America’s obsession with serial killers, true crime is alarming
To support student journalism and the content you love, become a member of The Daily Orange today.
It’s no surprise that the Golden Globes on January 10 had their fair share of controversy. After all, drama goes hand in hand with Hollywood’s awards season. But among the regular banter that comes from snot, speeches and slurs, the show also made headlines when Evan Peters took home the Golden Globe for “Best Actor in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for TV” for his performance in Dahmer – Monster : The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.
The same criticism that arose when the show first aired — which had nothing to do with Peters’ acting skills — resurfaced when he earned his first Golden Globe. The group of viewers who questioned the ethics of Dahmer continued to do so after the show’s victory.
Even one of the mothers of a Dahmer victim spoke out against the negative impact of Peters’ victory. “People who win acting roles by playing murderers keep the obsession going, and it allows sick people to thrive on fame,” the mother said, according to Entertainment Weekly.
But rather than expecting a Hollywood awards show to have a stronger moral compass, I think we should realize that the popularity of true crime media falls on us as viewers. Only two shows — Stranger Things 4 and Wednesday — have watched more hours in their first month on Netflix than Dahmer, which stands at 856,220,000 hours of total viewership. So producers won’t stop churning out similar content, even if viewers believe it’s inherently wrong. The entertainment industry is a heartless game of supply and demand and our fascination with serial killers has made murderous content a hot commodity.
True crime TV, movies, books, podcasts and more have been sweeping the nation for a while now and the trend has much more to do with the desires of the consumer than it does the creativity of media outlets. A 2021 report from Parrot Analytics highlighted how there is five times more demand for true crime than other documentary genres.
But America’s obsessive relationship with serial killing goes beyond pop culture. It seems as if these types of cases are viewed almost differently compared to other violent crimes. Take the recent Idaho murders: countless people have tried to dissect the mind of killer Bryan Kohlberger, map out the events of that night and theorize any reasons.
Subreddits, Tiktoks or various other social media groups have turned a tragic murder into a kind of real-life game of Clue. The families of four young adults were left to grieve while the internet focused more on speculation than sympathy. This situation in Idaho is a grim reminder of how the general public would rather “solve” deaths related to serial killers than lay the fallen to rest.
How is it that tragedies like the Uvalde shooting of 2022 or any similar tragedies can be treated with grace and respect while suddenly everyone has become detectives when talking about the Idaho murders? Both events resulted in a premature loss of life, but the tone of public perception could not feel more different.
There should be no spectrum of tragedy when it comes to violent massacres, yet it’s almost as if society views serial killings as “less serious” because there is so much mystery involved. These events have still received different attitudes than other types of murders and seem less taboo because most cannot empathize with the situation.
Going back to the Golden Globes controversy, it’s easy to blame money-hungry entertainment corporations for glorifying figures like Jeffery Dahmer. However, it would be more effective to hold each other accountable for the culture we have created around serial killers. The casualness in which we treat these heinous cases has made it easy for series like Dahmer to exist and make a profit. So if there is any hope of avoiding this style of traumatic content, it starts by reshaping the narrative around serial killing at the ground level. There is an unlimited amount of media to consume that is just as interesting and far less problematic.
Jonah Weintraub is a sophomore broadcast and digital journalism major. His column appears biweekly. He can be reached at [email protected].
Published on January 30, 2023 at 8:28 pm