Aileen Wuornos killed seven men, and some people love her for it.
There have been many portrayals of her tortured life. In 1992, Jean Smart, from Designing Women, portrayed her in a TV movie called Overkill. In 2001, San Francisco premiered an operatic adaptation of her life. Jewel wrote a song called “Nicotine Love”. In 2003 a documentary Aileen: The Life and Death of a Serial Killer attempted to explain her motivations. The director said:
“I think this anger developed inside her. And she was working as a prostitute. I think she had a lot of awful encounters on the roads. And I think this anger just spilled out from inside her. And finally exploded. Into incredible violence. That was her way of surviving. I think Aileen really believed that she had killed in self-defense. I think someone who’s deeply psychotic can’t really tell the difference between something that is life threatening and something that is a minor disagreement, that you could say something that she didn’t agree with. She would get into a screaming black temper about it. And I think that’s what had caused these things to happen. And at the same time, when she wasn’t in those extreme moods, there was an incredible humanity to her.”
Also in 2003, Charlize Theron won a Best Actress Academy Award for the movie Monster, in which Aileen was portrayed as a nuanced character. There might be a certain group that has decided to love anyone Charlize depicts – I challenge them to see Young Adult – but there are other reasons for the appeal.
Feminist Rag remembers her fondly as “the beautiful Aileen Wuornos” and calls her “a hero and inspiration to all women in the face of male violence”, quoting Aileen’s own words, “You sabotaged my ass! Society, and the cops, and the system! A raped woman got executed, and was used for books and movies and shit!”
Carla Lucero, who made the opera about Wuornos, claimed, “I feel a strong yet reluctant connection to Aileen Wuornos. Her story embodies the darkness in every victim’s soul and the fleeting fantasies of every survivor.”
Killing people. Justified because the people victimized you. Which may have been the case with Aileen. Her defense for killing seven men was always “I killed ‘em all because they got violent with me and I decided to defend myself.”
All of which is fantastic if Aileen was in fact a victim. The court sentenced her to the death penalty, so a jury seemed to disagree with that assessment. It is important to remember that she did kill seven men, and we do generally frown upon killing people. I sometimes think that people are become apologists for female serial killers (and you see this with Elizabeth Bathory) simply because there are few enough of them that we assume that the women who do become serial killers must have had good reason.
It might help to look back to her fairly bleak childhood to draw your own conclusions about justifications. I will reserve mine until we reach the end of this indisputably unhappy tale.