Review: Amanda Knox
Released on Netflix 10/7
“I have a wife and a daughter.” How many times have you heard a politician say that in response to something sexist toward women? “What’s the problem with that,” you may ask… I’ll tell you the problem: the women are not just your wives and daughters, they are fully formed people. So often, men define women by their relationship or context to a man. Think about the Olympic Gold Medalist listed in a Chicago newspaper as, “Wife of Bears’ player wins Gold Medal.” That is the essential horror revealed in how Amanda Knox became a salacious news story that painted her as a devil-worshipping, murdering, orgy-having whore. She had the audacity to not relate to men the way men would’ve preferred her to, and for that years of her life were stolen.
In a new documentary from Netflix, Knox is shown as kind of a quirky and rebellious teenager who went to Italy to study abroad. Her home life was nothing special, and she seems an average teenager: she likes boys, wants to have fun, and is excited about the possibilities. Come to find out, Italy is basically no school work and all fun. She gets a job, an Italian boyfriend (Rafael), and has some fun. They date, hang out, occasionally smoke some pot, and enjoy each other’s company. For a week.
Knox narrates her own story some 6-7 years later describing herself as your worst nightmare: Either she is a seemingly normal person who is capable of cold-blooded murder, or you–someone who could live a normal life one day and have it all taken away the next. A nightmare. Which is what her life becomes when she comes home one morning to find blood in her apartment and her roommate missing along with a locked door. They call the cops, who find her roommate with a slashed throat, naked on the floor. Knox is immediately a suspect because she and her boyfriend are a bit too romantic with their comforting of each other.
Essentially Knox is suspected for not behaving in a way that makes sense. That everyone’s grief should be uniform. Nevermind that she barely knew her roommate for a couple of weeks before the killing. The cops press and press under heavy scrutiny from international media to find the killer, a small-town Italian village’s cops focus in on Knox. They badger her and her boyfriend in interrogations, and of course, the boyfriend breaks. He changes their story from being at home together to saying Knox wasn’t with him. When Amanda is reinterviewed they key in on a text message. Her boss told her not to come in that day, so she essentially said, “Thanks. Have a good night. I’ll see you later.” For the cops, later means an appointment. Perhaps meeting up to murder? They press her until she also breaks, saying that she has vague memories of meeting him.
That’s all it takes. They’re indicted. The bartender has an alibi. No matter. The boyfriend did it with Amanda. The media catches fire. They look at her Myspace. She calls herself Foxy Knoxy. What a whore. She bought underwear with her boyfriend of one week. A sex-obsessed fiend. A picture of her laughing at a museum with a hand on a machine gun. A maniacal murderer. Somehow the police come up with the story that her roommate refused an orgy from Amanda, so they held her down, raped her, and cut her throat. Perhaps there was devil-worshiping involved? Probably.
We’re treated to interviews from Nick Pisa a journalist at the Daily Mail who headed up the media frenzy. He shows no remorse. He compares what he does to his heroes Woodward and Bernstein. He laughs off the idea of fact-checking sources to confirm leads or stories as being too time consuming. The Italian investigator too chimes in with ridiculously sexist theories that only a woman would cover a naked, dead woman’s body. That a sexually active girl is inherently less trustworthy. He too, aspires to be like a hero (Sherlock Holmes in his case), but he too fails to follow the same methodology that made him great and instead relying on his own intuition.
Over the next four years Amanda and Rafael are convicted, acquitted, convicted, and finally acquitted again. The Italian police botch the investigation with contaminated evidence that mixed DNA samples and locations, and witnesses that flip-flopped their stories. The lone witness was the man who is still in prison for the murder, and he maintains he didn’t do it. He first said that nobody was in the house beside himself, and after going to the bathroom, he came back to find her dead (believe as much as you would like of that). He then changed to saying he saw Amanda there. The press added him to the rape-murder-orgy party.
So, what is this story about? A wrongfully accused young woman who was demonized for having too many (7, just above US average) male partners in her life? Did she deserve for the Italian police to tell her she had AIDS to see if that would break her (it was a lie)? Is it about the fallibility of police investigation? The sexism of cultures? The sensationalist media and trial by media? Is it about one person’s life being broken by so many, who, when it turns out they were wrong, can’t be bothered to apologize as they’ve already moved on to the next thing. The simple answer? Yes.