Valerie Solanas

Thoughts, Opinions, Reflections

I think Valerie shot Andy Warhol because she saw no other logical choice.

We talked about a number of different motives for shooting Warhol - publicity for herself and her message, jealousy of Warhol's ease at acquiring fame, obsession with getting her writing back, etc. Maybe to a certain extent, also a hatred of Andy?

Throughout the film we hear of her desire for a male-less society. And her own personal life didn't have a lot of "men" in it, she lived near, with, and around lesbians, or men trying to be women. Andy Warhol was one of the only men in her life that didn't appear (at least in the story) to be gay or a transsexual. Perhaps some of her frustration with a heterosexual mainstream American society was taken out on Andy.

But none of this is relevant to the question. Motives are a lot different than actually "committing" the crime.

I don't know why she actually shot Warhol, and I don't know if we can find a real reason. The film suggests that by the end she was suffering from mental illness (paranoia), with her repeated phone calls and letters to various acquaintences.

What does it say about American society? Perhaps I'm SUPER cynical here, but there almost seemed to be a feeling (at least with me) that it was ok because Warhol lived. (I don't know much if anything about him, so I didn't know if he lived or died.) My immediate reaction was she was out in 3 years, he lived for another 20, let's move on. That seems dreadfully frightening (I suppose I should be concerned about myself).

Our society seems so desensitized to violence that when someone lives after a violent beating or shooting, it's almost a "happy" ending. Is that terrible? Is that normal? Should I not worry about it?

Meredith Walker

While I agree with Meredith's statement that "motives are a lot different than actually committing a crime", I do believe that partial understanding of why Valerie shot Warhol could be obtained through looking at American society and culture at the time of the shooting.

America like Valerie was looking for a way to express themselves particularly in light of coping with internal problems. Both the nation as a whole and Valerie were fed up. America's - disillusionment and anxieties with government were beginning to form. Valerie - with Andy's promises to look at her scripts and manifestos and think about producing a play. Andy's pretentiousness in interest in Valerie and her writings is evident to everyone except for her. She believes up until the end that Andy will help her in her aspirations. Just as Americans were trying to remain dedicated and assured of governmental policies even up until the start of the war. Valerie was therefore like many American of her time she however took her disbelief/discontent to a higher and more vicious level. A level society was beginning to accept at the time.

As Meredith suggested, Valerie's shooting of Andy was not portrayed on film as an all that terrible event. Like Meredith stated Warhol did live and continued on with his life, almost making the event less significant and not as horrific. From the film I would suggest Americans are only truly effected by crimes which are unusual, extremely violent, involve an important personality, or are passionate. All others seem to be commonplace amongst a busy city and go frequently unnoticed.

I also feel Valeries motives stemmed from her hatred for men. She was let down by someone of a lower level, someone she felt didn't even deserve to live. Only a man Valerie believed was capable of such a horrific letdown.

Lynette Erbe

The montage in the beginning of the movie, I SHOT ANDY WARHOL, is presented in a way that allows the viewer to identify with Valerie's suffering, pain, anger, and childhood development. We find out that she was abused, a child of divorced parents, that she is not tolerate towards fraternity questions, and that in college she is already being analyzed by some type of therapist.

Then we see Valerie in New York for the first time - sleeping on the street corner (in my opinion, one of the most powerful images in the movie). Whether her reasons for coming to New York was to spread her message of male inferiority or rather to simply live in the center of all "happenings," her life continues to erode.

Valerie has an obsessive and neurotic personality. She yearns for attention and believes that her message is one that the world must here. She begs people to buy her S.C.U.M Manifesto for as cheap as a quarter and is constantly turned down. Valerie attempts to spread her message by talking to anyone who listens, even through prostitution or selling the rights of her book.

Things seem to continually go wrong for Valerie and eventually she goes crazy and attempts to shoot the only powerful image in her life - Andy Warhol. He was stable and he had a forum that reached all of America. Stardom came to Warhol and his entourage for their often simplistic and avant-garde creations. As his success prospered, Valerie's misfortune continued and her anger overcame her as she sought justice (or what she thought was justice).

I don't believe that Valerie committed this crime for fame or because she was insane. She knew what she did was wrong but she had lost touch with reality. Valerie had a message that she wanted heard. She wanted the power that Warhol had and she just wasn't able to get it. So she picked up a gun but rather than giving up on herself (and pointing the gun on herself) she went and pointed it at Andy.

Amy Eichenwald

Valerie Solanas was, at the very least, a bit insane.

I cannot help but think that her sole reason for shooting Andy Warhol was for publicity. She clearly wanted to become famous. She felt that her SCUM Manifesto was something that the world should know about. As Amy pointed out, Valerie was willing to sell her manifesto for a quarter. To me, this means that she desperately wanted her message heard.

When it seemed that Warhol was no longer going to give her this avenue to be heard, she lashed out. While it seems that she wanted to get back at him for excluding her, I feel the shooting served to kill two birds with one stone-- she was able to get revenge while at the same time get herself on television to preach her manifesto.

Thus, while Valerie was not altogether stable, she was quite intelligent. She knew what she was doing, although I do not think she really achieved her desired results--fame.

Elisa Stafford

Excerpts from the SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men) Manifesto by Valerie Solanas

Life in this society being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex.

It is now technically feasible to reproduce without the aid of males (or, for that matter, females) and to produce only females. We must begin immediately to do so. Retaining the mail has not even the dubious purpose of reproduction. The male is a biological accident: the Y (male) gene is an incomplete X (female) gene, that is, it has an incomplete set of chromosomes. In other words, the male is an incomplete female, a walking abortion, aborted at the gene stage. To be male is to be deficient, emotionally limited; maleness is a deficiency disease and males are emotional cripples.

For the complete SCUM Manifesto click here.

Sarah Doran

Maybe we are giving Valerie too much credit. She was an abused child and we all know that there are residual effects on a persons lifen of this treatment. She also had lesbian experiences at the age of 14 which I think is very young age to begin sexual encounters. Furthermore, she worked as a prostitue throughout college. She could have found a good job and put herself through school respectably, but she dicided to do it another way. Maybe she is just too screwed up for us to try to rationalize why she acted the way she did. Her scars were deep, and they may have just been too hard to overcome.

Joe Ward

I agree with Meredith, in the sense that we, as a society, have totally become desensitized to violence. I really believe that this has a lot to do with the media, and its portrayal of gratuitous violence. This violence began, somewhat, with the film Bonnie and Clyde -- its graphic ending-- and at first, this stunned audiences, but over time, we have come to accept that our society is a violent one. As for Valerie Solanas, sorry, but can we say psycho? Hitchcock could have a ball with this one. She's obviously a very sad and hurt woman, and saw no other means to an end, other than to attempt to kill Andy Warhol. I saw a sort of connection between Valerie and Allen Ginsberg when I was thinking to myself in class the other day. Ginsberg and Solanas were both outsiders of their generations, longing to gain the respect and consideration of the majority. Ginsberg and Solanas both had radical views of their time, they both were fond of the printed word, and each one attempted to convey their messages through writing. Unfortunately, society tended to look down on both of these people, and Solanas did not have the support of friends, like Ginsberg did, to help her in her time of rejection. Solanas was pretty much on her own her whole life, whereas Ginsberg found solace in a group of friends who believed in similar ideas. I think Solanas shot Andy Warhol because things seemed to come easy to him. Things like money, power, prestige, friendship, respect-- everything she wanted, but never had. Maybe it wasn't jealousy, but the realization that she would never achieve the status of Warhol, which made her shoot the man which represented what she could not have. Who knows? No one ever will, only Solanas-- who is now deceased. I read that she actually died in her room at the Chelsea Hotel only a year after Warhol died. She died by herself, which isn't much different from the way she lived. Something funny... (well, interesting)... Candy Darling (the transvestite) died of an illegal hormone injection. Hmmm...

Francine Jaffe

Return to Greenwich Village

Return to AMST450 Website