLER on CBC. I had seen the Monster earlier so I knew what the story was about (I wish I had a blog then - I would've written a review for sure).
But now it's suffice to say that there was nothing monstrous in the movie except its title, as the portrayal of Aileen Wournos, America's first female serial killer, was defenitely framed in terms of the 'women-victims-of-patriarchal-society' paradigm. I got the impression that the harsh title was imposed upon the movie to make it more palatable for the general public, to conceal its obvious bias. But enough about the fictional Monster.
The real Aileen, as portrayed by Nick Broomfield, is also a victim, albeit according to him, of her own madness. That he was making exactly this point had become apparent to me even before I saw the footage of him pleading Wournos's case to a group of reporters, trying to spare her the death penalty, just one day before the execution. He said something about her being obviously mad, and expressed his wonder at what society was trying to achieve by executing a mentally ill person.

I'm no psychiatrist, but so isn't Mr. Broomfield so let's presume we're on equal footing when it comes to this issue. I kept wondering what had convinced Broomfield that Wournos was unfit to be held responsible for her actions. Yes, she said outlandish things and her stunning desire to be executed must've been startling to Broomfield. But from what I could infer from his documentary she was clearly aware of what she had done and at the very least in one and possibly more cases, did it in a cold blood, fully planning her actions.
Incidentally, earlier I had watched a documentary on Mr. Gacy, a notorious killer whose death toll was 33 young men. His behavior seemed also quite lunatic at times and his childhood was far from rosy (though undoubtedly not as horrible as Aileen's)but I doubt Mr. Broomfield would've rushed to his defense arguing that he was insane.
To sum it up, I'm deeply ambivalent about death penalty, my main reservation being that an innocent person could be wrongly executed, and human errors are inevitable. But I would say to Mr. Broomfield: you're either very naive or very cynical when you said that Aileen Wournos was mad. Of course, she was but the question is not whether her mind was twisted and tortured but whether she could distinguish between right and wrong when she committed her crimes - I think the answer is pretty clear on that.


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