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Feature: Monsters and the Femme fatale

Chilling Netflix documentary Amanda Knox exhibits the blatant persecution of women who have sex

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The chilling new Netflix documentary, Amanda Knox, aims to challenge the public’s obsession with real life crime, but ends up exhibiting the blatant persecution of women who have sex. The documentary–directed by Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn—details the investigation of the murder of Meredith Kercher, while exposing the cruel and chaotic nature of our culture of obsession.

The harrowing footage at the beginning of the film is a somber reminder of the murder of Meredith, often completely overshadowed by the speculation regarding Amanda Knox. We see a red hand print on the wall, a blood-stained bra, and dark, deep pools of blood coming from underneath the sheets covering Meredith’s body; the work of what one could only assume was a monster. Over this chilling reveal of the original crime scene, Amanda begins to speak. She begins to explain the lack of ‘in-between,’ when it comes to her judgement and why perhaps she became a symbol of both fear and vulnerability. In this explanation emerges the film’s tagline ‘either I’m a psychopath in sheep’s clothing, or I am you,’ an introduction to key elements of the investigation that enabled and, in fact, contributed to the demonisation of Knox.

The opening sequence points at the media. ‘Were you into deviant sex? …experimental activities?’ are the words of one reporter interrogating Knox. Obsession with Knox’s sex life became a crucial aspect of the media frenzy and trial, despite it having little to do with the investigation. Headlines and statements eager to depict Knox as a sex-crazed murderer are key to the documentary’s scrutiny of the press.

At the heart of this portrayal is Nick Pisa, Daily Mail Reporter. It would be too easy to mock his contribution to the speculation; working for a newspaper which applauds unethical journalism and malicious gossip. Throughout the documentary Pisa reminds himself of the success of the story, often becoming giddy and at one point compares getting the world exclusive front cover story of Kercher’s autopsy report to ‘having sex’. He frames Knox as a ‘nutter,’ an assumption made from a picture of Knox from her Myspace page. Knox, in an attractive yellow dress, sits behind a machine gun pulling a funny face. The picture is quite clearly posed and intended to be viewed as humorous, but Pisa among other journalists used this as evidence of both Knox’s sexual deviance and mental instability.

Makers of the documentary highlight the extent of Pisa’s stupidity following the declaration of Knox’s and Raffaele Sollecito’s innocence. Pisa says, completely ignorant of his own guilt, there was ‘no one else to blame but the police,’ and their ‘wild theories.’ (Nod to the composer for the simultaneous hiccup in the melody.)

Also, at the centre of these conspiracies is Prosecutor and Sherlock Home’s fan Giuliano Mignini.  Though amusing, Mignini’s attachment to his pipe only works to parody his ‘traditional’ outlook. Mignini’s accusations are considerably driven by Knox’s sex life. At one point he creates his own script of the night of the murder; saying Amanda is ‘inhibited’, and ‘Meredith must have scolded Amanda for having no morals’. Mignini portrayal consists of not only footage from the investigation but also of original, almost caricature, clips of him parading through the streets with pride or hanging his head in shame. The film chooses to highlight Mignini’s religious beliefs in his departure, capturing him walking through a grand church whilst he reminds the guilty of the final trial we all must face.

Perhaps most daunting are the young and fresh-faced images of Amanda compared to the Amanda before us, who appears drawn and humourless. Amanda lost her youth and innocence to a case that constantly heralded her as a sex-crazed maniac who killed her ‘prudent’ flat mate, whilst Meredith was lost amidst a monster hunt.

  • Peter Henderson

    Amanda Knox was convicted on the basis of evidence by a jury that was mostly female. Amanda’s lifestyle was relevant in that it was a source of friction between the women. Meredith’s female friends and roommates provided the testimony that convicted Amanda twice. If the media shamed Amanda for being a “slut” the media is now shaming Italians and Catholics for being prudes. But Amanda was not convicted for sexiness nor exonerated as a rebuke to Catholicism.

    • hikertom

      “Amanda Knox was convicted on the basis of evidence…”

      Peter: What evidence are you referring to? I have studied this case. There was no evidence. NONE. All the prosecutor had was a ridiculous theory about a sex game gone wrong.

      For example, Raffaele’s kitchen knife, which the prosecutor claimed was the murder weapon, was proved by independent forensic experts to have had nothing to do with the murder. Not only was the blade much too large to have inflicted the wounds, but it contained bread starch, but NO BLOOD. Since starch absorbs blood, how could the defendants have scrubbed off all the blood (as the prosecutor claimed) without also removing the starch?

      • Peter Henderson

        I think you are using the word ‘evidence’ tendentiously. But while we’re on the subject of that knife, Raff wrote that he could explain how Meredith’s DNA got on the knife: it was when he pricked her finger while cooking for her. But Raff never cooked for her. Raff made up a lie to explain evidence that he thought would stand up. As for blood and starch, possibly the starch was in a location where there was no blood or possibly the starch got on the knife after Nov 1. Amanda said she never brought any knives from Raffs to the cottage so if Meredith was never at Raff’s it remains a mystery how her DNA got on the knife.

        • hikertom

          First, Raffaele did not lie. When told that Meredith’s DNA was on his knife he speculated in a private journal how it could be there. Forensic experts testified that the amount of DNA was too small to identify with any certainty, and if it did belong to Ms. Kercher it must have gotten there due to contamination in the lab, where other objects from the investigation were also tested.

    • Ralph

      Well knock me over with a feather! I coulda swore Amanda was found Not Guilty!

  • ProfessorAnderson

    In this case two innocent young people were falsely accused and imprisoned for four years by Perugia’s totally dysfunctional polizio-judicial system, for a murder they patently had nothing to do with. They were then kept in tenterhooks for a further four years, through Italy’s costly and destructive process of appeals against appeals against appeals. And still people persecute them, even though they have at last been finally declared innocent. Now once again the Kercher family, through the Mail article, have shown that their brains are permanently imprinted with the Prosecution lies, just as throughout the process their lawyer Francesco Maresca was on their behalf. They say Meredith has been forgotten in all of this, but the brutal fact is she just suffered for a few minutes before she died, and she is no more. Of course the primary crime, her shocking killing by Rudy Guede when a simple break-in went wrong, was all about Meredith. But not the secondary crime of cover-up which involved framing and persecuting Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, and this seems to be something the Kerchers are unwilling to concede. They will not even sanction Amanda visiting her dead friend’s grave.

    My book with Nigel Scott, just out, entitled ‘Three False Convictions, Many Lessons – The Psychopathology of Unjust Prosecutions’ (Waterside Press ISBN 9781909976351) examines this case and two other unjust or malicious prosecutions, from the UK and the USA. It may help those readers and journalists who still trust convenient but improbable salacious police, prosecution and convenient Pisa-type press lies, to understand some at least of the psychological roots of flagrant criminal injustice.