The media representation of violent female criminality has become a popular topic of academic study during the last two decades, and the phenomenon of the female serial killer has attracted particular fascination. It is argued - particularly from a feminist perspective - that female killers are routinely "denied" agency and/or blame for their criminal actions within such representations and are instead routinely (re)constructed as either victim or monster.
Focusing upon the story of Aileen Wuornos (who was executed in Florida in 2002 for the murders of seven men), as depicted in the films Monster (Patty Jenkins, 2003), Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer (Nick Broomfield, 1992) and Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer (Nick Broomfield, 2003), the objective of my research is to explore the ways in which the female serial killer is constructed within contemporary cinema and, importantly, to better understand how and why such constructions resonate with individual film viewers in a particular way.
My approach to these issues is a psychosocial one, in which the cinematic viewing experience is understood to involve both conscious processes and unconscious motivations. Using the psychoanalytically indebted free association narrative interview as my primary qualitative research method, I shall carry out detailed “case studies” with a small number of participants, in order to more fully understand the ways in which their interpretations of these films are closely linked to – and motivated by – their own biographical experience.
Supervisor: Dr. Matt Hills