Every Move You Make: How Stories Shape the Law of Stalking

Bunny-boiler is now an official part of the English language. This word – taken from the scene in Fatal Attraction where Glenn Close’s character boils the pet rabbit of the man she has been stalking – was unknown fifteen years ago. Although still not in common parlance, “bunny-boiler” has made its way far enough into our culture that a brief explanation of its source can conjure up an image of the obsessive, vindictive stalker it describes. Along with the entrance of this word into our language has come an explosive growth in laws punishing stalkers. Before 1990, no state in the nation had an antistalking law. Now every state does. In Every Breath You Take: Stalking Narratives and the Law, Orit Kamir traces the development of stalking narratives through Sumerian mythology, British literature, and modern cinema, showing how Glenn Close’s bunny-boiling character is merely the latest incarnation of an ancient archetype. Kamir argues that these stories of stalking influence societal attitudes even though we may not be conscious of the stories themselves (p. 3). Through this historical and literary exploration Kamir answers by illustration one of her central questions: “(W)hat, in the broad, cultural sense, is stalking?” (p. 1). Yet the legal implications of this inquiry are not immediately apparent. The bulk of the book – 174 out of 215 pages – is devoted to literary analysis of stalking narratives, with a short discussion of law at the end. Kamir’s critique is insightful and entertaining, but what exactly does the law have to learn from an analysis of Fatal Attraction?