Archive for November, 2007
Something I want to research and write on for my M.A. is “Missing White Woman Syndrome,” wherein disproportionate media coverage is given to cases involving pretty, white, female victims (or would-be victims) of crime. Think Natalee Holloway, Jennifer “Runaway Bride” Wilbanks, Chandra Levy. (The current Missing White Woman is named Emily Sanders who, it turns out, lived a double life as an Internet porn star. I’ll have to keep my eye on this case.) In particular, I want to look at the intricate construction of the CNNian/MSNBCinian mythos of Missing White Woman Syndrome, including an extensive and considered analysis its obsessive tropes and stock characters.
In any case, I thought the term Hurricane Natalee was not only catchy but appropriate, given the tropical locale in which Miss Holloway disappeared. Googling “Hurricane Natalee” turns up nothing, so I’m laying claim to the term here and now. Hurricane Natalee is the media phenomenon linked to Missing White Woman Syndrome, in which a gigantic, yet rather predictable, storm of media frenzy descends upon an otherwise unspectacular crime, forcefully displacing more newsworthy stories in favour of hails of self-righteous platitudes, misplaced victimology, demonization of the foreigner, and pretty yearbook photos.
I must point out, for the thick, that anything I write would not be about Natalee Holloway herself, but rather the media’s perverse eagerness to turn the case into yet another another excuse for circus-like wall-to-wall coverage, complete with a catchy logo and montage and theme tune. It just seems to me that this case in particular set a new standard for sensationalist, over-the-top news coverage, cementing the place of Missing White Woman Syndrome as a real phenomenon in today’s media. Natalee’s disappearance, like any other, was tragic—but at what point does news reporting thereof cross the line and, in fact, become disrespectful to the memory of, and to the family of, a victim of crime?