After three years of the media debacle over the trial of Casey Anthony for the killing of her daughter, what did we learn?
I’ve tried my best to avoid the whole thing. There’s only so much time and so many stories to cover, and when it comes to crimes involving children I have an especially intuitive sense of repulsion that turns me away from the news. It’s usually grossly sensational and excessive. But you can only reach for the remote so fast, and you can’t escape some of the drama and details surrounding the case.
Lots of people have lots of theories about why the Anthony case attracted so much attention while so many other murder cases of the era have not. Whether it’s right or its wrong, my theory is simple. Anthony is a white, middle-class woman — she might even have been a soccer mom if things had turned out differently — who had a darling, photogenic little girl. On many levels, her story connected with the vast swath of Americans who are themselves white, middle-class, and child-rearing.
Casey Anthony wasn’t some freak, as so many venal commentators made her out to be. Until it all fell apart for her, you could argue instead that she was much like the millions of others who ended up following her trial. The fascination with her case — and Caylee’s tragic cause — was most vibrant within a demographic that is particularly attuned to investing in this sort of a story.
This was a dreadful reality show. But the reality wasn’t really reflected in this show trial.
We don’t know exactly how many mothers or fathers have been prosecuted since in murder cases involving their children. And thus we don’t know how many of those cases resulted in convictions or acquittals. But there are some things we do know. We know, for example, that the Anthony case, for all its ratings and its hype, was but a spit into the ocean when it comes to murder in America.
And this is the key point…
The stories of these thousands of “unfamous” victims have never been told on cable television. The narratives of destroyed lives and broken families have never been dissected in magazines, or in books, or in syndication. They never trended on Twitter, the stories of these black victims, or Hispanic victims, or victims whose trials were hidden from the camera’s view. There were no primetime specials about them. Every hour of coverage of the Anthony case, every obsessive update about every little tick in her trial, every bit of lousy analysis detracted from the telling of these other stories about life and death, parent and child, conviction and acquittal, law and justice.
That’s the takeaway. If we want to pay attention to anything here, it is that.