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Six ‘Shots’ in Dallas: ‘Framing’ the Perpetrator of the Kennedy Assassination through the Zapruder Film, 1963-2013

Author:

Richard A Reiman

South Georgia State College, US
About Richard
I am a Professor of History at South Georgia State College. I have taught at SGSC since 1993 and received my Ph.D. in HIstory from the University of Cincinnati in 1984. I am the author of The New Deal and American Youth: Ideas and Ideals in a Depression Decade (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1984).
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Abstract

When three shots were fired at the John F. Kennedy motorcade in Dallas on 22 November 1963, three important photographic ‘shots’ were also taken of the scene. These images by amateur filmmaker Abraham Zapruder were seen by Americans as a kind of Rosetta stone for deciphering the otherwise discordant ‘language’ of the assassination and as a key to identifying the perpetrator(s). The Zapruder film was to yield two diametrically opposing interpretations – conspiracy or no conspiracy – depending largely on the agendas of the viewers and their willingness or unwillingness to contextualize their interpretations with other evidence. While the Zapruder frames have turned out to tell us nothing about the actual perpetrator(s) of this particular crime, the way they are remembered tells us much about the ideal political assassin of the American imagination. Tracing the different ways in which the Zapruder shots were interpreted since the 1960s and circulated across a variety of media, institutional settings, and contexts of display, this article discusses what these changes mean for the cultural memory of the Kennedy assassination in particular and, more generally, what these changes tell us about the evolving perception and definition of the political ‘perpetrator’ in American society. Furthermore, the article explores the relation between visual sources (and their changing status from documentary to evidentiary to iconic) and political and historical interpretations of the act of perpetration.

How to Cite: Reiman, R.A., 2019. Six ‘Shots’ in Dallas: ‘Framing’ the Perpetrator of the Kennedy Assassination through the Zapruder Film, 1963-2013. Journal of Perpetrator Research, 2(2), pp.180–206. DOI: http://doi.org/10.21039/jpr.2.2.39
Published on 05 Oct 2019.
Peer Reviewed

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