‘Killing Eve,’ the Netflix series, has been trending in Kenya since early this New Year, following the horrible murders of a father, mother, their son, his cousin, and family worker in Karura, Kiambaa, Kiambu.
This is because the main suspect, a 22-year-old lad, told investigating officers that he was influenced by this series, and specifically inspired by the psychopathic female assassin character in it called Villanelle.
‘Killing Eve,’ whose fourth season filming in the United Kingdom has been delayed till June this year, thanks to Covid-19, stars an M15 detective called Eve charged with hunting down Villanelle.
Villanelle says cool and chilling things like ‘your eyes will just empty, and your soul fall in’ to her victims, to describe death.
Villanelle has been described as a “manic pixie assassin” who’s as charming as she is psychopathic. She is a “chillingly relatable monster” who takes “fulsome pleasure in a murder well performed”.
Not simply a hired assassin, Villanelle has been described as “taking joy in the pain of others” and having “no moral fetters holding her back”, having been “raised to kill without guilt or concern, ... love or loyalty”. An innocent exterior hides a cold brutality, and Villanelle — a “living, breathing, shopping psychopath” — ”kills with flair”.
This, sans the ‘charming’ part (he’s been described as a loner by all who didn’t really know him), would fit the character of Lawrence to a shoe if he, indeed, is to be found culpable of the deaths.
But can anyone really say they were under the influence of a TV series/movie/music/book/art, or that a certain character in such a work was their muse to murder?
Last month was the big deal 40th death anniversary of Beatle legend John Lennon, who was shot to death by a manic fan who was carrying not just a gun, but the novel ‘Catcher in the Rye.’
This killer, David Chapman, later read a passage in the novel to the court saying he murdered Lennon ‘because I wanted to preserve his (John’s) innocence, like the Catcher in the Rye, preventing the little children from going over the cliff.’
Speaking to Pulse from a seminar in Naivasha, Kenya Film Classification Board boss Ezekiel Mutua was at pains to point out that although the series ‘Killing Eve’ was only available on a subscriber and Pay to View basis, it was not really a suitable show, and certainly not for persons under 18 ‘due to its extreme violence and normalisation of murder and other anti-social behaviour...’
“If parents allow minors to access such content, unchecked, it is no better than anyone giving beer, illicit drugs or poison to their kids, and unless we monitor the consumption of this kind of contents to kids, we shall soon be having a social pandemic that is bigger than the current Covid.”
Copycat crimes have been there for quite a while now. In fact, when we get to know that a number of movies inspired real-life crimes, a lot of us end up wondering if filmmakers are somewhat responsible for these crimes. At times, movies can be so provocative by nature that they egg people to tread on the wrong path.
However, Liz Lenjo Kags, an arts attorney, university law lecturer and an entertainment lawyer interested in the creative arts and its links to law, including copyright and patent, is not convinced at all that the suspected family annihilator can make a defence of ‘Killing Eve’ here.
“Copycat criminals in other jurisdictions have tried claiming brainwashing and hypnosis as defences to their crimes, and these have reasonably failed. If such defences were accepted by a court of law, they would adversely affect art and entertainment, which are essential businesses.”
She supports the decision of Police Inspector Peter Kamau of the Homicide Division at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to detain the main suspect and his girlfriend, while they undergo a mental assessment to ascertain their suitability to stand trial.
Liz further argues that it is not the work of the law to ‘regulate morality’ in art, in the strict sense.
“Under the Film and Stage Plays Act, posters and marketing materials need to be approved before publication and marketing for the sole reason of avoiding misrepresentation by sensationalising for purposes of clout. Not to limit ‘mischief’ in content for the entertainment business, no.”
Is there any argument to be made for artistic expression as a causality for criminality?
Liz is categorical that almost all such attempts have miserably failed in most jurisdictions. “That argument is an unfounded and lazy attempt by criminals to shift the blame and avoid taking responsibility for their own felonies. We are all deemed by the law to be sane and of sound mental capacity unless otherwise stated and medically proven.”
Pulse asks the advocate if art of any sort, including the much quoted PlayStation games, can be the main trigger for pathological personalities to commit murders like the suspect told the police.
She looks us in the eye and submits that this is a definite ‘nyet,’ in her humble opinion.
“We all have wild imaginations as human beings. We also have the innate ability to tell right from wrong, and what is possible and what is (or should be) in the realm of impossibility. Imagination in all its forms is the inspiration behind every successful business in entertainment. Creativity is the fuel of imagination that fires the script writer, the novelist, the musician, the great sculptor, the game developer, you name it, which is the backbone of the artistic industries.”
Liz goes further to add: “Anyone who claims that entertainment or art (like ‘Killing Eve’) is a trigger for the pathological, and therefore ought to be ultra-regulated than it already is, is not a proponent for the Bill of Rights. In fact, they are an enemy of Freedom of Expression.”
Pulse, through an old literary friend Prof Mikhail Iossel, next reaches out to Prof Shang Weiyi of Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, where in 2012, their graduate student from Wuhan, China, Jun Li (studying computer science and engineering) was killed.
His murderer was a gay porn actor and homosexual prostitute called Luka Magnotta, then aged 30, who lured poor Jun Li to his apartment through the infamous Craigslist ...
With the rock music from the film ‘American Psycho’ playing in the background, and having tied Jun Li to his bed, under a poster of the classic film ‘Casablanca,’ Magnotta then proceeded to murder the young Chinaman from Wuhan in a scene straight out of Sharon Stone’s ‘Basic Instinct,’ by stabbing him with an icepick severally – a murder he uploaded on the Internet under the title ‘Lunatic 1 Ice Pick.’
Luka then had intercourse with the corpse, had his starved mutt chew on flesh from the cadaver, fed by fork, before mailing dismembered parts of the body to various offices, including then Premier Harper’s.
Later, in scenes reminiscent of Leo di Caprio’s ‘Catch Me If You Can,’ Magnotta fled Montreal for a year in Paris, then on to Germany, where Interpol caught up with him in a cyber café in Berlin in 2014, narcissistically watching news clips of his now worldwide notorious crime.
On the day before Christmas, in 2014, a Canadian jury returned a ‘guilty’ verdict, and the judge sentenced Magnotta to a mandatory life sentence.
Jun Li’s old professor Shang Weiyi respectfully declines to comment on the popular culture aspects of this infamous killing – the music, the movies, the seeking of Internet infamy – that convict Magnotta referenced in his heinous supposedly ‘copycat’ act of fictional character.