The bubbly, unpredictable blonde in the
1998 film Theres Something About Mary! had
a puzzling and dazzling effect on her male admirers. But Mary
was merely a frothy character; she had nothing on a woman
Since her arrest in 1993, Karla Homolka
has held our fascination.
While Paul Bernardo, locked away in Kingston
Penitentiary for life, is no longer newsworthy, Karla has
an uncanny way of grabbing attention.
Just last week, her name was again emblazoned across
newspapers, this time with unnamed sources saying that an
official report recommends she be denied her chance at parole
later this year. The document produced by Corrections Canada
reportedly statesas if we didnt already knowthat
she is too dangerous to be granted early release.
Long before she was recently shipped to a high-security psychiatric
center in Saskatoon for an extensive assessment, we all knew
Karla was dangerous.
Thats what has made her fascinating
and maintained her standing amongst the most newsworthy people
of the last 10 years. While murderers like Rosemary West and
Susan Smith achieved a mere blip of public interest, Karla
manages to keep titillating us. Never donning the gray garb
of repentance, she, instead, intrigues and infuriates by posing
in party dresses.
Psychologists can debate whether she
is a psychopath; a term too weak for her prowess, or a battered
spouse, the farfetched excuse for granting her a sweetheart
deal, but what label fits her is not the source of our
curious absorption with Karla. Without even seeing the infamous
videotapes, we know how she relished in the rapes and murders
of Leslie Mahaffy, Kristen French and her own sister, Tammy.
To most of us, she is an enigma; her
behaviour goes way beyond any feeble explanations of female
victimization or psychiatric disturbance, and takes us far
into the dark regions of evil. For some reason, evil of this
magnitude stimulates our prurient curiosity like nothing else.
Why else would Karla and Paul have become the Bonnie and Clyde,
the folk heroes, of modern sexual sadism?
Recently, a psychologist confessed to
me that his idea of a dream date would be to share an evening
and a bottle of wine with her. At first I was shocked; then
I began to wonder how many men might harbour fantasies of
being seduced by her. Why not? Karla is a very attractive
woman. Perhaps it is her movie star looks or the healthy girl-next-door
image that rouses mens fantasies. Maybe it is her magical
ability to mix the roles of servant and partner as she did
with Paul. For,
as she testified, she would do anything for him, including
calling him King and telling him he deserved to
take the virginity of young girls. And, after seeking out
their sexual prey, she would join with him, as queen and lover,
in exacting their profane pleasure.
To men, she may well be the epitome of a woman who
will satisfy their every, unfettered fantasy.
But, Ill admit that as a woman,
Karla fascinates me too. I see her as a co-conspirator, if
not the mastermind, of diabolical deeds. This intrigues me
as, I suspect, it does many women. Karla is not a susceptible
waif; she does not wear the drab mantle of a submissive victim.
As journalist Margaret Wente noted at Bernardos 1995
trial, Karla is poised, self-assured, stylish and attractive.
Not a pawn but rather a queen, she exerts her cool control,
appearing to dominate not only Paul but potentially all men.
However repulsed by her that I and other
women may be, I think there is a part of us that envies the
remarkable erotic power that she exudes. Pictures of her evoke
a perverse, unconscious and persistent admiration. In her
virginal white wedding gown and in her slinky black dress,
she stands as the perfect blend of good and evil, the archetypal
Madonna and whore.
While outrage over the crimes that she
has gotten away with may legitimately consume us, along with
it, we harbour a fascination with this woman, and this fascination
is not specific to Karla.
For centuries, the Marquis de Sade has
drawn public interest. Last month, when Quills, a
fictionalized tale of de Sades last days in the notorious
Charenton insane asylum, opened in theatres, horrified audiences
sat through it mesmerized. The public interest in de Sade,
it would seem, endures, as does the focus on his modern-day
protege, Karla. While much of their kinky, violent sex and
sadistic killing is similar, one significant exception exists.
In Quills as in history, de Sade was an old man who
was held in custody until he died in his cell.
Karla, even if not released this year, will
still be a young woman when she walks again among us. While
his tale has ended, any movie, which might be released soon
about Karla Homolka, may well be just the beginning.
The real intrigue that we share, men
and women alike, is the question:
what will come next? What will she do?
Who will she find to do it with? In one letter sent from her
cell, she reportedly wrote: Life is going to be great
when Im out of here. Our fascination has taught
us we cant understand this woman, neither her behaviour
and values nor what a great life means to her.
While de Sade may be long dead and Mary just a bit of fiction,
there still is something about Karla: something
real, dangerous and captivating.
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