Toronto journalist Bert Archer's Toronto Standard article critiquing the inadvertant glamorization of--thankfully caught--accused murderer Luka Magnotta says pretty much what needs to be said
Luka Rocco Magnotta, the man suspected of murdering a Chinese man in Montreal and mailing out parts of his body, is pretty. As a result, newspapers and TV shows are pelting us with the contents of his ample album of glamour shots. He was a model, he worked in porn, and even auditioned for a reality show. There’s plenty of material, much of it posted by Magnotta himself.
[. . .]
The pictures of Magnotta are the pictures of a suspected murderer. It’s been less than a week since the Conservative Party office received that foot, which we now know belonged to Concordia student Lin Jun, but already, you can sense the frenzy. The body parts thing was big enough; the fact that they were mailed to political offices made it bigger. But when you add Magnotta’s looks, the fact that he reportedly made some porn, seems to have had sex with men and women, and the fact that he may have had something romantically to do with Karla Homolka, the story goes through the roof.
We’ve seen it before. Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka did bad things. But in the universe of bad things, these were not big stars. But just as Bonnie and Clyde were petty hoodlums who made it big because they were a photogenic couple, Paul and Karla’s notoriety rests at least as much on their hairdos, cheek bones and complexions as it does on their crimes. People couldn’t get enough of those pictures, could not, I think, get enough of the fact that these were attractive people, not criminal looking, pictures of the sort of people you might have looked twice at on the street, the sort you might have flirted with, and had sex with if given the opportunity. Some of this was retroactive terror – It could have been me instead of those poor French and Mahaffy girls – but some of it, and in light of Magnotta, I’d say a lot of it, was pure pornographic fascination. Because these weren’t just murders, they were sexual murders. So to imagine the murder, you have to imagine the sex, the bodies.
[. . .]
Things have changed. And it makes what the shows and papers are doing even more transparently hateful. Because this video is out there. I’ve watched it, and maybe so have you.
It’s not clear if it’s Magnotta – whoever it is wears a hoodie and has his back to the camera – but everything else is on full view. The naked victim’s alive at the beginning of the video, as the hooded character sits on his chest, possibly stroking his face. Though he’s tied to the bed, it all looks consensual (unless the victim was drugged; we can weakly hope he was). Then there’s a jump in the video, and we see a half dozen little red marks on Lin’s torso. He’s not moving anymore. When the hood comes back into frame, we see where those marks came from. He’s holding an ice pick, which he then uses to puncture the body about a dozen more times. Then he takes the camera in one hand, a knife in the other and starts cutting. Small, tentative slices at first on the thighs and arms, just enough to make the body start to look like meat. Then we get a close-up on the victim’s face just above his slashed throat.
That’s when I stopped watching.
It turns out, I didn’t need to see the killer’s face. The association I made between the two visual stimuli was strong enough to make me see what I only intuited before. Sexualizing this murder by posting shots of the suspect raising his shirt to show off his tidy little body is disgusting. And not in a helpful way, like some images of war, disease and famine can be. Those are simply visually disgusting. The decision editors and producers and web publishers are making hourly to throw up these shots is morally disgusting. Moral’s not a word I use a lot. It’s muddy, and gets more caked with crud nearly every time it’s hauled out. But I think it works here. Using the parts of us that make us horny to up circulation, Nielsen and web-hit numbers on a story like this, one that almost certainly involves a man who used that same strategy to get his victim into his room, naked and tied up, is unjustifiable.