OPINION: Are serial killers sexy?


Photo credit/ Haven Walsh

After seeing Evan Peters’ portrayal of infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer in Netflix’s latest show “Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story,” several thoughts crossed my mind, like “they did a good job on the wardrobe,” or “Evan Peters is a phenomenal actor,” and even “this whole story is so sad and messed up.” Not once did it cross my mind to conflate attraction to Evan Peters, the actor, with attraction to Jeffrey Dahmer, the serial killer.

Unfortunately, parts of the internet didn’t get that memo, so let me be clear: stop fetishizing and romanticizing real serial killers.

I can’t tell who the onus is on for creating this phenomenon: tv show creators, true crime consumers, or real life serial killers and the societal fascination with them. Don’t get me wrong, true crime is one of my favorite genres of shows; I’ve seen “Forensic Files” more times than I can count. But sometimes true crime goes too far.

One of the worst sides of true crime media is the exploitation of some of the worst scenarios imaginable. While true crime satisfies its target audience’s morbid curiosity, it often creates a nightmare for the families of the people involved.

As cases get sensationalized, it becomes harder for families to find closure and move on from possibly the worst thing to happen to them.

This is one of the biggest gripes with “Dahmer”and true crime content in general and I can’t argue with it. True crime content should be respectful, educational, and human; to show the worst of what humanity is capable of, but without hurting the families of those involved.

There’s an argument to be made to stop making dramatizations of real life crimes. Especially by casting good looking, popular actors to portray people who were monsters, it waters down the severity of what the killers did. It leads to a phenomenon of people fawning over serial killers, or blurring the line between an actor being hot and the serial killer they portray being hot.

Peters isn’t the first to bring an air of sexiness to a serial killer; “R5” singer Ross Lynch played a teenage Dahmer in the movie “My Friend Dahmer,” and Zac Efron, who continually charts on “Sexiest Man Alive” magazine editions, was cast as Ted Bundy in “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile.”

In a way, the creators and producers of these tv shows and movies centering only on the killer and not on their victims’ stories share some blame for this gross phenomena.
Serial killers have been a source of public fascination and morbid curiosity since the likes of Jack the Ripper. However, it’s probably Ted Bundy that led to the fetishization of serial killers amongst the masses. Bundy used his good looks and charm to lure his victims in. During his trial, he courted audiences both in the courtroom and across the nation, as his was the first televised trial in American history.

The phenomenon of finding criminals attractive is known as hybristophilia. It used to be less common; reserved for women who fell for prisoners through letter writing, or like in Bundy’s case, an obsessive fan who would become romantically involved with the killer.

Due to binge watching and the wildfire word of mouth via social media, it’s been increasingly more common to see women openly “thirsting” for actors portraying serial killers, or even the serial killers themselves.

It’s disgusting, it’s wrong, and it’s disrespectful on so many levels. In the case of Jeffrey Dahmer, he raped, murdered and mutilated young boys and men, some of whom were underage and many of whom were people of color. What kind of message do you think it sends to a Black man if you find someone who targeted people like him “hot?”

Furthermore, it’s disrespectful to the families. The constant popularity of shows like “Dahmer,” fictional recreations and distortions of reality, make it hard if not impossible for the families of the victims to move on.

When consuming any true crime media, fiction or not, it’s so important to consider the families of the victims, and the family of the killer. None of them asked for this to happen, so only consuming media that accurately and respectfully tells the story of the crime with the victims’ families’ permission is the key to responsibly enjoying true crime content.

Ultimately, there will always be a small section of people who are attracted to monsters like Jeffrey Dahmer. It’s on media producers and us as an audience to focus not on the killers, but to focus on the victims and the tragedy of their lives being cut short; to focus on bringing murderers to justice, not fetishizing them on the internet.

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