Black Men Being Killed Is The New Girls Gone Wild

Forget the illicit thrill of naked bodies. It’s been replaced by the brutal pornography of racial violence.

By Jade E. Davis


I have no idea how long it took for the announcement that the police officer who shot and killed Walter Scott would be charged with murder to make it to social media. What I do know is that I learned about it on social media, which is when I also learned what Walter Scott looked like as his feet hit the ground those last few times. I know exactly what his last step looked like.

That was when I closed my browser and walked away, because I couldn’t take seeing the rest over and over again. If I’ve learned anything from the past few months of recorded black deaths, it is that the content spreads easily, from every direction, without disclaimers or warnings. I temporarily removed myself from social media and email lists so that I could avoid it all.

Yes, we should celebrate that even though an unarmed black man was killed, his killing was caught on film, so there’s a better shot at justice and closure. But I’m trying desperately to make sense of why watching and sharing the video that tore his mother’s heart to pieces is as normal as making your latest Instagram post. So far I’m landing at this: In a world where we are inundated with explicit content, watching black men die on camera provides a thrill that America thought she lost when popular lynchings ended with no need for a “mature audiences only” disclaimer.


When Girls Gone Wild launched in 1997, the infomercials promoted a fantasy world where young women would be willing to do anything. The commercials eventually became commonplace and dull — so mundane, in fact, that its creators filed for bankruptcy in 2013. Society’s taste for explicit content had moved on.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

Black men being the first to die in horror movies, and being lined up for execution on death row is the norm — but that is for fun, or behind closed doors. These killings of regular black men, however — in public, dying on camera and reproduced on the Internet — speaks to the same kind of forbidden desire that Girls Gone Wild tapped into. The ability to easily capture and distribute video of overly horny co-eds out to have a good time fed the desires of overly horny people who wanted to experience the thrill of barely legal girls submitting to the lens. Now, instead of barely legal porn, these actual snuff films, not like those staged versions from the 1970s, are the forbidden jouissance of the moment. The black man’s death is repeated, reproduced, shared, and celebrated in a macabre way specific to the snuff genre. These films and activities have always existed, but in the past people didn’t consume them so publicly, or so proudly outside of public executions and lynchings.


It might seem that the difference between these snuff films and Girls Gone Wild is that people paid cash to watch the women perform for them. But that is merely a sign of the times. The Internet eventually won when the audience decided to pay with clicks instead of cash: The places that brought Girls Gone Wild to an end still have age disclaimers for mature content, and can be blocked by enabling parental controls. But, when the most explicit imagery of the violence enacted against black bodies can be at the top of The New York Times and the Daily Mail, it says that these are the images that sell in a world where clicks equal cash, and there’s no warning necessary. This is content everyone should see! Don’t miss this amazing new footage of a black man dying. Warning, graphic content, but the screen capture really sells the tale. The distribution channel isn’t the same as those videos of gyrating youngsters, but it is distributed and monetized just the same.

Zimmerman detained by police after a domestic dispute between Zimmerman and his estranged wife Shellie. Police dash-board video cam still image.

In a world where cop cars equipped with cameras, cop cams are attached to police officers, and the populace equipped with their own cameras, police have become the scriptwriters, directors, and stars, of the new popular snuff. It’s sort of like the final destination franchise, except, spoiler alert, in this one, the black guy is the only one who dies. But you already knew that. If you watched it’s probably the reason you decided to in the first place. It’s so [WARNING: explicit and graphic content, death, racism, ethnocentricity, fear, nationalism, and americana] retro.

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