North Texas Daily

America’s unhealthy obsession with serial killers is problematic

America’s unhealthy obsession with serial killers is problematic

America’s unhealthy obsession with serial killers is problematic
October 28
13:00 2022

During the release week for Ryan Murphy’s “Monster: The Jeffery Dahmer Story,” the Netflix original reached 196.2 million hours watched. That is more than three times the second-ranked show from the same week, “Fate: The Winx Saga: Season Two,” at about 60 million hours watched.

The exploitation of true crime stories is constant, with no break to consider the ethics of what should be put on the screen.

There have been at least seven movies and TV shows depicting the Dahmer story, according to IMDb. The telling of this story has been exhausted — or so we thought, until Netflix released yet another adaptation of Dahmer’s crimes.

Series based on killers humanize murderers and make them charming and relatable, which pushes people to want to watch them. It introduces a difficult question: should murderers be humanized, or should they be as detested as the gruesome crimes they have committed?

Why do viewers have to constantly be sold the violent and inhumane acts of these criminals, time and time again? Serial killer Ted Bundy has shared similar fame to Dahmer, who has been talked about repeatedly — you would think he was a Hollywood star.

Bundy has often been portrayed as a charming man. In the film “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile,” Bundy was played by Zac Efron, a known heartthrob. In “Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story,” Dahmer is played by Evan Peters, who already has a strong fan base from A”American Horror Story.” To avoid murderers gaining fans who look at them as stars, they should be played by actors who are not well-known for their stunning beauty.

“Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” received mixed reviews. Some think series like these give a spotlight to the wrong people.

“Dramatic TV shows, movies and books only help immortalize and create a celebrity out of someone who should simply be known as a murderer,” Rotten Tomatoes critic Paula Vázquez Prieto wrote in a review.

Other critics argue the Dahmer series sheds light on inequalities in the justice system and that handsome features were a part of it. Dahmer was able to get away with so much because he was considered attractive. The show also displays how white privilege can help serial killers escape police cuffs. 

Giving these criminals the spotlight is dangerous and outright foolish. There are people who claim to be serial killer fans, and others consume crime-based media to fulfill their dreams of being top-tier sleuths.

Some dedicated audience members of true crime shows and podcasts have taken it upon themselves to live out their detective fantasies by becoming involved with solving crimes. Very quickly, innocent people are victimized from the amateurism of fans. Their interest in true crime stories makes them think they have the authority to solve cases.

In 2021, internet influencer Gabby Petito went missing while traveling with her fiancé. So-called fans took it upon themselves to begin investigating her disappearance. Petito’s family fell victim to people who dug into their lives claiming the cops were not being truthful and are stuck reliving the horrific reality of their missing daughter.

True crime fans’ rabid obsession with solving cases makes them forget they are amateurs — not detectives. Popular media has blurred that line, which results in ordinary people thinking they have dominion over innocent lives.

When shows, movies and podcasts about criminals are made, victims’ families are hurt. The focus is typically on the murderer, not the victims. In reality, victims should be the ones humanized and given screen time.

Learning about crimes could be helpful in specific instances. If people knew how serial killers planned to commit a crime, it could make them more aware of what to look out for. Despite this, it does not need to be presented as a form of entertainment.

Before deciding to support another story portraying vicious murderers as entertainment, one should consider the ethics, and above all, the victims and their families.

Featured Illustration by Erika Sevilla

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Madelynn Todd

Madelynn Todd

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