Recently, I watched the movie Valley of the Dolls, which I had never seen before. In the opening credits, I saw that Sharon Tate was one of the actresses. I knew her name because of the infamy associated with her murder, but I did not know her face and could not recognize who she played in the film.
I remember my mom telling me about Tate’s murder when I was younger, although I don’t remember exactly how old I was or why the conversation was brought up. I think I had asked my mom who Charles Manson was–something along those lines. She told me the horrific story of how Manson had led a cult back in the 60’s and viciously murdered an actress [Tate] and other people who were in her home with her the night of the murder. While my mom didn’t go into all of the specifically gruesome and strange details of the crime, I remember her telling me that Tate had been stabbed many times and that there was writing on the walls of the home with blood.
After my mom told me about the murders, I began to notice Manson in the media on occasion. His image would appear on a television special, or people would tell me how they had read Helter Skelter. Even though I didn’t seek out information about him, Manson, his image, and his story became common knowledge to me. (Note: That is not to say people shouldn’t seek out information about murderers. Personally, I have read about many serial killers without having been required to. I think it is natural for people to be interested in why or how a person could come to do something so inhumane.)
Despite my knowledge of her murderer, Tate, on the other hand, remained a faceless name in my mind. I knew nothing about her, other than the fact that she was the actress murdered by Charles Manson. Although my knowledge of Manson and not Tate could be chalked up to the filter of my own personal perspective of reality, I have a feeling it has more to do with society’s general communal focus on the perpetrator rather than the victim, and not just in the scenario of murder. Terrorism/genocide/environmental disasters also apply (i.e. Bin Laden, Hitler, McVeigh, etc). We tend to ask (and we should be asking), “Who did this? Who committed this crime? Who caused this atrocity and why?” For a variety of reasons, accountability and responsibility are important, especially when dealing with loss of life. Moreover, because the nature of these crimes are usually incomprehensible to the average person, society seeks to understand the psychological state of the person who committed them, hence the reason I read about serial killers.
But I am curious where we draw the line between being interested and glorifying people who commit such atrocities by giving them too much attention, or at least more attention than the victims. The fact that I could not identify Sharon Tate while watching Valley of the Dolls shows me that the person who murdered her is more commonly known or recognized today, and I feel like that shouldn’t be the case because placing emphasis on perpetrators can inadvertently minimize focus on the victim and the importance of his or her life. I feel like it belittles the victim, their life, and their family.
Having said all that, I don’t know if that will necessarily be the focus of my remix. In fact, I hadn’t planned on going so in depth into that idea when I started writing this blog. It just kind of came out, and maybe it needed to be discussed to talk about my ideas for this remix.
After watching Valley of the Dolls, I looked up Sharon Tate and read about her life–from growing up as an army brat to marrying Roman Polanski. I read what people wrote about her death and how much of an impact it had on the nation. I read about the paranoia Polanski dealt with before her killers had been identified. I read about Tate’s mother’s advocacy for murder victims. I read about the murder itself and the events that lead up to it, and inevitably, I read about the person/people who murdered her. Then I thought about it for days. I’m not sure exactly what struck me, but whatever it was left a deep emotional impression. I just couldn’t stop thinking about this woman’s life and how it ended so abruptly, so unexpectedly. It ended right before its pique. It ended before the prime of her career, before she could show the world that her talent went far beyond her beauty, and most of all, it ended before she could give birth to a new life that she had created. Everything about her death was wrong.
A couple days after watching the film, I was flipping through the channels on TV while lying in bed. I came across a special on Simon & Garfunkel, artists who I’ve appreciated since my parents played them for me as a child. In the special, Paul Simon discussed his reasoning behind writing “The Sound of Silence.” Simon said he was inspired to write it after President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. Simon talked about people’s inability to connect with one another on a deep emotional level and how unnatural it is. This idea resonated with me in several ways. Immediately, I thought about how true that is today more than other time in history. I also thought about Sharon Tate’s murder and how much it related to that idea. In a very distilled sense, I believe that inability Simon discusses is the reason why hatred as well as crime, murder, and suicide exist.
Project Goals & Intentions
My plan for the remix is to use images and video clips from the 60’s, both positive and negative, including significant people who died, such as Tate and JFK. I am going to use the version of the “The Sound of Silence” linked above for the music because I plan to cut to that live recording from time to time throughout the remix, as I believe that performance was particularly powerful. I want to visually explore what Simon & Garfunkel intended to express in that song and the implications of it–human disconnection and its consequences on society. I also plan to juxtapose more recent images, including significant people who died in the last decade or so. (Not to say that every death isn’t significant in some way. In fact, I’m hoping to say the opposite.) One modern person I’ve considered including is Leila Pahlavi, the youngest daughter of the last Shah of Iran, who died of a barbiturate overdose/anorexia in 2001. I learned about Pahlavi’s death the night I read about Sharon Tate, and while their stories are very different, I think it might be interesting to show that “perpetrators” or “killers” are not always human. However, Pahlavi’s death still relates to Simon’s idea about people’s inability to connect with one another because the majority of her life was spent in exile, which physically split her family apart on a regular basis. I will also use images of groups of people who were/are not famous as way of representing all people in this discussion. Iranian and American protesters (from the 60’s, 70’s, and today) will most likely comprise these groups.
I know as I begin to work on this project and explore the ideas, my purpose will become more clear. However, I do not expect this remix to intentionally spell out a particular purpose for viewers, nor do I expect viewers to take away a specific conclusion. More or less, I would like to get people thinking about the idea of connection and disconnection through suggestive text rather than didactic text. I also hope to capture and invoke the emotions I felt after reading about Sharon Tate and listening to Simon & Garfunkel’s song.