Popularizing serial killers reopens old wounds for society

Nicholas Pestritto, Contributing Writer

In light of the new and extremely popular Netflix series, “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story,” it only makes sense to examine why our country glorifies serial killers and why it is so wrong. 

According to Deadline, the show tallied 196.2 million hours watched within six days of its release, fascinating viewers, but not everyone is a fan of these very graphic films and their intended meanings. 

From serial killer Halloween costumes, to comic books based on killers like Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy and more, they have all become normalized within American culture. This is a huge problem. The media has been profiting off of television shows and documentaries about killers who have done terrible things. The Conversation reported that Netflix paid $300 million to Ryan Murphy, one of the creators of the series, which shows that they expected to make serious profits off of it. 

It does not make sense why we continue to glamorize these people who have committed some of the most violent acts the world has ever seen. Similarly, Netflix has named a series after Richard Ramirez’s nickname “The Night Stalker,” another attempted use of a terrifying nickname to make money. Unfortunately in our world and throughout the media, these names have become normalized. 

Yes, most of the nicknames that serial killers get are based on who they are and what they did, but that still does not make it OK. If America, along with the media, keep giving these awful people attention like they are cool people there will be more attraction towards them and people will think that what they did is fine. It will make their victims feel even worse and devalue the impact of what they did. 

Bringing attention to what these serial killers did is extremely important, but by showing certain scenes and displaying characters in a certain way, it only adds to minimizing the impact of their crimes. Showing these fictional portrayals of their crimes, it has become easier for our society to normalize and downplay the seriousness of the horrors that they caused. It may be a sign of the normalization of violence due to the fact of increased threats over the past years, whether it is terrorism related or a school shooting threat. 

The media and Hollywood will continue to profit off of their romanticization of serial killers and sadly, Americans will keep watching and believing what they see in films about these terrible people. At the same time, this increases profits while minimizing the effects of what the criminals did. These works also retraumatize the victims of the killers and make them feel worse overall about what happened. 

Another question to ask is, how did serial killers become so popular in films and the media in the first place? When we look at these different films, many of the actors who are cast as the serial killers are famous and well known. Actors like Zac Efron and Leonardo DiCaprio have both played roles as Ted Bundy and H. H. Holmes. Those actors are purposely chosen because they are supposedly good looking and it leads to the fixation of them being gentle and caring which adds to their likeability. They are also seen as more trustworthy and have other perks because of how they look. Not only does this contribute to the romanticization of these characters, it puts the viewer in a tough position and makes it so they have to like them. 

It is important to understand what these people did but we can not forget that the victims’ families are probably still grieving. According to Today, the family of Errol Lindsey, who was a victim of Jeffrey Dahmer’s crimes, has critiqued the new Dahmer Netflix show and his sister, Rita Isbell, said it was “harsh and careless,” she also says that the creators never even reached out to her about the series. This is a very dangerous trend and everyone should be paying close attention to how the people impacted by these terrible killers feel about the publicity. 

If Netflix consulted the families of the victims of the killers that are featured in various films and series across the platform, they might have been able to make it less traumatizing and controversial for those families. There should have been something done so that the company could gain more insight into what happened, while making sure that they do not overstep and make a film that is too sensitive and traumatic. 

We must not let the glorification and romanticization of serial killers continue. Putting them on a pedestal and making them out to be “cool” is not right. Showing how vicious these people were needs to come before Hollywood profits.