Sunday, March 13, 2011


Kitty Genovese

Wow, it's been a year already? A year ago today, I reported on what has become a memorial day for many Real Life Superheroes- the anniversary of the death of Kitty Genovese, brutally murdered 47 years ago on March 13, 1964, a chilly night in Queens.

Kitty Genovese arrived at the apartment building she lived in after closing the bar she worked at. There she was stalked, stabbed several times, raped, and robbed. What made the story become legendary was, at the time, reports that the attack was witnessed by 38 apathetic people who decided the incident was none of their business.

Many RLSH say it is this sort of apathy they are trying to combat. And so, on March 13 RLSH from coast to coast hit the street to patrol. Some even hand out flyers outlining the incident. Thanatos of Vancouver, for example, drafted this flyer, including the same picture posted here on it:

Catherine Susan Genovese (July 7, 1935 – March 13, 1964), commonly known as Kitty Genovese, was a New York City woman who was stabbed to death near her home in the Kew Gardens section of Queens, New York on March 13, 1964. Genovese was buried in a family grave at Lakeview Cemetery in New Canaan, Connecticut.

The circumstances of her murder and the lack of reaction of numerous neighbors were reported by a newspaper article published two weeks later; the common portrayal of neighbors being fully aware but completely non-responsive has later been criticized as inaccurate. Nonetheless, it prompted investigation into the social psychological phenomenon that has become known as the bystander effect (or "Genovese syndrome") and especially diffusion of responsibility.

Take a good look at her and never forget her and what happened to her.

Not everyone has accepted the idea. Zetaman, of Portland,posted a blog entry titled "Kitty Genovese Day is Incorrect." He points out that later research into the case revealed that the "38" witnesses was a grossly exaggerated figure. In recreating the crime scene it became clear that it was impossible for most of Genovese's neighbors to witness or hear the attack. Many who could faintly hear a yell (windows were closed- it was still cold out) assumed it was bar noise. And since one of the initial stab wounds punctured Genovese's lung, she could not have prolonged cries for help.

Zetaman also points out that the Kitty Genovese and the 38 witnesses story also was featured in Watchmen, an event that helps shape the mindset of Rorschach, one of the main characters and a RLSH favorite.

Zetaman blogs:
"The Kitty Genovese murder was a ghastly murder and there is such a thing as the Bystander Effect. But don’t use the murder as an over glorified reason to patrol. There are many other cases that better proves the Bystander Effect. The Watchmen graphic novel is not correct in the exact circumstances of the Kitty Genovese murder. Don’t base reasons to patrol on a work of fiction."

Despite the mythology of the story, or perhaps because of it, many RLSH are on the streets as I type this. They say they are out there in memory of the story of Kitty Genovese. They say they are fighting apathy.


The New York Daily News posted an article looking back at the case HERE.

"Visiting professor" Amazonia was guest on Crossfire the Crusader's RLSH themed blog talk radio show Superhero Academy discussing the case HERE.


  1. Poopknife wrote something... I'm not sure if it's a memorial or if he's just being super-not-like-himself by divulging personal history, but it relates to the Kitty Genovese idea.

    Evil Supreme Pizza: Happy Kitty Genovese Day

    And it's kind of chilling too. An origin story? Not quite, but it's not far off.

  2. Quick, someone put her corpse on a broomstick and wave it around in the air before everyone forget "why we fight"! We got a whole pointless fantasy community to justify with her death, dontchaknow.

    ...But on a serious note I still personally find it sickening that the RLSH continue to parade around the death of this woman, not because they care, but because she is a great marketing tool to morally justify what they do (or what they COULD BE DOING).

    What about the whole 'Stop Snitching' movement? What about all the unsolved and multiple eye-witnessed murders that go unpunished because of the same kind of apathy that killed Genovese? There are tons of more modern and recent cases dealing in this and yet the RLSH would rather single out the low-hanging, easy-to-grab fruit. 'The skinny white woman with a cute name' must sell better than 'the inner-city youth caught in gang violence' when you're tying to justify ego-driven-dress-up-time as a serious thing that "saves lives". Because, you know, joining law enforcement or any other organization that helps more people than the RLSH is soooo 2000-late.

    Agreeing with PK, you capes make me sick to my stomach. Be apart of something useful and stop dancing on this woman's grave so you can pump up your already ballooning egos. The world doesn't need people like you, it needs heroes. Real ones.

  3. Also: Tea, you're a great journalist, keep up the good work.

  4. Respectfully, to the villains' POV:

    Overall, ee do positive things, I think it is fair to claim. It's not for the glory, despite your accusations. Some of us, like myself have been a part of legitimate public safety for years, so before you get bent out of shape, know that I didnt make that decision out of some half-cocked notion of hero-worship. We're just trying to spread an idea, and the uniform is a vehicle for marketing of good deeds.

    And yes, I agree that Genovese while being a horrific crime, is not the only example of public apathy that needs to be reversed should we ever hope to curb the tide of non-involvance; there are plenty of glaring instances of minority and/or similar demographics who are marginalized for a more sensational story, such as Catherine's. Most of us are not so myopic as to not research the details of her case without dissecting the fact, noteably: the trumped up number of "supposed witnesses", the mysoginy, racial factors, nor her glossed over sexual orientation. If you give a read of Rosenthals 38 witnesses, you will get a much more holistic perspective of the mindset in the 60s regarding her attack.

    Also, to bring the issue into modern application: The Bystander Effect is the same reason CPR went to compression-only, so that people would not watch idlely as a person lie dying on the ground.

  5. also, it is important to note, that Watchmen is doesnt bear the sole weight of propegating the story of Genovese's death:

    in the last 47 years, plenty of other mainstream sources have lionized the event, not just a 12-comic series from 22 years after the fact.

    A perfect example would be The Boondock Saints- the Tarantino-esque untraviolent story of vigilante justice, whose fame was catapulted to cult status due to its coincidental release arriving at the same time frame as the Columbine Massacre, and its subsequent direct-to-video fate.

    I submit that this reference to the Genovese was at least equal or greater to the impact that Watchmen had, seeing as the story was about the Everyman, who went rogue in response to evil in his community around him. This particular piece was not targeted at only comic-book fans, and capitolized on the frustrations of ordinary people who identify, nay, might even subliminally agree, with the following quote from the movie:

    Connor: D'you know what I think is psycho, Roc? It's decent men with loving families. They go home every day after work and they turn on the news. You know what they see? They see rapists, and murderers and child molesters. They're all getting out of prison.

    Murphy: Mafiosos. Gettin' caught with twenty kilos. Gettin' out on bail the same fuckin' day.

    Connor: And everywhere, everyone thinks the same thing: that someone should just go kill those motherfuckers.

    Murphy: Kill 'em all. Admit it. Even you've thought about it.

  6. Knight owl, why are you bothering to try and talk to these people using sincerity and common sense and sound reasoning? They are just a bunch of brain dead internet losers who have nothing better to do that talk shit in front of a computer screen cuz their lives just suck that much.

    Seriously "real life super vaginas" go out and do something productive.

  7. The villain guys are expressing a valid critical point of view of the RLSH community this time around, I think. It seems like it's been a while since that happened...

    And with such over the top and barely justified venom, too... (luckily no one here has an obligation to justify himself) but I admit I'm a little disappointed the phrase "rue the day" didn't make an appearance.

    I personally first heard about Kitty Genovese when I was a kid reading the Watchmen comic. I feel that her story is very sad, both in the incorrect version and the real version I read about later. I do honestly want to help people, but if I pretended Kitty Genovese influenced me in any particular way to do this I'd be pretending. Zetaman is also correct that we could find a million other examples that *for some reason* we don't use... it's kind of outrageous to tell ourselves this has nothing at all to do with this example appearing in the Watchmen.

    On the other hand the general public is likely to recognize this name for just as shallow reasons and sadly Malv -- 'The skinny white woman with a cute name' must sell better than 'the inner-city youth caught in gang violence'

    ...yeah, actually.

    Without googling do you recognize the names Lori Piestewa or Shoshana Johnson? How about Jessica Lynch?

    But at the end of the day RLSHs don't have to justify themselves... making people sick to their stomaches isn't illegal unless you poison their food or something.

  8. In a respectful and mature rebuttal to Urban Avenger, I'd like to start by saying 'fuck you, Goggles'. You hang out with one of the biggest attention whores of the community and the both of you have more interaction with the police thinking you're hoodlums than you do any success with all those murderers you two always claim you're out to "bring to justice". You bring absolutely nothing to the table and your 'Xtreme Team' is just as useful as Master Legend's "monkey-cages" are at imprisoning bums.

    As for doing "something productive" I volunteer locally with LEGITIMATE ORGANIZATIONS, not internet subcultures, to feed to homeless and I'm a licensed enforcement officer in the private sector where I earn my bread and butter keeping people safe in an employment field that has more gun-shot deaths than police.

    ...I'm sorry, what is it that you do again? Oh that's right, you strut around in a silly costume at night thinking you're hot shit because you know where to buy 'Under Armour' brand hoodies. Good luck with that, kiddo.

  9. P.S.: The rest of you need only to shoot me an email (posted on my blog page) as to debate this topic privately. I'll leave my mask at the door and the death-ray in the gun-safe.

  10. Wow I just found out there was such a thing as this Real Life Superhero community... and I've already found the real life J. Jonah Jamerson...

    I always new Marvel had a better grasp on how the real world would react to costumed do-gooders than DC did...

  11. In my opinion the real world treats the RLSH community more than fairly. If you draw a parallel to musicians -- we're the equivalent of a bunch of garage bands and a few really good local bands.

    But members of the community get press coverage and attention on par with minor celebrities. Admittedly a lot of this happens in a sort of snickering sarcastic "isn't this goofy" way.

    When we get finally get bona fide "Rock Stars" out there, I believe the world will treat them fairly, too -- and be more than a little stunned.