Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer

Released:  1992

Cast:  Aileen Wuornos, Arlene Pralle, Steven Glazer, Nick Broomfield

SUMMARY:  This movie is a documentary that records director/interviewer Nick Broomfield’s attempts to interview Aileen Wuornos.  At the time of the interviews, Wuornos had already been tried for several murders, but was still due to be tried for several more.  A small backstory is provided, in addition to the movie description.

Aileen Wuornos, famously referred to as “the first female serial killer,” was a prostitute working the Florida highways when she killed several men in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  Wuornos claimed that the seven men she killed were all in self-defense — that they had tried to kill or otherwise abuse her.  When the police began to suspect her, they went after Wuornos’ lover, Tyria Moore:  it was Moore who ultimately got Wuornos to confess to the crimes.  Initially, Wuornos used a public defender, but eventually hired a lawyer named Steven Glazer.  In addition, Wuornos was officially adopted by a woman named Arlene Pralle, a born-again Christian who felt drawn to Wuornos after reading about the case and seeing it on TV.  Pralle began writing to, and eventually visiting, Wuornos in jail, and then adopted her.  When Nick Broomfield initially makes contact with Glazer and Pralle, they inform him that they cannot talk to him unless Wuornos’ interview fee is paid — and that fee is $25,000.  When Broomfield refuses to pay this, and starts to interview other sources, the two eventually agree to take $10,000 instead.  Their interviews reveal that Glazer suggested a no-contest plea in her later trials, which Pralle heartily endorsed:  this plea was a near-guaranteed death sentence.  Wuornos did not want to plead this way (in her first trial, she pleaded not guilty by self-defense, but her public defender did not introduce the fact that the man had served ten years for rape; she was found guilty), but was eventually convinced by Pralle.  Despite the fact that the money has been exchanged Broomfield experiences a myriad of problems in actually getting to Wuornos, mostly because she routinely rejects visitors.  Meanwhile, Broomfield’s relationship with Pralle becomes contentious, and even though she has been paid for her interview, she refuses to talk to him.  Broomfield also mentions Wuornos’ claims that she is being exploited by the police in the case, who she claims were discussing movie rights before Wuornos was convicted; Tyria Moore is also rumored to have done this.  Eventually, Broomfield does get in to see Wuornos, and it becomes obvious that she is disillusioned by nearly everybody around her.  She is upset at the police, calling them “crooked cops”, and has started to question the intent of both Pralle and Glazer.  An epilogue reveals that several police members did talk to movie producers illegally, and they were tried for it;  Wuornos’ relationship with both Pralle and Glazer soured, and neither were present at her execution ten years later.

MY TAKE:  After learning about Aileen Wuornos, and after watching this movie, I found myself feeling very sorry for her.  Make no mistake — she was guilty, and she was a disturbed and dangerous person.  However, she was used and usually violently abused by virtually everybody in her life.  Though it isn’t covered in this movie, her early life was extremely traumatic and dysfunctional, and she became a prostitute at the age of fourteen.  Based on what she said in her testimony, and considering the man’s prior record, it seems fairly likely that Wuornos did kill the fist victim in self-defense.  She thought she’d final found a stable, loving relationship with Tyria Moore, only to have the woman betray her in the worst way, and basically sell her out.  The cops themselves then tried to cash in on the story (and reportedly, Moore did too).  Wuornos then encounters Pralle, who seemed to have good motives; instead, it becomes apparent that she also is primarily interested in the money and fame that come from being associated with Wuornos.  Steven Glazer also appears to fall into this category, as he seems more interested in talking about his former music career than actually doing any legal work for Wuornos.  I never thought I would feel sorry for a serial killer, but she got screwed by pretty much everybody she ever met.  Really, the woman did not have much of a chance; it’s no wonder that most people, including Broomfield, came to believe that she had some serious mental health issues (including bipolar disorder).  It’s sad that people are so willing to use a person for their own benefit that way; it’s even scarier that the person is a notorious criminal (it’s not like they were getting close to Nelson Mandela).  As one review I read mentioned, Aileen Wuornos comes out looking like the classiest person in the film.  Yeah.

RATING:  Sad.

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