Why Does a Weeping Mother Accused of Murdering Her Own Child Fascinate Us So?


The ‘attention grabber image’ on the first day of Casey Anthony’s trial yesterday was the tot mom sobbing just as Judge Belvin Perry Jr. reads the charges against her. Why is this image of a young boo-hooing mom our take away of the day, both for the media and the public? What was behind the tears? Was Casey only feeling sorry for herself as she snails ever closer to the death penalty.

Nearly 600 journalists from around the world have requested media credentials, official sanction from the court to cover the case. Do media hounds suspect that this trial will surpass even the “Trial of the Century,” O.J. Simpson’s 1995 murder trial? I believe they do. But why? What’s the buzz all about?

casey anthony crying

I began to assemble my own list, but I scoured the Casey Anthony tag on the internet for additional clues. I came up with a gem in a Washington Post blog by Sarah Anne Hughes. Sarah quotes from an American studies professor at the University of Maryland, Sherri Parks. This makes sense to me, an American studies specialist will have insight into the collective psyche of Americans.

The bottom line is it busts up our mythology about a sacred, nurturing mother, who is biologically wired to care deeply for her siblings and is endowed with indigenous skills to protect her children at any cost (these are my own words, not Sherri Parks’). Thus, when we review Casey, we get a very different picture that’s not a fit with a Norman Rockwell mother on a syrupy greeting card.

This ‘dysfunction junction’ of traditional American motherhood is the hook for the audience. And especially for women. Although I suspect men are attracted to the case as well. I know I am. Don’t know exactly why, though? I will say, however, the media keeps showing those images of Casey partying right after Caylee went missing, and it’s difficult to reconcile this lack of concern with a missing child backdrop.

Another point made by Sherri Parks, which never would have occurred to me in a million years, is that soap operas are fading away. Soaps are “morality plays,” according to Parks, and therefore provide ethical fiber that’s fulfilling for millions of fans, who are in need of answers to their own life problems. With the Soaps stolen away from these television junkies, the Casey Anthony trial can provide an apropos substitute, a reality television surrogate of sorts.

Over the weekend, when Cindy Anthony (Casey’s mother) tried to visit Casey in jail, Casey refused her. This was on Mother’s Day! Unspeakable! Here’s another example of the tot mom not fitting our mold of traditional motherhood. This cinches our attention even further. What is wrong with Casey? We want to know, so our eyes will be glued to the TV screen to see if we can unravel this mystery. American moms are not this way.