Saturday, July 10, 2010

Wuornos weekend

Shots on the Blog goes into dark territory this weekend with three Aileen Wuornos related movies. Today, a double bill of the acclaimed Nick Broomfield documentaries – ‘Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer’ and ‘Aileen: The Life and Death of a Serial Killer’ – and tomorrow Patty Jenkins’s ‘Monster’, for which Charlize Theron bagged a grimly deserved Oscar.

Wuornos hailed from a white-trash background and it doesn’t take a psychiatrist to join the dots of her troubled childhood and adolescence and arrive at the conclusion that her life was pretty much headed on a certain course from the outset. This from the Wikipedia article (which draws heavily on Michael Reynolds’s book ‘Dead Ends: The Pursuit, Conviction and Execution of Female Serial Killer Aileen Wuornos’):

Her mother, Diane Pratt, was 15 years old when she married Leo Dale Pittman …Piittman was a child molester who spent most of his life in and out of prison. Wuornos never met her father, as he was imprisoned for the rape and attempted murder of an eight-year-old boy at the time of her birth. Leo Pittman hanged himself in prison in 1969 … From a young age, Wuornos engaged in sex with multiple partners, including her own brother. At the age of 13, she became pregnant, claiming the pregnancy was a result of being raped by an unknown man.”

When, at the age of 15, Wuornos’s grandfather (at this point her legal ward) threw her out of his house, she turned to prostitution to sustain herself. A brief (nine week) marriage to an older man in the mid-70s seems to have been a union of convenience. Wuornos unexpectedly came into some money following the death of her brother and the marriage ended.

Wuornos proved temperamental and several violent outbursts at a local bar, to the extent of her hurling a cue ball at the bartender’s head, landed her in jail for a spell. A convenience store robbery, the passing of forged cheques and grand theft auto rounded out her criminal credentials. She met Tyria Moore in 1986 and they moved in together. Wuornos was evidently deeply committed and referred to Moore as her “wife”. She supported them by continuing her career in prostitution.

Between November 1989 and November 1990, Wuornos shot and killed seven of her clients. It’s notable that the first, Richard Mallory, was a convicted rapist who had spent ten years in a psychiatric facility for his violent acts against women. Wuornos claimed her killing of him was self-defence. It may have been Mallory’s rape of her that brought all the demons of her childhood howling back. I’m going no further with that thought: this article is merely a prologue to the cinematic portrayals, either documentarian or fictional, of Aileen Wuornos and I’d rather base my opinions on the films themselves.

What is certain is that the story didn’t end with Wuornos’s arrest. There was a spectacular betrayal, some grossly inappropriate conduct by police and lawyers, the mammothly hypocritical involvement of a supposed Christian and wholesale exploitation. Pre-arrest, Wuornos was clearly the villain of the piece (whatever litigation may be offered in terms of her troubled background, the nature of her profession and the behaviour of her clients). Post-arrest, her role was recast as that of victim.

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