It could be the French maid costume, anal sex, allegations of domestic violence and pedophilia, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Or it could be the years of amour fou, of obsession and lust, of the jealousy and emotional torture that those two put each other through. It may be the brutal way that Travis Alexander was killed, shot with a .25 caliber pistol and stabbed 27 times, his throat slit from ear to ear, and left for dead for several days in the shower of his home. Whatever it ultimately is, whether it’s our love affair with sex or our fixation with other peoples’ lives, our society is hooked on Jodi Arias.
Jodi and Travis had a short-lived love affair. After their break-up in 2007, the two continued to maintain a physical relationship, much of which was explicitly documented via text messages, handwritten letters, e-mails and Google chat messages to one another. Jodi and Travis even took to the Internet to express their feelings for one another, both posting on their individual blogs about each other. Then in June of 2008, Jodi rented a car and drove from her home in California to Travis’ home in Mesa, Arizona. Little is know about what actually happened when Jodi reached Travis’ home. Logged in the memory card of Travis’ digital camera were images of the two forlorn love birds in sexually provocative positions. What police also recovered from the camera were images of Travis on the bathroom floor, bleeding profusely. Jodi was traced back to the crime scene by a latent bloody fingerprint on the bathroom wall, and from some of her hair on the wall of the blood-stained hallway. The trial of Jodi Arias for first degree murder began in January, and we have all been baffled and stunned by the lies, cover-ups and details of an ill-fated love affair since.
Why the obsession with cases like Jodi Arias’? What does our preoccupation with tales of lust and murder say about us as a society? One notion is that we see ourselves as pegs in a massive and powerful system, to which any of us, at any given time, could be the next powerless victim. We have grown to live in a constant state of vulnerability as the dichotomy between the powerless individual and the omnipresent state. As Walter Mosely poignantly stated in Newsweek magazine, “most of us see ourselves as powerless cogs in a greater machine; as potential victims of a society so large and insensitive that we, innocent bystanders in the crowd, might be caught at any time in the crossfire between the forces of so-called good and evil.” In other, less articulate terms, we fear being Jodi Arias. It doesn’t help that we are buried under the weight of crime shows and other purveyors of entertainment making us believe, more often than is actually the case that at any moment we will be the ones alleged to have done something we did or didn’t do. On the other hand, our understanding of human capability is so limited, our potential is so infinite, that each of us can barely scratch the surface of what we are made of. To a weird extent, maybe we see ourselves in these accused murders.
The Arias trial will wrap soon, and the 12 jurors will return a verdict. Either way, once Arias is either a free woman or behind bars, we will certainly find ourselves the next Jodi Arias.