Graduation Year

Spring 2013

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Intercollegiate Media Studies

Reader 1

Jennifer Friedlander

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Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2013 Anna E. Bodi


In 1974, decades before foreign terrorists became a fixture in the American consciousness, the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), an American domestic terrorist group, abducted nineteen-year-old media heiress Patricia (Patty) Hearst. The abduction kicked off a four decade multi-faceted media spectacle. The media and public raptly followed Hearst’s imprisonment as a hostage, apparent conversion to SLA revolutionary and criminal, eventual rescue and arrest, trial and conviction, presidential pardon, marriage to her bodyguard, half-hearted career as an actress, and ultimate withdrawal from the public eye. Along the way, the media portrayal of Hearst twisted and turned. She was the heiress, the hostage, the criminal, the victim, depending on the moment in time. The varying depictions of Hearst reflected evolving events, but also specific images of Hearst that captured the attention of the American public and the media. Resonant images of Hearst from her kidnapping, arrest, trial, and release – spanning the five years from 1974 to 1979 – demonstrate that the heiress’s case became a magnification of American anxieties of the time concerning celebrity, feminism and gender, the radicalization of youth, and terrorism. In a time dominated by print, radio, and television media, Hearst’s portrayal showcased the media spectacle as cultural parable for a controversial time.