The Modern Captivity Narrative

Orin Kerr muses,

I am often amazed at how brazen the MSM can be in selecting what types of missing persons reports it selects as leading stories, especially on websites and TV. The missing person is almost always young; always a woman; always white; and always attractive. … I can't stress enough that I am not saying this story isn't newsworthy. Every missing persons report is potentially newsworthy. Still, a person who followed the MSM uncritically might think that the only missing people in America are young attractive white women.

Whatever the causes of this — frighten and distract the masses anyone? — it sure seems to be the modern equivalent of the colonial captivity narrative (the most famous of which may be Mary Rowlandson's “The Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson”).

And, like the “captives” of the 18th century captivity narratives, at least some of whom found better lives with the Native American tribes than the ones they left behind, today's female missing persons are sometimes victims, but sometimes runaways…a situation which may, in some cases, be more threatening to segments of the established order than when women are victims.

(None of which is intended to denigrate the seriousness of kidnaps, rapes or murder all of which deserve our attention and concern.)

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4 Responses to The Modern Captivity Narrative

  1. Pingback: The Left Coaster

  2. otto says:

    For those interested in the topic of “captivity narrative,” you may like to check out Jill Lepore’s “The Name of War: King Philip’s War and the Origins of American Identity.”

  3. Emily says:

    History of the Spirit Lake Massacre and the Captivity of Miss Abbie Gardner
    by Abbie Gardner-Sharp
    A 19th Century “captivity narrative.”
    MacKinley Cantor’s 1961 novel, Spirit Lake, was a fictional account of Abbie’s story.

  4. jim says:

    As long as we’re recommending books, Linda Colley’s Captives is excellent. It sets the American captivity narratives beside the Barbary pirate captivity narratives and the South Asian ones.


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