Celebrity hairdos and hemlines may change, but there's one fashion accessory that never goes out of style at the Oscars: Death Row inmates. From "Dead Man Walking" to "The Green Mile" to this year's Academy Award-nominated movie "Monster," Hollywood always makes room on the red carpet for anti-death penalty chic.
The film industry's current criminal du jour is Aileen Wuornos, a female serial killer who was executed in 2002 after admitting she murdered seven men in Florida. Model-turned-actress Charlize Theron depicts Wuornos sympathetically in "Monster" as a poor, overweight, abused prostitute with low self-esteem -- the apparent cause of every evil deed in America these days.
With the help of fake teeth, many bags of potato chips, unwashed hair, and a bleeding-heart script, Theron has already won a Screen Actors Guild award, a Golden Globe trophy, best actress honors from the National Society of Film Critics, and the Critics' Choice award. Liberal film critic Roger Ebert hyperventilated that Theron's acting in "Monster" was "one of the greatest performances in the history of cinema." On Sunday, she stands a good chance of adding an Oscar to her glistening mantel.
Theron used the premiere of "Monster" at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this month to lash out against capital punishment and to criticize the use of criminals as "political pawns" by manipulative politicians. But who's manipulating whom? Theron's movie gives the fraudulent impression that Wuornos initiated her killing spree in self-defense against several of her victims, who she claimed were rapists. In truth, the rage-filled, publicity-seeking Wuornos acknowledged manufacturing all but one of those claims.
As her biographer Sue Russell noted recently, Wuornos ruthlessly gunned down complete strangers, some in the back as they tried to escape. "I'm one who seriously hates human life and would kill again," Wuornos coldly bragged. She fantasized about a Bonnie-and-Clyde-style life of crime, cunningly covered her tracks, and nonchalantly made off with her victims' belongings to bring home to her lesbian lover. The entertainment media routinely lump Wuornos' victims together as her "johns." But Russell concluded that "it's just as likely that some were simply good Samaritans lending a helping hand, since Aileen's modus operandi was to hitch rides, claiming her car had broken down. These men have been demonized in a way in which we would rarely demonize female homicide victims. And that has brought incalculable pain to some of their families."