You Will Be Punished: Media Depictions of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

by Caitlin Elliott

Institution: Wilfrid Laurier University
Year: 2016
Keywords: Canada; Indigenous; missing and murdered Indigenous women; Aboriginal; media; crime procedurals; crime news; Criminology; Critical and Cultural Studies; Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Ethnicity in Communication; Mass Communication; Race and Ethnicity
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2071676
Full text PDF: http://scholars.wlu.ca/etd/1863


The following thesis focuses on media depictions of Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women, a list that carries upwards of 1,200 names. The news coverage of these stories is reminiscent of television crime dramas in their depictions of minority victims of crime, specifically in regard to victim blaming. In order to examine this relationship, the present study compares coverage of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canadian news articles to depictions of victims, particularly minority female victims, within crime procedural television shows. An ethnographic content analysis (ECA) was conducted in order to parse out common themes between news articles featuring missing and murdered Indigenous women (N = 50) and television crime drama episodes (N = 65) from Law & Order: SVU (N = 37), CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (N = 17), and Criminal Minds (N = 13). The overarching message portrayed within these forms of media is the importance of conforming to social mores. Both forms of media act as morality plays depicting the harm that will come to women if they transgress society’s definition of ‘appropriate’ behaviour. These morality plays are aimed at white women in order to protect their virtue and stifle female sexual agency. These morality plays act as a way to enforce and engrain hegemony within society.