Madness, Monstrosity and Grievability in Canadian Media Representations of Ashley Smith
Using a sample of six articles from Canadian News sources, this paper looks at how the death of nineteen-year-old Ashley Smith at the Grand Valley Prison for Women near Kitchener Waterloo was framed by the Canadian print news media in 2007 (the year of her death) and between 2012-2015 when her mother Coralee Smith attempted (and eventually succeeded in) having the initial ruling of suicide overturned by a jury who found Smith died by homicide. I attend to whether themes of monstrosity, grievability, and mental illness were present in media coverage of the case affecting the extent to which Ashley is framed as a person whose life and death are of consequence. The terms, images, and frames used by the media to describe Smith have the capacity to participate in infantilizing, Othering, and discounting the validity of Smith’s suffering within the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) (Wahl 343). Conversely, the media also has the capacity to emphasize the systemic devaluation of criminalized and incarcerated people, thereby calling not only on state actors, but also on readers to consider how we are implicated in the categorization of some lives as worthy of care during life and grievable in death, and others as threatening and dangerous being in life, and ungrievable in death (Cohen Visions 5-6; Baun 31).