Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

Villainy, Mental Health, Folklore, and the Mediatic Literature

Andreas Lubitz and the Germanwings Crash

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2019), 13, (2), 141–157.

Abstract

On 24 March 2015 an aeroplane belonging to the Lufthansa subsidiary airline Germanwings crashed, killing all on board. The ensuing investigation quickly indicated that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz had intentionally destroyed the plane. Following Lufthansa’s disclosure that Lubitz had been treated for depression, the media discourse was dominated by an assumed causal connection between that diagnosis and villainy. The article offers a selective survey of the immediate post-crash mediatic literature and examines its content aided by scholarship drawn primarily from folkloristic legend research and disability studies. The analysis indicates that the media response was largely driven by pre-existing narrative patterns, which in turn led to Lubitz being narratively positioned so as to conform with those patterns. The article considers what such positioning suggests about the societal need for, and preconceptions about, villains and mental disability. It argues that this case presents an example of how familiar storylines—despite being culturally entrenched—can prove narrative failures on several levels, since they were unable to account for the realities of the incident in question and may well have brought about precisely the behaviour journalists sought to condemn, namely the concealment of potentially pertinent diagnoses.

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Hopkin, Rachel