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You are here: Home > Beauty and the Beast: The Stalker

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Stalking as a behaviour is not new but it has only recently become a crime in many of the world’s developed countries. The phenomenon of the 'celebrity' has also brought the phenomenon of the obsessed stalker into the limelight of the world’s media where both now share the same stage.

In recent times the scepter of the stalker has haunted the lyrics of Sting’s “I’ll Be Watching You”: “everywhere you go/every step you take/every move you make/ I’ll be watching you.” 

Whitney Houston is harassed in The Body Guard. Stalkers have blighted the lives of Madonna and Jodie Foster.  Eminem’s disturbingly brilliant “Stan” is about an obsessed fan.  Through the celluloid vision of Play Misty for Me and Fatal Attraction the stalker, real and terrifying enough, has also been assured a place in modern mythology.

Ann Murray, David Letterman, the murder of the beautiful actress Rebecca Shaeffer, Steven Spielberg, Elle MacPherson, and Princess Caroline of Monaco; the list of stalked, traumatized and assaulted celebrities is a long one. Now, most recently, Jeri Ryan of “Star Trek” fame is said to have been stalked on the web and threatened with extortion.  Among other things her stalker is alleged to have left messages on Star Trek websites saying things such as “She would be able to Trust Me, I mean NO harm! I'm only victim, and of her beauty.”  Its not clear what that disjointed message means. He is trying, perhaps, to say he is the victim of her beauty?

While the celebrity cases are more “newsworthy” in the UK there are now 4,000 prosecutions against stalkers a year. 1 in 12 American women and 1 in 45 American men have been stalked. In non-celebrity cases, stalking often arises from broken relationships.  In the cases of  the famous there is more often a delusion about some kind of contact. To be stalked is primarily something which happens to women while most stalkers are male.

There is no single cause of stalking behaviour.   Human psychology evolved over hundreds of thousands of years.  Our ancestors were hunter-gatherers. If you persisted in attachment behaviour, you might win her back.  What we can presume, following on the logic of evolutionary psychology, is that once this behaviour might have been useful-it might have helped our ancestors who did this to survive and pass on their genes. The problem is that it is past its sell-by-date.  Ways of thinking and behaviour which may have been adaptive to the Pleistocene is no longer adaptive to the Internetcene. It is now maladaptive. Our world is a world of the visual image. In previous eras written communication from one part of the globe to the other used to take week if not longer.  The printed word of letters, books, and newspapers has a different impact than the world of the visual.  Marshall McLuhan was a Canadian communications theorist whose theories were in vogue in the 1960s and 1970s.  We live in a Global Village he said. Electronic media have done away with time and space. Communication around the globe is instantaneous.  This was the 1960s.  It is a world primarily of the visual image.  .  The Vietnam War was one of the first televised wars-the appalling horror of what was happening in a tiny Asian country was brought into Western homes visually and daily-as it was happening. Who can forget the  horror of seeing that little Vietnamese girl running naked after being napalmed.

Ours is an age in which a new and a global culture is being born but that is leading to a  sense of dissolution and fragmentation of many long established values and ways of life. So, on the one hand-globalisation and, on the other, increasing fragmentation, nationalism, and tribalism as a response to the anxieties being stirred up by globalization.  This is frightening.  Many people feel that they are losing touch with their roots.  Globalization is a phenomenon which, we think, is linked with the increasing preoccupation with beauty and stalking.

What is the difference between an obsessed lover who cannot accept that a relationship is over and the stalker? Stalking can be seen as a link between social isolation and stalking or obsessional following with many stalkers leading lonely and isolated lives with many suffering from culture shock.  Yet, these days, who is not suffering from culture shock for the old culture is dying and we are not only watching but living in the midst of a new one being born

Now, it is no wonder that  this move towards globalization is accompanied by an increasing move towards tribalism and nationalism the dissolution of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia has lead to a resurgence of bloody nationalism among their former component states/nations.  Rwanda, Sri Lanka, After the horrors of the Second World War and the Nazi genocide who would have thought that there would have been such wide spread barbarity in Europe as in the Balkans-the old passions are still there but just being fought with guns, tanks and helicopters instead of flint and wood.

The global movement of goods, raw materials and manufactured is increasing.  Software can be instantaneously purchased from other countries over the Internet.  Correspondingly there is an increasing movement of values, ideas.  The mobility and anonymity of much of modern, urbanized society is leading to feelings of dislocation in many and a sense of not belonging or not sure where they belong –hence the rise of cults and fundamentalism which offer the illusion of certainty and eternity in a world in which everything seems to be in a constant state of flux. Images of beauty-one of the things about being beautiful is that it means to be wanted, to be desired.

 "There's nothing more precious in this world than the feeling of  being wanted." said Diana Dors, a British film actress, famous for her portrayals of gold-digging blondes who was billed as “The English Marilyn Monroe”-the celluloid image of her undoubtedly being desired by thousands of young English males perhaps more than a few old goats as well.

To be a woman, to be an object of desire, means ideal, to attract a male who will offer resources to her and her offspring

Beauty can be dangerous.  Both to the beautiful and to that which is attracted to beauty.  Beauty can  be a lure.  Beauty can be spoiled and destroyed by envy. This is true of both the natural and cultural worlds.  Beauty can deceive.

Our age is an age in which a new, global culture is being born. This is a turbulent process and will take a long time.




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