A honeymoon, broadcast live on social networks, became a drama that has captured the attention of Americans for weeks. A couple of handsome and carefree young men, as well as white (a remarkable fact); his adventures across the US aboard a van, with its corresponding wake of posts on Instagram and YouTube; their cloying messages of love, but also their quarrels and the first signs of conflict, which should have been a warning. All this exposed to the public eye, without the alarms sounding at any time until the disappearance and the subsequent discovery of the body of Gabrielle Petito, Gabby, 22 years old, stopped being a virtual romantic story to become an episode of gender violence, fed, or at least protected by the enforced happiness of social networks.
The remains of Gabby, a prototypical twenty-something — blonde, pretty, and optimistic — were found on September 19 in a Wyoming wilderness park. His family had reported his disappearance a week earlier, after his partner, Brian Laundrie, 23, had returned on day 1 to the parental home alone, without her. Boyfriends since high school, they lived together since 2019 at his parents’ house and got engaged in July 2020. On July 2 they undertook what they called the trip of their lives (“life in a van” and “nomadic life ”, As labels for their publications), which in principle was going to last four months and during which they left, on the networks, a trail of images in which they were absolutely happy.
Until on August 25, the publications were interrupted and they were never heard from again. From that day — a week before Brian returned home alone — another recording, that of a troubling couple’s quarrel, replaced the syrupy tale, and reality was looped across all televisions. In the city of Moab, in Utah, the young people carried out an agitated discussion that was recorded by the body camera of a policeman, previously alerted to a possible incident of gender violence. The altercation, which occurred on August 19, was a delusion in itself, as well as a warning sign; a mixture of adolescent tantrum and plea for help that no one could hear. The images show a tearful Gabby complaining about her mental health, between self-destructive victimhood and the realization that the fairy tale was over, while acknowledging that the two had argued frequently during the journey. According to the police report, Laundrie said Petito had beaten him after a fight.
They were not heard from again until Laundrie’s disappearance shortly after returning to her parents’ home, with the police on her heels, and the discovery of Gabby’s remains in a remote corner of the Grand Teton park. The media repercussion – it was news for days, on prime-time television – the attention paid by the mainstream media, without exception, has enraged relatives of other disappeared, in many cases belonging to minorities – and to the most disadvantaged classes – and who consider that the fact that Gabby was a prototypical young white woman explains the marginalization of her cases (about 550,000 in 2020 throughout the country, according to the web Statista) and forgetting most of your searches.
This heinous reversal of the romantic tale attracted all the attention that is denied to the quiet struggle of tens of thousands of families. Every new clue about Gabby or her boyfriend, who refused to speak to the police upon returning without his girlfriend, was scrutinized to exhaustion by detectives, bystanders and onlookers, if not fans of conspiracy theories. But the case was especially fascinating because Gabby was white, which would pay for the so-called “missing white woman syndrome”, a term coined by the journalist Gwen Ifill (African-American) to define the excessive coverage that disappearance cases receive when the victim is white race. That is, racial privilege, even in disgrace. If the disappeared, in addition to being white, is beautiful and financially well off, coverage would be more than guaranteed. It is coined as “damsel syndrome in distress” (sic), according to the language used by many American media.
Racial bias, potential discrimination, especially affects the Latino population and, specifically, women. It is impossible to know how many Hispanics are on the missing list and, even more, how many Hispanic minors, since the count appears masked in the annual statistics of the FBI, which only records five racial categories: Asian, black, indigenous (native), unknown and white. Hispanics are underrepresented in the last category, with an asterisk. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the total number of Hispanics among the missing reaches 20%, but it could be higher. Hence, the extensive media coverage of the Gabby Petito case has resonated loudly compared to the rest.
The reverse of the fairy tale, but also of a flagrant structural inequality even in the events, is the trail that will always remain associated with the memory of the unfortunate Gabby. That, and the pernicious role, normatively speaking, of the networks as a brand new showcase where there is no place for sadness. As the children’s stories repeated, steeped in fatalism and a certain determinism, one cannot be so happy, because then happiness is broken. Gabby Petito’s fairy tale was shattered.
Subscribe here to the MRT América newsletter and receive all the informational keys of the region’s current affairs
Disclaimer: This article is generated from the feed and not edited by our team.