Jasmine Fiore: Crime Time Celebrity

One week after her murder, Jasmine Fiore's immobile face continues to gaze from monitors at Web surfers and TV viewers. We, in turn, are transfixed by the made-up mask, with its doll-like eyes and the head coiffed in a swirl of bright blond hair. The grislier the details of Fiore's death, the more they fire the Pop imagination. Fiore's body was found stuffed into a suitcase that had been placed in an Orange County Dumpster (the ultimate example of disposable beauty); the suspect was her estranged boyfriend and fellow reality TV show "star" who had fled to Canada. Later, we learned that Fiore had been strangled, her teeth and fingers removed - and that she had to be identified by the serial number on her breast implants. This was all the media needed to sell the story and sell it they did. Fiore's murder wasn't just out of a movie - it was a movie.

Just in case these facts weren't enough, though, the press and pseudo-press predictably dwelled obsessively on other details about Fiore's life and death: She'd been a model, and a bikini model at that, and was found nude in that suitcase. There hasn't been this much interest in luggage since Winnie Ruth Judd packed her roommate into a trunk 80 years ago and shipped it from Phoenix to Los Angeles. Fiore, who had lived with Ryan Jenkins in West Hollywood while they were together, quickly became one of this week's top news items on the Web and network TV, and the most important topic on MBC - the Missing Blond Channel that is comprised, collectively, of Nancy Grace and all the other crime and forensic shows on cable television.

Two days ago Kevin Roderick at L.A. Observed criticized Channel 4's hammering on Fiore's state of mortal undress and her status as a swimsuit model, and after I pointed

out a particularly sensational CNN.com blog on the subject, I received

comments that either accused me of jumping into the same media mud or

of wishing to deny the case's undeniable facts and clues. Obviously

there's always the danger of being misunderstood when writing about a

sensational crime such as this one. But I would say the media's

dwelling on the physical aspects of Fiore and her death show how we

seem to have slid backward, to the days when newspapers printed the

names and pictures of rape victims, along with descriptions of their

hair color.

There's no question that we live in a popularity-contest culture in

which attention is disproportionately paid to one kind of person over

another. Earnest writers could enumerate until the end of time equally

gruesome or sensationalistic crimes committed against other women that

were barely reported, if at all, because the victims were homely, poor,

black, Latino or old. The fact remains that the Great American Living Room will always be mesmerized by the murder and disfigurement of

young, beautiful women, just as all work will come to a stop whenever a

car chase is broadcast on TV. 

Speaking of that, now that this

story is reaching its saturation point -- that point where nothing we

hear about the dead bikini model causes us to blink -- the media are

already gearing up for the manhunt of Ryan Jenkins, who is believed to

be somewhere in British Columbia. Here, time zones permitting, American

audiences will possibly experience the multiple orgasm that comes from

coverage combining sex, murder and a good car-chase climax.


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