Real life rules for surviving a slasher flickPosted: April 14, 2011
Ok, starting with a confession. I live in Swindon. Phew, good to get that off my chest. Anyway, the point of this confession is that sadly, a man from Swindon has recently been charged with murdering two local women. And the media responses to the two different victims have left me absolutely fuming.
There’s a line in one of the Scream films, where Randy talks about the rules you should obey if you want to survive a horror film. And one of them is never have sex. You must stay a virgin, or you’ll die. It’s a tongue-in-cheek joke in the movie, but the British press just don’t seem to see the funny side. They actually seem to think that if you’re a good girl, you won’t get murdered. Or at least if you do, there’ll be a public outpouring of grief so huge it will all be worth it.
The first young woman to be identified was popular and beautiful. Her teachers had nothing but good things to say about her, and many people joined in the hunt to try and find her. The press went crazy over “our girl”, which then led to Facebook-hysteria amongst everyone vaguely connected to Swindon, that they have walked through that part of town some time. Flowers were left up and down the street.
It’s good that the murder of a young woman is taken so seriously. I’m pleased that this murder generated headlines as violence against women is so often ignored. And I don’t mean to belittle the sadness of a young woman being murdered, and I am very sorry for her family and all those that knew her.
But then the second young woman was identified. And it barely generated a mention. She’d done drugs you see. And she’d argued with her family about her choice of boyfriend. In the eyes of the press, occasionally bad things happen to good people. But most of the time good people are safe. If your behaviour doesn’t measure up to the standards… well, you must pay the consequences.
Occasionally there’s a woman they aren’t quite sure how to categorise. Like Joanna Yates, murdered in Bristol in 2010. She might have invited someone into her apartment even though her boyfriend wasn’t home. So best condemn her on the off-chance, then.
Serial killers don’t, according to the press, pick vulnerable women from isolated areas. No, they target sex workers. Jack the Ripper also targeted sex workers. But the entire community felt threatened, because people realised that it could be them. That sex workers were women – desperate and unfortunate perhaps, but still women. Just like every other woman in the area, any of them could be next.
But the media today are constantly reinforcing the idea that if a woman is murdered, there’s probably more to it. It’s rare that there’s a real “victim”. There’s a reason why the rest of us can feel safe and judgemental. When there’s not, it’s headline news. But the rest of the time, obey the rules.
Just remember, don’t have sex, don’t do drink or drugs, and never say you’ll be right back.
When it’s not a joke, it takes victim-blaming to a whole new level.