It’s hard to say what’s more disheartening about the way some people in the media — both social and regular old-person media — have been casting Hannah Anderson, the 16-year-old kidnapping victim whose mother and brother were allegedly tortured and killed by James Lee DiMaggio before he took Anderson to a remote location in rural Idaho, as a Lolita figure: their willingness to victim-blame a teenage girl, or their dreadful reading comprehension skills. Obviously it’s the victim-blaming, but come on, people — you’re going to trust Humbert Humbert? He has two goddamn first names!
Casual conspiracy theorists eager to prove how cynical they are have floated the idea on Twitter that there was something awfully fishy about Hannah Anderson’s kidnapping. When odd details about Anderson’s kidnapping started to emerge without proper context from investigators, people, according to an overview of the victim-blaming stink fog from LAist, people started speculating. Wildly. What did it mean that DiMaggio had stored letters from Anderson, as revealed by a warrant search of his home? What about the 13 phone calls between Anderson and DiMaggio on the day he picked her up from cheerleading practice, the very same day he allegedly murdered her family members? Maybe Anderson is really a real-life Lolita, partly complicit in her abduction! That makes complete sense, sure, if you’re a 1) an asshole and 2) have only read the Lolita book jacket after a friend described the plot to you.
Here's a sampling from Twitter casting Anderson as a twisted Lolita figure: they say that the 16-year-old had a consensual affair with 40-year-old DiMaggio, she's trying to get attention through the media, that she manipulated DiMaggio into killing her family, that she isn't innocent and definitely seems guilty.
Just about everything that she's done in the days since her rescue has been viewed suspiciously. Some people thought it was weird that a grieving teenager got her nails done—even though she said that she picked one color to remember her brother and one to remember her mother. Some thought it was strange that she went online to talk about her ordeal. Though some psychologists said it may not be a smart move to grieve and process her trauma in a public internet forum, none of these experts thought that it was strange (and many thought it was normal) that a 16-year-old in 2013 would want to.
This rampant speculation prompted San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore to say at a recent press conference that, in no uncertain terms, Hannah Anderson is “a victim in every sense of the word,” kidnapped by a man with a peculiarly close relationship with her family and a peculiar obsession with her. And here’s a fun fact for all those social media theorists eager to offer some lurid new “insight” into Anderson’s ordeal — Lolita is a victim, too, not a willing participant in Humbert Humbert’s American road trip. Nabokov’s walking, solipsizing tautology is one of literature’s most notoriously unreliable, manipulative narrators, and mistaking Lolita as some sort of victim-blaming treatise that will somehow shed insight into Hannah Anderson’s nightmare journey to Idaho isn’t just wrong, it’s monumentally callous.
Image via AP, Lenny Ignelzi