I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t been paying much attention to the Jodi Arias case. You may not even know her by name, as the media has taken to almost exclusively referring to her "the boyfriend killer."
Though you wouldn't know it by the media portrayal, which seems to delight in every detail of the case, it does actually involve the death of another human being.
Jodi Arias is on trial in Arizona and has been charged with the first-degree murder of her boyfriend, Travis Alexander. Arias admits to killing Alexander in 2008. She claims to have done so in self-defense. Alexander was stabbed 27 times and shot in the face.
Arias has been on the witness stand for just over two weeks. Despite this, the case has focused less on the murder itself and more on the sexual exploits of Arias and her boyfriend.
The defense has been trying to paint Travis Alexander as a sexual deviant. Both sides have submitted evidence of graphic photos and sex-phone calls between the two. The judge has not banned any of them from the courtroom.
This story is exactly what the media dreams of: A young white female accused of a heinous crime. It’s the ultimate femme fatale. There’s something sexy and dangerous about it right? People are eating up the media coverage of the case as well. Twitter is filled with people who are watching the live broadcast of the trial.
If you aren’t familiar with the case, don’t worry, over at HuffPost, you can view the crime scene photos for yourself. You can also view Jodi Arias personal photos and look at a "Who’s Who" of the case. It reads like an IMDB listing. Speaking of which, I give it exactly three months before Lifetime announces that this story will be made into a movie starring Jennifer Love Hewitt.
Is there a problem with any of this? Should all of these things be made public? I’m not one for censorship of any kind. I am one, however, for some modicum of integrity. Treating the case as it should be treated, with a seriousness that the murder of another human being deserves would be a great start. That won't happen though because Jodi Arias is exactly the kind of woman that the American public finds titillating. So we will continue to be saturated with every ounce of detail and coverage that can be squeezed out of this trial.
In the reporting of the trial, someone took the time to actually write this phrase down, as if it was relevant in any way:
“Another thing that stands out is the fact that Arias has gone from a blonde bombshell to a totally boring looking brunette. She used to look like a chick from one of those Girls Gone Wild videos and now she looks like a school marm ...”
Well. That’s all I needed to hear. She’s clearly guilty.
The case has also been hypersexualized. The media needs to know, is she a victim or vixen? Saint or slut? Whore or Whore-ible Murderer? We cannot seem to disassociate ourselves from the element of sex.
Why do we care so much about these particular cases? I highly doubt you see Headline News devoting its prime time coverage to the other murder trials that happen every day.
This is essentially the holy grail of news reporting and it gets ratings because we can’t tear ourselves away from the salaciousness of it all.
The media doesn't care about all cases like this though. It’s usually only the ones that have attractive younger white females at the center of them. There are women who have been tried and convicted of murder, the ones who are guilty of killing their abusive husbands.
LaVelma Byrd killed her husband after a particular brutal beating involving a telephone. She suffered through his abuse for years. She is now part of a group who call themselves Convicted Women Against Abuse.
The problem with these stories?
They don’t play out like a Hollywood film or an episode of Law and Order. It’s harder to make light of women who have been beaten so badly they have foot prints up and down their backs. It makes it all the more difficult to publish the headline, "Sex Kitten or Slayer"?
The Arias case will continue. In coming days she will answer some 100 questions posed by jurors and I'm sure everyone will be hanging on her every last word.