Following the success of true crime series Making a Murderer, Netflix released its documentary Amanda Knox on Sept. 30. The film recounts the arrest and acquittal of American exchange student Amanda Knox and her Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecitio in the murder of her British roommate, Meredith Kercher. Directors Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn take a different approach to the true crime drama genre; Unlike its predecessors, Amanda Knox is not a ‘whodunnit.’ McGinn explained on late night talk show Chelsea earlier this month; “The Italian court system has already settled that story.” Instead, the film takes a look at why the Amanda Knox trial ignited a cultural obsession, and investigates the media’s construction of this decade’s most famous faux femme fatale.
"There are those who believe my innocence and there are those who believe in my guilt. There’s no in-between,” a weary and intentionally made-down Knox muses to an off-camera interviewer at the beginning of the documentary. “Either I’m a psychopath in sheep’s clothing, or I am you.”
While chilling, Knox’s monologue fails to capture why the American public was so compelled by her story. The media did not follow Knox because she was some kind of an ‘everywoman.’ The documentary makes sure to remind its audience at each stage of its narrative that Knox is exceptionally beautiful.
The documentary questions whether her looks play any role in her verdict. Knox seems equally confused by the unprecedented character assassination the Italian prosecution launched against her. “You’re trying to find the answers in my eyes when the answer is right over there,” she exclaims retrospectively in the documentary, responding to the court declaration that the DNA evidence the prosecution found is illegitimate and contaminated.
Italian prosecutor Giuliano Mignini’s entire case against Knox was character-based, contorted to fit a preconceived perception of guilt. In their reporting, Mignini and his henchmen depicted Knox as a beautiful girl who tricked her innocent boyfriend into carrying out a heinous sex-crime. Throughout the entire trial, Amanda’s sexuality was synonymous with her guilt. The documentary goes beyond how Mignini convicted Knox by painting her as a dangerous seductress, and instead explores the ways in which the media as a whole was complicit with this narrative.
As most reviews have gleefully pointed out, the real villain in the Amanda Knox trial was English Daily Mail journalist, Nick Pisa. Sleazily charming and undeservedly smug, Pisa denies any responsibility for the false stories he wrote about Knox. Rather, he contends that fact-checking was unrealistic because, “then I let my rival get in there first before me, and then, hey I’ve lost a scoop.” Pisa compares the rush he felt getting front page stories to “having sex,”—a fitting metaphor, considering the ways in which he and the rest of the media sexualized Knox. They referred to her as “Foxy Knoxy,” her Myspace username. When Italian prison officials falsely led Knox to believe she was HIV positive, newspapers leaked a private entry from her diary in which she listed all the men with whom she had been sexually involved. Publishing increasingly outrageous accusations of Amanda’s sexual history, Pisa and his cohorts were concerned not with the specifics of a murder trial, but with satiating their readers’ darker appetites.
The sexism that both prosecutors and media perpetuated in the Amanda Knox trial still resides in the public psyche. Just as Knox’s good looks were evidence of her guilt, her big blue eyes were painted by some publications as proof of her innocence. While Knox is a household name, her Italian boyfriend, who was also convicted in the murder, is often forgotten. Amanda Knox is a compelling documentary because its horror lies not in the gory details of a murder trial, but in the ways in which the sexism ingrained the in media leaks over into the judicial system.
Amanda Knox is available to stream on Netflix.