Myra Hindley
October 30, 2011 7:05 PM   Subscribe

My purpose here has been to inquire into mediated understandings of Hindley, and to question how popular texts delineate between the deeds of a human being and the way those deeds are culturally inscribed. The task is neither conclusive nor complete, for monsters are illusive. There is always some part of them that evades both enunciation and comprehension.
posted by Trurl (15 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I'm supposed to take seriously something by someone who writes prose that ambitious and yet cannot spell elusive?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:18 PM on October 30, 2011

My main problem is that the writer dismisses as a failure Hindley's attempts to have herself recast as subject to Brady's manipulation. I grew up being told exactly that, and suggested that her continued incarceration was probably more to do with the political liability of releasing her.

I'm supposed to take seriously something by someone who writes prose that ambitious and yet cannot spell elusive?

In fairness, Illusive is a word, and easily confused by humans and missed by spellcheckers.
posted by Jehan at 7:26 PM on October 30, 2011

Monsters are illusive.
posted by cookie-k at 9:22 PM on October 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yeah, Ivan, I think this usage was actually intentional (making your critique a textbook example of what sociolinguists call "hypercorrection," by the way). If Hawkins had in fact written "elusive," the sentence would have been redundant. It is truly bad writing to say "monsters are elusive . . . [and thus] evade enunciation." But in fact things that are "illusive" -- that is to say, have the character of an illusion -- are very often also "elusive," as in hard to pin down.

Or as Bugs Bunny once put it, "An insteresting monster deserves an insteresting HAIR do."
posted by spitbull at 9:52 PM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

The presence of "It was too late: Hindley's monstrosity was passed the point of public renegotiation" earlier in the essay does tilt the evidence slightly toward it being a spellcheck-proof typo, though.

Also, I'd like to put myself on record as being against the use of text in a background image behind text.

There seems to be an encoding breakage, too, where nearly all of the apostrophes have been turned into question marks. At least, that's what I'm seeing.

I'm trying to get past those superficial problems, to think about the subject being discussed. I can't help but wonder if it's a matter of 'whistling in the dark' that some part of my mind is doing.

It seems there are two major factors in Hindley's public perception, as it's discussed in the article. The primary point, I take it, is unequal hate toward women who commit horrible crimes, due to expected gender roles. On the other hand, the cultural desire for monsters to look like monsters, doesn't seem to have a lot to do with gender. Hindley seems to have fallen into an unfortunate intersection there.

Either way, though, it points to the idea that fair and proportionate treatment of criminals — particularly those who've committed extreme offenses — is something that, culturally, we're still struggling with. Perhaps we always will. But progress can still be made.
posted by Kalthare at 10:44 PM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Either way, though, it points to the idea that fair and proportionate treatment of criminals — particularly those who've committed extreme offenses — is something that, culturally, we're still struggling with."
posted by Kalthare

Tell that to the parents of the mutilated and murdered children.
posted by marienbad at 1:17 AM on October 31, 2011

Tell that to the parents of the mutilated and murdered children.

Ehhhhwhat? Did I suggest she should have leniency? A pardon? A government job and a pony? A fair and proportionate response to what she did would not be something anyone would want to go through. I'm not not even saying she deserved any better than she got. I'm talking about this, from the article:

I found this description of the power of Hindley?s dead body to be singular in the extreme. Moreover, the reference to Fred West was a powerful one. In December 1994, Frederick West was charged with twelve murders (although police suspected that he may have committed many more). His victims were females of various ages, many being sexually tortured before being killed. West buried several bodies in his own backyard in Cromwell Road, Gloucester, dubbed the "House of Horror" by the British press. Fred West hanged himself in his prison cell while on remand. The news report of Hindley?s death implied, however, that this man?s crimes, his dead body, and his funeral service (as far as is generally known) presented no difficulty to the undertaker concerned. Hindley?s body was another matter.

A murderer with over twice as many victims inspired nothing like the kind of crawling horror that Hindley did. Seemingly this was at least in part because it's more 'okay' for a man to be a serial killer than a woman. This is not the response of a healthy society.

I'm not talking about sentencing, I'm talking about the way the general public responds. Although the two are not entirely unrelated.
posted by Kalthare at 2:54 AM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sorry, but that's rubbish Kalthare, sexism had nothing to do with it. Hindley was genuinely hated by the British public but the dreadful circumstances of the Moors Murders gave them good reason and there was just as much fear and revulsion about the Yorkshire Ripper or similar mass murderers in Britain in their time. If you don't think Fred West induced 'crawling horror' when his crimes were revealed then I suggest you revisit the press coverage of the time.

The point about Hindley is that, unlike the unspeakably evil Brady, she kept stoking public resentment by constantly angling for release from jail, and having well known establishment figures campaigning on her behalf, which only reminded people why she was locked up in the first place. If Rose West was trying every trick she could to get released from her current abode at HMP Low Newton or today's Lord Longfords and David Astors were tirelessly banging on about what a jolly good sort she was really and how terribly unfair it was that she was still locked up, you'd see exactly the same thing.

Someone who kills twenty people isn't twice as evil as someone who kills ten, they just evaded detection for longer. Brady and Hindley made a 16 minute audiotape of 10 year old Lesley Ann Downey's final ordeal, screaming in pain, begging to go home. I suggest you listen to that before using these dreadful acts as nothing more than a hook to hang some tedious, specious, knee jerk remark about sexism in society. There was nothing wrong with the 'health of society' in the way it reacted to these crimes.
posted by joannemullen at 3:45 AM on October 31, 2011

Joanne, do you read the papers at all? Just look at the opprobrium leveled at Maxine Carr in the press to this day (Daily Mail link) compared to the coverage Ian Huntley receives.

If you don't think gender is a major factor in the way criminals are regarded and treated by the press, the public and the justice system - you're talking jive. And your overblown emotive points about "screaming in pain, begging to go home" have nothing to do with the point at hand.
posted by Ted Maul at 3:59 AM on October 31, 2011

I should add that Maxine Carr is a particularly interesting case because it was never proven in court that she knew anything about or was involved in the murders - and she has done absolutely nothing to "stoke public resentment."

But she's a woman connected to a very high-profile murder, so she can never be allowed to attempt to rebuild her life in the eyes of large segments of the public or the media.

Oh, and here's a comment about "the families of the victims rebuilding THEIR lives" to save you the bother.
posted by Ted Maul at 4:06 AM on October 31, 2011

I understand that this essay is an adventure in discussing symbols, and I understand that there are certain cultural assumptions about men and women at play. But let's get this out of the way right now: women have agency and people like Myra Hindley and Karla Homolka (and, for that matter, Irma Griese, mentioned as one of Myra's role models) made their choices. Do female serial killers receive harsher penalties than males? Has a female serial killer ever been punished more than her male partner? This is before we get to the problem of whether a defense of "I was under his(/her?) control is even viable. In other words, whatever the sexual mythos, does it have real consequences for these women?
(And Maxine Carr served 21 months for providing a false alibi for Huntley. Not a terribly harsh sentence for that kind of perjury, I think. She has a new identity and is hardly a martyr.)
posted by CCBC at 4:39 AM on October 31, 2011

Blouse - Me Oh Myra
posted by acb at 5:06 AM on October 31, 2011

CCBC, I don't think anybody's arguing that Hindley et al made their own choices. I certainly don't buy the idea that she was strictly under Brady's control (although his attempts to involve David Smith with the murders certainly suggests that he was actively trying to obtain accomplices.)

But I think that's besides the point. The issue isn't whether they're treated more harshly or punished more extensively by the justice system - because I don't think they are - but about the way they're portrayed by the media and the effect his has on society at large.

You acknowledge that and ask whether it has real consequences. I would suggest that for the innocent women falsely accused of being Maxine Carr (link link link) it does.

Roy Greenslade, who spent many years working for red-top tabloids, has some interesting thoughts on how the media have treated the Maxine Carr case .
posted by Ted Maul at 6:03 AM on October 31, 2011

I'm supposed to take seriously something by someone who writes prose that ambitious and yet cannot spell elusive?

Oh, Cathy Hawkins, so much to answer for.
posted by octobersurprise at 10:34 AM on October 31, 2011

Ted Maul: The article (it seems to me) said that women criminals are demonized, presumably more so than men. I don't buy it. Myra Hindley, Carla Homolka, Maxine Carr were media topics because they wanted to be out of jail and back in society. (Myra only made day trips, the other two got full release.) Every time the topic came up (and it did so many times for Hindley) the tabs would pick up on it and, yes, tabloid journalism is pretty bad. But Hindley was also the subject of a massive effort to free her and books and articles were written portraying her in a sympathetic light. Nothing like that was done for crime partner Brady nor Teale/Bernardo, and in fact, I expect the idea of showing sympathy for them is repugnant to most people. These women got special treatment because they were women; they were not demonized more than their male partners but they were talked about more often because there was the possibility of their release. No such possibility exists for the male partners, so they are not discussed in the same way. The article attempts to show that female criminals are more subject to being seen as monsters than men. No. The expert cited in the article that says men are expected to be criminals, women aren't was dead on, but the result of this expectation is that women are less often seen as unredeemable than men.
posted by CCBC at 1:22 PM on October 31, 2011

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