No–it isn’t songwriting, or sympathetic followings, per se–it is secrets, hidden underneath their floor boards. And their polar opposite reactions to being sensitive men or sexual men in a society that has a problem with sensitive, sexual men.
Is Sufjan Stevens gay, or just very very homo-romantic? I don’t know–what really matters is that he, through the feat of human compassion, brought my attention to an obscure fact about a serial killer, the effects of labeling theory, and the self fulfilling prophecy of criminalizing male sexuality, and rendering men as demons–before they actually become demonic.
Sufjan Stevens’ Ballad of John Wayne Gacy
Another thing they have in common is that neither men ever knew this other man, Harold Wayne Lovell, who was long thought to be one of Gacy’s eight unidentified victims. Lovell was recently found alive living in Florida, and his surviving family members are overjoyed at their reunion.
“Tim Lovell and Theresa Hasselberg hadn’t seen their brother, Harold Wayne Lovell, since he left their family’s Chicago home in May 1977 in search of construction work. At the time, Gacy was trolling for young men and boys in the area. He was a contractor, and he lured many of the 33 young men and boys he killed by offering them work.” More story here
Youtube is full of videos about Gacy, but here is one with footage that I actually remember from that time:
The Gacy story touched me directly when I was young, because I grew up in the windy city, not far from where he was stashing bodies like a squirrel stores nuts for the winter– young male bodies, underneath his floorboards; and he was one of the first “boogiemen” that I was actually afraid of. The city went into ‘evil gay boogieman overdrive,’ when his victims were discovered.
But it was the song by Sufjan Stevens some decades later that made me LOOK AT Gacy differently, to actually see part of him that I was not even made aware of: Gacy himself was sentenced to ten years in prison, essentially for being a gay man, and it wasn’t until later, after he got out, that he became a serial killer.*
Such are the effects of sexual repression and oppression of the rights of human beings to have consensual, or private sex; and the effects of social mechanisms that selectively enforce the way our bodies are categorized, objectified, labeled, used, and abused by society. Such are the effects of mis-directed rage.
If Gacy was wiser, maybe he would have just taken a shotgun down to the local police station and aimed for a few heads. Silent complicity is still silence when it comes to oppression.
And American prisons are rape factories, with some 216,ooo reported rapes or sexual assaults per year. American prisons are routinely cited for human rights violations by Amnesty International.
I am not a criminologist, or anything other than an amateur profiler, yet neither do I trust the profiles in any sense other than confirmation bias, as the constructions or the constructors and their interpretations of social reality are almost always devoid of causal factors that deny us insight into the society that creates them. We give the jobs to those who uphold the norms, not to those who challenge them.
I do not condone homicide or rape, or the rape of men and boys. However, it is not a stretch that one could imagine that Gacy’s crimes were preventable, had society not criminalized homosexuality at the time. And the deaths of 33 men and boys could have been prevented.
I remember the first footage I ever saw of the scene of the crime, and I remember thinking “that could be anywhere; I could have been under those floorboards.”
But, now, looking back, I realize that Gacy buried a piece of himself under those boards as well, because it takes quite snap of the mind and lots of rage to do something like he did. I also takes a society that criminalizes male sexual urges as well.
Oh: what did John Wayne Gacy look like in his last booking photo? What did he look like after his wife left him, he was imprisoned, and he lost everything that he had ever worked for? What did he look like after being imprisoned for consensual sex? AFTER the label of deviant stuck?
He was smiling that last time, in his last arrest– a strange, ironic, almost relieved and painfully annoyingly smile–the smile of an ‘anti-social sociopath.’
Personal notes for later thought: 1) The name John Wayne carries a lot of masculine baggage 2) False expectations on men cause sexual deviance , re: the diathesis stress model 3) society has a need to create a criminal class, and then, to police that class. 4) scapegoating males begins early, and often until they become monsters 5) I am against the death penalty even more now.
Below is a short list of how normal deviance is pushed by ‘normative’ social forces into becoming abnormal deviance.
* From Wikipedia: “On December 3, 1968, Gacy was convicted of sodomy and sentenced to 10 years at Anamosa State Penitentiary, located in Jones County, Iowa. The day Gacy was sentenced, his wife petitioned for divorce and requested possession of the couples’ home, property and subsequent alimony payments. The Court ruled in her favor and the divorce was final in September 1969. Gacy never saw his first wife or children again”
- John Wayne Gacy Victim Found Living in Florida [Serial Killers] (gawker.com)
- Family finds supposed Gacy victim alive in Fla. (cbsnews.com)
- Man Feared to Be Gacy Victim Found (abcnews.go.com)
- Man Thought to Be Gacy Victim Found Alive (foxnews.com)
- Man thought to be Gacy victim found alive in Fla. (msnbc.msn.com)
- Man thought to be Gacy victim found alive in Fla. (thenewstribune.com)
- Missing man linked to John Wayne Gacy murders resurfaces, reunites with family (calgaryherald.com)
- Family finds man they feared was Gacy victim (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- New Video: Rubblebucket Covers Sufjan Stevens’ “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.” (popdose.com)
- 30 Day Song Challenge – Day 28 (englishavenger.wordpress.com)
- Serial Bachmann Killed the TSA Stars (thevigilantlens.wordpress.com)
- Michele Bachmann Cites Hometown Hero John Wayne (While Actually In The Hometown Of John Wayne Gacy) (mediaite.com)
- Sufjan Stevens Announces More Soundtrack Performances, Shares Track (pitchfork.com)
- Michele Bachmann is so summer 2011 (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Sufjan Stevens: 7 May 2010 – Berlin (Review) (popmatters.com)
- Man Thought To Be Victim of John Wayne Gacy Turns Up Alive (lezgetreal.com)
- Supposed John Wayne Gacy Victim Found Alive and Well (inquisitr.com)
- Sheriff Hopes to Identify John Wayne Gacy Victims Using DNA (nytimes.com)