Deviant divas: Lindy Chamberlain and Schapelle Corby and the case for a new category of celebrity for criminally implicated women

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Crime, Media, Culture, 2017, 13 (1), pp. 85 - 105
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© SAGE Publications. In the field of celebrity studies much has been written about the superficiality of contemporary celebrity culture in which ordinary individuals are recognised as exceptional or worthy of public attention in the absence of any particular talent, contribution or achievement (Bell, 2010; Boorstin, 1972; Gamson, 1994; Langer in Edgar, 1980; Marwick and boyd, 2011; Redmond, 2013; Rojek, 2001; Turner, 2004, 2014; Turner et al.2000). Much less has been written about the link between celebrity and criminality and the types of categories into which celebrified criminals fall (Jenks and Lorentzen, 1997; Penfold-Mounce, 2009). In the scant studies that do exist there is a thinness of attention to gender despite persuasive arguments within feminist criminological studies that crime is a gendered concept in news discourse (Jewkes, 2011; Smart, 1977). Using a qualitative content analysis of a selection of news articles on two high profile cases involving women convicted of a crime, Lindy Chamberlain (now exonerated) and Schapelle Corby, as well as recent work in the sociology of risk on desire and transgression, this research suggests that the current naming practices surrounding criminally implicated women do not adequately capture the constellation of gender-inflected media messages and the meanings with which they are imbued by sections of news workers. The implications of this research warrant a re-think of the customary labels ascribed to women convicted of a crime and the addition to existing taxonomies of a new category of celebrity, the 'deviant diva'.
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