Glorifying Serial Killers is Messed Up

And you need to check your love for ‘true crime’

What fuels love for true crime? It really depends on the fanatic you’ve encountered, though morbid curiosity is certainly more appealing reasoning than blatant insensitivity. It is not uncommon to be fascinated by the details of inconceivable violence, but the depiction of true crime on the same screen as Game of Thrones and Stranger Things skews reality. Once it becomes entertainment and is therefore found entertaining, the audience can’t help but fictionalize it. Real people become characters and real stories become a part of the plot. For the majority of us who have never been involved with high-profile crime, it’s easy to watch these stories from the outside, peeking out from behind a barrier, able to get close to it with the comfort of its impermanence.
Being infamous is one thing, but when killers and criminals start to hit the type of celebrity status that includes memorabilia, fan clubs, and merchandise, it reflects poorly on how we as a society treat acts of violence. The excessive attention is undeserved, not to mention having their face on someone’s bedroom wall or flaunted as a Halloween costume glorifies them like just another big screen character. In no world, should ‘,’ be advertising T-Shirts with “RIP Charles Manson”, or “What Would Jeffery Dahmer Do?,” and in no world should anyone be buying them.
Jaya O’Conner, one of B-CC’s True Crime club presidents, describes making money off of a serial killer as ‘unethical,” adding that “if you are [making money off of a serial killer], the profit should go towards victims and criminal justice organizations.”
Another line to be drawn: fetishization. Without context, Twitter posts and TikTok edits debating which killer is more handsome might leave you thinking Ted Bundy and Jeffery Dahmer are on a new season of The Bachelor. It likely didn’t help that Glamour magazine’s “the Sexiest Actor Alive,” Zac Efron, played Bundy in the 2019 Netflix film, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, nor that some viewers have already dubbed Dahmer as attractive in Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.
Ironically enough, the United States is the lead producer of serial killers and the race is not even close. Other countries barely exceed the production of a couple of hundred killers, while our numbers are over 13,000 confirmed. Any sort of glorification, fetishization, or romanticization is clearly the last thing we need. Knowing all the fame and attention that awaits, it is not unlikely that someone would try to put themselves into a main character role of violence. Maybe we can attribute, in at least some part, some copycat killers to the influx of media turning murderers into celebrities. For someone who has nothing to lose, the allure of committing a particularly graphic murder may seem tempting, if it means they will be immortalized in merchandise, television shows, and podcasts.
Treating true crime like horror fiction is not only dangerous, but the exploitation of victims and their families is wildly insensitive. Imagine if your friend or family member was murdered, and a website sells and makes money from images of the person who permanently took someone important away from you prominently and positively displayed. We need a change in perspective. Instead of focusing on the gruesome details and terrifying acts, immortalizing the ones who committed them, we should honor the lives that were taken.
It’s time to shine a light on this corner of modern media consumption that has not been criticized nearly enough. If true crime is to be told, it should be done so with purpose and intent, not dramatized for entertainment and higher ratings. With how the media frequently sensationalizes serial killers, it’s not surprising that many people are led to a warped view of the crimes. People should remember that every single victim of a heinous crime was a person with hopes, dreams, and families. They weren’t characters in a TV show or movie, they were actual people who had their lives snuffed out based on the whims of twisted murderers, and this does not belong on a t-shirt.