Cultural, Linguistic and Literary Approaches to Narratives of Femininity
Edited By Tiina Mäntymäki, Marinella Rodi-Risberg and Anna Foka
‘Baby Killer!’ – Media Constructions of a Culturally Congruent Identity for Casey Anthony as Mother and Female Offender
← 134 | 135 → Caroline Enberg
This article investigates media representations of Casey Anthony, the alleged child killer, whose much-publicised trial illustrates the perceived controversy of mothers who kill. The study analyses the thematic construction of Anthony’s maternal identity in seven online news accounts, within the framework of culturally normative assumptions of the ‘good mother’ and the inherent madness/badness of the female perpetrator. The analysis found that Anthony was placed in discourses of Indulgence and Neglect, which framed her actions as deviant and separate from ‘true’ femininity.
‘Monster mom partying four days after tot died’.(quoted in TIME, 2011)
The above quote is taken from a tabloid article about the tragic murder of two-year-old Caylee Anthony in Orlando, Florida in 2008. The case drew immense national and international media coverage, attracting hundreds of spectators to the trials that ensued, and quickly became ‘The Social-Media Trial of the Century’ (TIME, 2011) through extensive case discussions on MySpace posts, Twitter accounts and Facebook pages. The public attention mainly stemmed from the fact that the child’s mother, Casey Anthony, was the main suspect. The frenzied media interest in the Anthony case (or as TIME described it in 2011, ‘the mass, lip-licking bloodlust’) illustrates the ‘morbid curiosity’ (Meyer and Oberman, 2003: 1) that surrounds mothers who kill and greatly surpasses the media curiosity in cases of paternal child abuse.
Barbara Barnett (2005: 25), who has published extensively on media representations of women who kill, outlines...
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