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Since the late 20th century, development of criminology has been marked by its fruitful cooperation with other branches of the scientific thought. Studies and experiments conducted on the edge between criminology and sociology, for example, have opened many theoretical and practical perspectives for specialists. However, the progress is continuing and introduction of gender issues into criminology has focused attention on many interesting aspects of human behavior. As Carrabine points out, feminist criminologists offer to draw attention to such issues as “importance of the fear of crime in women’s lives, the gendering of sexual violence”, etc. (86).
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An Amish Murder (2013) directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal is a very vivid example of how gender stereotypes are established in the society and how they are depicted in the popular culture, i.e. modern American cinematography. The protagonist of this movie, Kate Burkholder, is a Chief of Police who is investigating a murder of an Amish girl. The fact is that Burkholder belonged to the Amish community earlier, but she left it after an awful tragedy happened in her life. Now, she is trying both to find the criminal and to come to terms with the Amish who do not want to talk to her as she was exile. She is helped by a profiler, John Tomasetti. The murderer is Sheriff Nathan Detrick.
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This movie is very interesting from the point of view of gender issues and feminist criminology as it reveals slight shifts in the way men and women are traditionally represented in the sphere of law and order. Kate Burkholder is a remarkable woman and she is shown as a person who has achieved a good level in the police career. It is not a frequent case when the main character of the criminal drama is a woman and not only a woman, but a professional woman who is in charge of others. However, this is the only unusual gender aspect in An Amish Murder as all other actions and behaviors of characters are almost completely governed by stereotypes connected with traditional understanding of different sexes.
Both Burkholder and Tomasetti have some haunted past that tortures them and here a very clear influence of stereotypes is observed. Burkholder’s mystery is connected with sexual violence as it is often depicted in case of women. She was raped by another Amish man and she shot him trying to defend herself. Tomasetti’s mystery is connected with his heroic past. He was able to imprison a mafia boss and the latter in revenge hired people to kill Tomasetti’s wife annd child. These approaches employed to build a deeper and more vivid characters are very different. The female is a victim, while the male is a hero.
Burkholder is not trusted by the Mayor as he thinks she is unable to find the criminal because she is a woman. At first, he asks the profiler (a male) to be sent to help Burkholder and then, after the murder of his daughter, he even fires her.
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It is necessary to say that the character of Sheriff Nathan Detrick is also very interesting in terms of stereotypes. Men are usually shown as cruel aggressors in criminal dramas and here viewers see the embodiment of cruelty. Besides, in the final scene when Detrick prepares to kill Burkholder, he tells her that there is no logic in his way of choosing girls that he kills. He does it exclusively by accident. Such a depiction of a criminal is highly stereotyped. Creators of this movie did not try to cross the limits of traditional visions of a murderer.
To conclude, it must be highlighted that watching such criminal dramas can give valuable and interesting information about gendered stereotypes in the society. These movies can be a source of helpful evidence about the way in which the public treats both agents of social control and criminals.
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