Understanding Crime in Canada
Media remains to be an integral tool in communicating different criminology discourse. As most citizens look up to the press for a comprehensive narrative of a crime, media has proven to play a part in keeping its masses informed. Yet, the press still falls short in exclusive coverage of all criminal cases, critics questioning the rationale used by the media to air some cases and neglect others. For instance, Pickton killings involved the death of 26 women and yet faced little attention while Karla Homolka’s trial only consisted of the death of one person and had overwhelming media coverage. It arrives at the question that on which geopolitical, cultural, and social-economic contexts do media usually consider before making exclusive coverage of a case? Stuart Hart’s concepts of political representation argue that the majority of factors are aired in media coverage through cartoons. As cartoons have evolved to be both comical and informative to the general masses, it is essential to identify the role it plays through media coverage on criminal discourse.
The Karla Homolka story had attracted the media such as The Globe, National Post, and Mail, making all sorts of headlines. The cases dominated the headline mainly because it involved rape and the death of two white females of a middle-class society in the suburban of Southern Ontario (Dimuro, 2019). With the help of his wife Karla Homolka, Paul Bernardo killed the two white women Ken and Barbie that was only a tip of the iceberg of the numerous rapes and murder the duo had committed. Before being put behind bars, Paul Bernard was a typical salesman where he had mastered the art of pick-up lines and seduction to entice women. Being a psychopath by nature, Bernard loved the novel dubbed American Psycho that further prompted his behavior (Dimuro, 2019). After marrying Karma Homolka, his sadistic personality intensified as the wife encouraged his behavior. The marriage between the two was the beginning of a sadomasochistic connection whereby Bernard was a dominant and abusive husband, and Homolka was a willing slave for a wife. Their obsession with dominance and submission prompted Bernardo to brutally rape and kill young girls with Homolka’s knowledge and approval. As a result, the two are famously known as the Ken and Barbie killers that led to a 12-year sentence of Homolka in jail for being an accessory.
According to Stuart Hall’s ideas of political presentation, cartoons in media are not only meant to be humorous, but they communicate within their geopolitical, socio-economic, and cultural context. Comics are a mode of expressing people, institutions, and cultural trends. Karla Homolka’s story invited all sorts of criticism from the media that showed her situation and the geopolitical context. One cartoon, in particular, exhibits Homolka with a yellow suit having a crocodile head while on tears. The cartoon symbolized Homolka to be a sheep in a wolves’ clothing, pleading to be innocent in the eyes of the Jury yet, she involved herself in the rape and murder of several victims (Basa, 2018). The cartoon arrives at a geopolitical context where females were more favored in the eyes of the law. The Ontario Attorney, for instance, discarded the media from publicizing the story purporting that they aimed to make a profit from the dramatic story. The attorney further argued that media coverage on the story was meant to exhibit Homolka as guilty even before the trial proceeded. In such a context, the media portrays Homolka as a guilty person who only seeks refuge in the eyes of the Jury as an innocent person.
To the Jury, Homolka was just but a beautiful being, a wonderful daughter, and a supportive wife who was only subjected to abuse by his husband. Being female, Homolka was deemed less guilty by the general public deprived of her rights of independence and equality (Basa, 2018). The Jury only viewed Homolka as a victim of abuse that prompted them to focus on her personal life and neglect the case. Eventually, Homolka being a vulnerable woman, was charged for first-degree murder, in which evidence was bought from her case by police to convict Paul Bernardo. In Canada, a majority of criminal law cases end with charge, sentence bargain, or a guilty plea. However, because of being a woman, Homolka served for only 12 years critics purporting to be the most lenient decision. The general public was incredibly outraged by the verdict leading to several protests. The judgment only suggests at that specific geopolitical context in Canada, women were considered less guilty, which attracted lots of controversies.
Another cartoon exhibits a woman in the car, with an employee pissing in coffee ordered by the former. The cartoon is written if “I was the employee” communicates the disgust the general public had for Homolka. As it was a cartoon made concerning the Homolka case, it exhibits the reception Homolka would expect after the 12 years in prison. She was never to be accepted by the general public due to favoritism by the judicial system as his partner in crime served six consecutive sentences of life imprisonment (CBC, 2005). The image created by previous articles by the journalists purports her as a victim of her husband’s wrongdoings. Homolka was a lover of animals, beautiful and kind according to other media articles. The image portrayed her to be more of a victim and princess at the same time. Some of the articles considered her to be the Cinderella in this case. However, following her testimony against Bernard in 1995, to secure herself made her less favorable to the general public. The cartoon shows a man urinating into a Homolka coffee. Perhaps it’s a chauvinist presentation of disgust to female favors in the rise of feminism.
Stuart Hall’s concepts of representation purport presentation to be a reflection of a common idea or what tends to exist. Presentation in Stuart concepts is therefore embedded in common sense concepts that are exhibited through visualization and images. However, in the same case, the representation may offer a distortion to reality on what it purports to communicate. The cartoons in Homolka’s story, for instance, gives the idea of a judicial system that often considers women less guilty in criminal offenses. Another cartoon exhibits Homolka looking older and fatter, yet held back by the chains of court restrictions. Homolka struggles to break the chains, but she remains captive of the chains and shackles of court restrictions. Media on this occasion uses cartoons to express the torments Karla Homolka is subjected to even after spending 12 years in prison. The cartoon is an idealistic representation of what Homolka undergoes in the present reality. According to CBC News, Karla Homolka lawyers lament on the harsh release conditions imposed on the client to further punish her first offense (CBC, 2005). Lawyers argue that the decisions are punitive and purely exorbitant. Filed in Quebec Superior court, the document dictates Homolka to be subjected to full control and surveillance. Homolka restrictions include reporting monthly to the police and staying far away from children age 16 and below. The restrictions also required Homolka to not consort with other violent criminals. Such restrictions only reserved a place to have an investigation but were never for the overall intention of protecting society. The cartoon is a presentation of Homolka in shackles, which is just but a representation of the reality of the harsh conditions imposed on her after she finished her sentence.
Yet, cartoon representation may not always be accurate; at times, it may offer a generalized concept, fallacy, and assumption. In another cartoon, Karla Homolka is forced to get out of prison with the prison guard yelling “C’mon Karla out” with the doors of the jail wide open. The quotation and context of the cartoon imply that Karla was free to go after finishing her sentence, yet resistant to go outside the prison despite being free. The comic explains Karla’s fears of going back to society after being branded as slayer and accessory to children’s rape and murder. Basa (2018) purports that the general public was outrageously mad upon news that Karla Homolka is roaming free in Canada. People were adamant in discovering her whereabouts to an extent they started a Facebook page dubbed “Watching Karla Homolka” (CBC, 2005). The cartoon, therefore, represents a concept of fear due to the prevailing conditions in Canada. People hated Karla Homolka, and the picture suggested a possible reason for Karla Homolka to hesitate to pursue the open gates of freedom. Yet, people’s hate for Karla in Canada might indicate that it does necessarily mean Karla did not wish to leave prison as the cartoon depicted. The two comics exhibit cases whereby representation may be based on facts or a generalized concept. Lastly, a specific cartoon shows an older person listening to radio purporting to be glad the Jury lifted the restrictions on Karla. As the cartoon may reflect the response of typical Canadian persons, majority of them were against Karla roaming free, making the carton to lack factual grounds.
In all the cartoons, Karla Homolka is viewed as an innocent soul who is tormented by how society perceives her. In most of the cartoons, she is the victim purporting to be deprived of her legal rights. A crying crocodile portrays her image before she goes to jail. After jail, the cartoons exhibit her fatter, yet stronger as opposed to the weeping crocodile on the court. The cartoon portrays her class as elegant; by the way, she is dressed in a yellow suit seated on a chair. Such images purport her to be a pretender who only wishes to be pardoned by the Jury due to her beauty, stature, and love for animals. Generally, the cartoons purport women to be favored by the law. In the geopolitical context, the Canada judiciary system is less harsh to women and females.
Cartoons play a pivotal role in explaining criminal discourse. Through the essay, it is worth noting that comics have been the primary source of media to create a representation of Karla Homolka. Therefore, it is essential to analyze the geopolitical, cultural, and social-economic contexts used in cartoons.
Basa, E. (2018, January 31). Infamous Serial Killer Karla Homolka Is Roaming Free In Canada, And People Are Furious. Retrieved from NARCITY: https://www.narcity.com/news/disgraced-serial-killer-karla-homolka-is-roaming-free-in-canada-and-people-are-furious
CBC. (2005, August 16). Karla Homolka’s lawyers appeal court restrictions on her freedom. Retrieved from CBC: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/karla-homolka-s-lawyers-appeal-court-restrictions-on-her-freedom-1.554901
Dimuro, G. (2019, April 23). Meet The Ken And Barbie Killers: Paul Bernardo And Karla Homolka. Retrieved from Ati: https://allthatsinteresting.com/paul-bernardo-karla-homolka-ken-and-barbie-killers