Stop Glorifying Killers

Streaming services such as Netflix have been dramatizing multiple serial killers such as “Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” and “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,” a series about Ted Bundy’s life. Although these docuseries are supposed to give us insight into what took place, most audience viewers flip the narrative and boast about how “attractive” Bundy was or how they “feel bad” for Dahmer. No one seems to be discussing their victims, survivors, or the families of the victims. The trauma, PTSD, and grief that they must be experiencing while their stories are being televised for everyone to see. They continuously have to experience these popular actors portraying the person who has caused them harm in their lives by winning prestigious awards, getting continuous praise, and developing a fan base for the perpetrator. 

Glorifying killers need to stop. Individuals such as Ryan Murphy need to take into consideration the people who were heavily affected by such tragedies. Murphy is best known for his writing, directing, and production of various popular television shows.  With a lot of popularity under his belt, he decided to take on a new project: Jeffrey Dahmer. After the release of the docuseries, those affected by Dahmer came forward to give their take on the series. Isabell Lindsey, sister of victim Errol, was interviewed by the Hollywood Reporter when the docuseries debuted. Lindsey stated, “It brought back all the emotions I was feeling back then,” stating how traumatizing it was to have to relive it over again numerous times. She went further to state how Netflix or Murphy did not even reach out to her about the docuseries, “I feel like Netflix should’ve asked if we mind or how we felt about making it. They didn’t ask me anything. They just did it. I could even understand it if they gave some of the money to the victims’ children. The victims have children and grandchildren. If the show benefited them in some way, it wouldn’t feel so harsh and careless. It’s sad that they’re just making money off of this tragedy. That’s just greed” (Strause, 2022). 

The casting of these killers is usually young and attractive. This captures a lot of young audiences’ attention. Such as Zac Efron who portrayed Ted Bundy and Evan Peters as Jeffrey Dahmer. Peters has worked with Murphy on different television shows such as American Horror Story. Peters has become known as a “heartthrob” and catches a lot of attention from young women. In season one of American Horror Story, Peters also played a character who committed a school shooting that was very similar to what happened during the Columbine Massacre. This episode was aired in 2011, just a year before the Sandy Hook massacre. Adam Lanza killed 26 people in 2012 and was known to be obsessed with Columbine. What was the purpose of truly airing this episode on television? Imagine being a victim of Columbine and seeing a dramatization of your tragedy being broadcasted for everyone to see? Audience’s will have their interest peak and will start to research the depiction of this. People already are idolizing Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold by dressing up as them for Halloween and essentially using them as inspiration to commit their own crimes. By doing so, the victims, survivors, and/or loved ones are not safe from the constant exploitation of what these killers have done to them and the rest of their lives. 

The idolization of killers has been easier than ever due to the rise in curiosity and psychology behind “why they do it.” Documentaries are solely based on the perpetrator and not the victims. It is devastating to see how the stories can capture a lot of sympathy for the murderer, but viewers forget that this is about the victims. Having their stories displayed on different screens in people’s living rooms only for the audience to sympathize with the killer must be devastating. They do not think about the pain and trauma that the victims, loved ones, and survivors must be going through seeing their stories be streamed for everyone to see. Their stories are an open book at the touch of our fingertips. Worst of all, they have to witness it all unfold again. Reliving the horrible acts bestowed onto them only for them to realize, no one is talking about them, they are talking about the murderers. 

Strause, J. (2022, September 28). Jeffrey Dahmer Victim’s family speaks out about the Netflix series. The Hollywood Reporter.

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One comment

  1. Great post, Katherine! I applaud your idea of donating some of the proceeds of these films to the victims and their families – if they have to be made at all.

    I believe that glorifying serial killers is wrong and the victims should not be re-traumatized for the sake of a Hollywood dollar. If we assume one altruistic reason behind making these films is to raise or increase awareness to the existence of killers ‘out there’, can this be achieved some other way? I believe there is a side to human nature that has a curiosity for the macabre or morbid details of stories like these; not for everyone and certainly not all the time. I do not condone or agree with it, Hollywood has capitalized for many years on pain and suffering because – sadly – people pay to see it. You raise an excellent point that I hope we explore because the fascination with killers has not lessened over time and I often wonder if we feed too much into the dark side of human nature.

    Interestingly, FBI recruits may increase when similarly ‘intriguing’ types of films are released, or after large-scale events like 9/11 (the latter being understandable, of course). “In the past, spikes in people applying to be agents came from television or the movies”, with films like Silence of the Lambs or X-Files. Some people have a curiosity while others may genuinely see something horrific and want to get involved to help. Really terrific post, thank you for raising our awareness.

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