Contemporary representation of feminicide and its victims: cultural trauma and melodrama in Mexican digital media
Feminicides are the violent killings of women, which occur more than ten times a day in Mexico. Researchers have criticized the violent representation of such crimes in the news, particularly the sensationalist news coverage that contributes to social indifference through graphic photographs, provocative headlines, and victim-blaming narratives. Scholarly literature to date has examined news articles, TV newscasts, documentaries and novels, mostly centred on Ciudad Juárez during the 1990s. However, these studies have not dealt with the representation of feminicide and its victims in contemporary digital texts that suggest strategies have shifted towards sympathy for victims, calls for justice, and avoidance of explicit violence. My thesis aims to address this gap by examining contemporary online news media representation, which I identify as creative, melodramatic, and consistent with feminist and activist master narratives that have emerged in Mexico over three decades. Located at the nexus of gender, media, and feminist studies, this project employs qualitative research to explore trauma and affect in online media representation. First, I will address feminicide as cultural trauma in order to highlight those narrative accounts arising from a collective process of meaning-making about the nature of the crisis, victims, perpetrators, and the audience's relationship towards victims. Next, I will refer to melodrama as a mode of communication in Mexican culture to emphasise its prominence in both crime news and early anti-feminicide campaigns depicting victims. Third, I will undertake a textual analysis of three animated videos produced by different media brands. I argue that today's style of representation is progressive but also problematic. While adopting the language and claims of anti-feminicide movements, vindicating women’s status as victims and memorialising their individualities, contemporary digital media representations maintain traces of sensationalism, lack an intersectional lens, and frame women’s experiences according to neoliberal standards of virtue in order for their lives and deaths to matter. The current approach faces the challenge of directing sentimentality into actual social change or solidarity networks while avoiding the risk of making feminicide into a spectacle of suffering.