ALL THE LOST GIRLS is an all-inclusive exploration of the lost girl archetype, examining her story as it appears in mythology, legend, literature, film, historical accounts, and recent news reports to show just how enduring a grip she continues to have on our cultural imagination and to suggest that by changing our stories we might also save our girls and, in the process, maybe even ourselves.
This website is a work in progress, as I have been tracking stories of lost girls for the last ten years. There seem to be so many of them, both real and imagined, and yet the story never grows old, as we somehow remain fascinated by the Lost Girl whenever she appears in our midst. Her story continues to touch us deeply. Often our interest is sordid, exhilarated by fear and shock and anger and the gratifying possibilities of righteous acts of revenge. We like to think that we will to go to any lengths to keep our little girls safe, capture and punish the monsters who prey upon them, find those who have been lost to us, and bring them back to innocence, back to safety, back home where they belong. We have legislated spur-of-the-moment Amber alerts into the law enforcement systems of our cities, we listen to breathless breaking news reports on radio and TV, we follow ongoing stories in the daily papers and weekly news magazines, and we have access to an internet of websites plastered with the faces and statistics of missing girls, fierce family support networks, and sorrowful tribute pages embellished with clip-art teddy bears, girly pink ribbons, sentimental poems. Even some of the most sophisticated space technology that NASA has to offer has been called upon to help.
Our fascination with the lost girls of our lore is nothing new; it’s an ongoing obsession. From the ancient mythology of Persephone to the contemporary reality of Amber DuBois or Phoebe Prince, this is a story that doesn’t go away, and in all its many permutations, it never seems to get old. The fictional lost girl turns out to be a primal character in our cultural canon, and these days her real-life counterpart is ever in the news as well, vying for time with and often even eclipsing reports on seemingly more important issues like a floundering economy, celebrity pecadillos, natural disasters, an ongoing war.
What is it about these girls that makes them mean so much to us? Who are they, why are their stories so compelling, and why are they so much the same?
Here I will try to answer these questions by looking at each stage of a girl’s ruin – Transgression, Abduction, Disappearance, Captivity, and Death – to find that the young girl who appears in our headlines and in our imaginations is in fact a manifestation of a familiar Jungian archetype: the eternal feminine, who in the masculine shadow of our warring world today has been cast as the “persecuted maiden,” the innocent, misunderstood, and cruelly mistreated anima. How revealing, then, that nothing quite as effectively provokes such a strong emotional response in us lately as this repeated spectacle of a beautiful, virtuous, innocent girl – embodiment of the feminine value, the anima and soul of mankind – being oppressed, imprisoned, degraded, and finally put to death.
Susan Taylor Chehak, 2012