Minor role in history, minor part in her story
“Every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain.”
A name flashes across a screen. It could be on a laptop, a phone, a television.
The name registers, rings a bell, sends the mind’s recollection archivists ruffling through the data banks for links, that become a chain, that rattles and jogs even more memories associated with the name.
Before you know it, you start piecing together strands of stories, scrounging through screens of background information to try to piece together why this name has been dredged back up the book seemingly closed on a particularly gruesome story in which Jackson County plays but a small part.
Yet it has, once again, some 20 years or so since Jodi Arias lived in Phoenix, then Medford, then Ashland while spending a season working at Crater Lake but mostly racking up orders of riblets as a waitress at Applebee’s.
Did the name ring a bell?
Arias, a Yreka High School graduate, moved to Jackson County to be near one of a succession of boyfriends. In a local TV news interview in 2013, a former Applebee’s co-worker said that opinions of Arias ranged from her seen as “quiet and modest” to someone with a much darker side.
“It didn’t surprise me,” said the co-worker, her identity hidden, “to find that out. ... The fact that she murdered her boyfriend.”
Annnnd there it is.
What did shock the former co-worker was the “extent” of the crime.
In 2013, Arias was convicted of first-degree murder in Arizona for the 2008 slaying of a separate former lover ... a homicide whose victim was shot once in the head, stabbed 27 times, and had his throat slit ear to ear.
Arias argued self-defense.
Now, you might wonder why — almost eight years after the sentencing in a 12-year-old murder — that the name of Jodi Arias would once again be flashing across our screens.
And, if her name had caused your own recollection archivists adding links to a chain why is it that this particular connection to where we lived hadn’t been, as Homer suggests, been pushed out of our brains when we learned something new.
Why can we recall this and not, for instance ... ummm ... whatever it was that was going to be used as an example to complete this thought?
Clearly, the nature of the crime was horrific ... but horrific crimes are presented to us through our screens nearly every day, if one is choosing to look for them.
The answer lies in the regrettable fact that Jodi Arias has become a cottage industry, a commodity in the stock market of mass media.
The murder, the trial, and particularly the salacious revelations during testimony and discovery of Arias’s various entanglements falls into the category of the gift that keeps on giving for those mining this dark, deep, dubious pit.
During its daily coverage of the trial, The Huffington Post featured public opinion polls on such topics as “If convicted, do you think Jodi will be sentenced to death?” (52% said No) and “Who do you think enjoyed their sexual exploits more?” (71% said Jodi).
The internet, of course, is the recycling center of all these strands of detail — to the point where there are competing websites proclaiming her innocence, once of which sells Arias’s artwork and features a video of her, in her prison uniform, singing “O Holy Night.”
Coming across that, it wouldn’t be held against you if you were tempted to say “O Holy ...” ... well, something else entirely.
Books have been written, movies made, TV “news” magazines have been made in the aftermath of a court case that was described as a “circus,” a “runaway train,” and a “daytime soap opera.”
The titles wrote themselves: “Picture Perfect,” “Dirty Little Secret,” “Along Came Jodi” and, in a couple of weeks on the new streaming service Discovery+, “If I Can’t Have You: The Jodi Arias Story” which is how the name flashed across our screens most recently.
Last March, a request for a new trial (“Along Came Jodi 2”), based on the conduct of the prosecutor in the case was denied as an appeals court concluded that Arias was convicted based on her guilt.
Launching a new streaming channel at a time when such things are a dime a dozen is a battle to lure viewers into subscribing. Success is measured in eyeballs and a tangled web that weaves together sex, jealousy, murder and religion (don’t ask) sure seems like catnip to fans of true crime stories and runaway circus trains.
A word of warning, though, to those tempted to indulge: Consider what might be pushed out of your brain to let her in.
Mail Tribune news editor Robert Galvin, who once promised never to use that Homer quote again, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org