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Celebrity killers create culture of apathy

When you’re watching your favorite television show or reading your favorite book, it can be fun to choose characters to latch onto and drool over. This is a staple of teenage and young adulthood, and it’s completely normal. It’s even fun to root for the villain in some circumstances! But harmless fun can become a real issue when it turns from celebrities and fictional hotties to real life criminals.

Before you get all defensive, clutch your pearls, and think, “I would never do such a thing,” consider the popular media we consume every day.

When the Dahmer television show starring Evan Peters came out, did you really stop and think of the victims or how it was lending to a culture of apathy towards violence, or did you flop over onto the couch with your popcorn and get lost in the dramatization of this real serial killer’s life? 

What about the Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile movie with High School Musical heart-throb Zac Efron cast as Ted Bundy?

To be clear, this isn’t just a modern day phenomenon. Back when Ted Bundy was arrested, he got hundreds of letters from adoring fans who had watched his trial and fell for his charm. He even had a child while in prison!
Even farther back, you can consider the legacies of criminal duos like Bonnie and Clyde and Sid and Nancy who seemed to fascinate society and garner what basically operated as a fanclub.

While many label this type of fandom as harmless fun, it can do a number on how we view the world and how we perceive violence.
Sitting down, watching the news and taking a look at your own reactions to the things going on in the world today can be a good exercise to see how media has changed the way we think. How many of the awful things that happen every day do you really care about? How much truly shocks you?
Probably not much.

Besides the effects it can have on your psyche and capacity for empathy, the way that society and the media perpetuates this portrayal of serial killers can have a devastating effect on the families and friends of victims. When the popular Dahmer show came out, many of the victims’ families spoke out against it and claimed that their loved ones weren’t accurately portrayed, but instead of offering sympathy and asking what they could do for them, writers and fans alike ignored the families’ perspectives and privately harassed them. 

I understand morbid curiosity, and I’m not advocating for all true crime shows and movies to be eradicated, but I think that we could do better by focusing on the victims and promoting empathy and a critical consumption of media instead of turning murderers into idols.

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Ace Roueche
Ace Roueche, Associate Editor
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