I was younger when the Amanda Knox case was in the news, and so have no memory of it. I had been aware of the Netflix documentary, but again, I watched no trailers and did not follow the news surrounding it. Watching this film, I went in almost entirely fresh, save for the friend who recommended it to me because of my interest in true crime: I knew nothing of the history, and was only aware that it was about a real crime. As such, I was expecting something focusing more on the case, in the vein of Making a Murderer, Serial, or The Jinx.
Rather than a true crime film like the above series, Amanda Knox (Rod Blackhurst & Brian McGinn, 2016) was what the title suggested: a film about Amanda Knox. That is to say: the murder, Meredith Kercher, the procedural, were all about how Knox interpreted them and experienced them.
Overall, it was not a great film. I went in knowing nothing of the case, and was left with little additional information, other than how Knox felt; so as a true crime film, it’s not great. The film focuses heavily on the media misogyny that Knox underwent, how the focus was less on evidence (which didn’t exist) and more on her behaviour, real or imagined or exaggerated: her sex life especially as contrasted with her nerdy boyfriend’s inexperience, her supposedly seductive allure, the footage of her kissing her boyfriend at the crime scene, her Myspace handle of “Foxy Knoxy,” and in general, the media’s exploitation of a woman who is hot and crazy. The overall thesis seemed to be that sexual women are stigmatized and punished. This is an interesting counterpoint to Christine, also from this year, about the stigmatization and shame felt by the non-sexual woman– my point here is that women, no matter what they do or what they do, are hated. In Christine Chubbuck’s case, if you believe certain sources, her lack of sex and romantic life helped lead her to a point of despair so deep that she took her own life. In Knox’s case, her attractiveness and active sex life were used to condemn her.
The problem is that this concept is nothing very new, nor very originally. This year’s Audrie and Daisy, for instance, did a much better look at the social epidemic of slut shaming, assault, and the way society treats women who are sexualized, often not by their own choice. Audrie and Daisy did a good job, in my opinion, as it took a broad look at the subject and the repercussions of their attacks, as well as how this violent misogyny manifests in multiple yet similar ways. It is clear that this is an epidemic. Women, and children, everywhere are at risk and when they are attacked, the violence against them only gets stronger. Amanda Knox, however, picks up the idea of media misogyny, but individualises it. This is about how Amanda Knox dealt with the misogyny that she was attacked with, rather than the misogyny of the legal system or media.
This is a problem. I’ve thought about with all of the true crime media I have consumed: we focus on the people (usually men) who are alive and potentially wrongfully accused. People who are given a chance to tell their stories and live their lives. The focus is the living. The focus is not on how the story wouldn’t be possible without the murders of women, and how when the stories are about wrongful accusations, we focus on how hard these (for the most part) men have it, not on how hard the brutally murdered and often sexually tortured women had it. Nor do we focus on how, if the protagonist of these series is innocent, what are the consequences of the legal system allowing the real killer to be free and what is this killer doing in the mean time? Ultimately, I feel that Amanda Knox is interesting, but adds little to discussions of misogyny, nor does it have the fascination of true crime. And despite its feminist narrative it still exploits the rape and murder of a woman, Meredith Kercher, to discuss the problems of the survivor.
How could a film on sexism not discuss the fatal gendered violence which drives the plot? How could a film on sexism so easily, simultaneously brush aside and exploit the death of Meredith Kercher?