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22/03/2019 Communication Science news and articles

How the media can make a murderer

The influence of the media is bigger than ever, they can portray people however they want and everyone will believe it. Somebody who truly knows this is Amanda Knox, who made a Youtube series about it.


Nowadays, a lot of students are studying abroad and most of them will experience these months in a different country as the best time of their lives. But picture this: while you are studying abroad your friend gets murdered and you find yourself getting charged for it partly because the media is portraying you as a cold-blooded murderer who is addicted to sex. Many of us can agree that this would be a nightmare and thankfully most of the time, it will probably remain as unreal as a nightmare. But in 2007, this scenario was very real for Amanda Knox. In a new Youtube-series she tells her story and gives a voice to other women who have been villainized in the media – the same way she was 11 years ago when her life was turned upside down by the tragic murder of her friend.

Amanda’s story
It all started in a small village in Italy, where the then 20-year old American woman went to study for half a year. Amanda was having the time of her life, sharing a little house with two other exchange students. But everything changed when one of these roommates, Meredith Kercher, was brutally murdered in her bedroom. Amanda and her boyfriend at the time found her body and while in the beginning there was uncertainty about who committed the murder, slowly the Italian police started to suspect Amanda due to ‘strange behavior’. This is when the media jumped on it.

The case of Amanda Knox was a media spectacle to say the least. Awaiting her trial, the media started portraying Amanda as a crazy girl who was addicted to sex. Her sex life was publicly scrutinized in the media and her character was taken apart. Eventually Amanda got named a ‘sex-crazed man-eater’ who allegedly murdered her friend after a crazy sex game gone wrong. The public was divided about whether she actually did it or not. On the one hand you had people that believed she had fallen victim to corrupt police that wanted to find someone guilty as soon as possible – on the other hand you had people who thought she was pure evil.   

On the one hand you had people that believed she had fallen victim to corrupt police that wanted to find someone guilty as soon as possible – on the other hand you had people who thought she was pure evil

Creating a newsworthy persona
Eventually, after multiple trials, Amanda was officially found innocent in 2015 and was free to return to the United States after being locked up in an Italian cell for four years. But the stigma around her remained for a long time. This article is not so much about whether Amanda is guilty or not, but more about the unbelievable impact the media had on her case. How the media was so able to influence people’s perspectives on a person; how they were able to easily create the profile of a cold-blooded murderer as if it was a self-invented character in their own novel and not an actual human being.  

So, the media had a big role in the convictions of Amanda and nowadays, this is not that strange. Through media we can create an image about people we do not personally know and now there is more media than ever. We can pretty much pick and choose which characteristics we want to assign to people, by choosing to watch or read what we find most interesting. Hereby we eliminate “the boring stuff” and create a character that can be worlds apart from the real person behind it.

Through media we can create an image about people we do not personally know and now there is more media than ever

It can happen to the best of us
The series Amanda hosts is called “The Scarlett Letter Report” and it has famous guests such as Amber Rose. It is about how, specifically women, can be portrayed as crazy or evil just because they are sexually active. This is a common stereotype that may sound old-fashioned, but when watching the series you realize that unfortunately it still happens today. But putting aside the specific nature of this stereotype, it is clear that anyone can fall victim to the stereotypes created by the media. Fact is that, now more than ever, views and likes influence what we see. And this means: the more out of the ordinary, the better. We all help make this happen by clicking on the most appealing titles, but in the end – nobody wants to be the next Amanda.

Cover: Pexels / Final editor: Loïs Marcus 

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