Why Do We Love Serial Killers?

PC: Republica

Sarah Grace Goolden
Opinions Editor

Netflix’s, “You” was released early this September and has already secured a second season. Viewers went crazy over the first 10 episodes. The show stars Penn Badgley as Joe Goldberg, a man who becomes obsessed with a girl that comes in his bookshop. Over the course of the show, his life begins to revolve around her to the point of lying, stalking and even murder. Badgley is quick to shut down all fans that glorify his character on Twitter. The real question is why are we obsessed with guys like Joe Goldberg?

We’ve seen it before. In fact, it’s kind of a pattern. Many people fall in love with those handsome guys on TV shows, despite being literal psychopaths. Is it despite? Or is that the primary attraction behind it? For example, think about Evan Peters as Tate Langdon on “American Horror Story: Murder House.” He is a cult favorite. There are blogs dedicated just to his one character on the one season. Fans love Tate. He also happened to rape his girlfriend’s mother and kill multiple people, including terrorizing a high school in a very Columbine-esque way. This is absolutely not someone that should be idolized. Tate should be seen as repulsive. But that doesn’t stop people from loving Tate, the same way they now love Joe. The cruelty behind the character doesn’t stop the glorification of Dexter Morgan from “Dexter” or Patrick Bateman from “American Psycho.” Sure, they’re not real, but the sentiment itself should be a little disturbing.

It should be important to note that despite these characters being fictional, there are a lot of real-life serial killers that are equally as adored. A movie on the life of Jeffrey Dahmer came out in 2017 to many positive reviews. Netflix has more murder documentaries than you could ever watch. Why are humans capable of binge-watching “Criminal Minds?” It should be too horrifying to watch, but it isn’t. In fact, it’s addicting.

We’ve all probably encountered that edgy teenager that thinks being obsessed with serial killers is cute and claims they’re all misunderstood. That is very different from thinking the psychology behind murder is interesting. As long as you understand that Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy are bad people, go ahead and turn on “Bates Motel.”

This  may be  partly due to a desensitization to death in general, but especially to murder. 24/7 news outlets and social media shove information in our faces at all times. It is almost impossible to avoid hearing about death on a daily basis. It almost feels distant and unreal, until it happens to someone you love or somewhere close to you. It’s morbid, but I think the people that empathize with serial killers are neglecting the fact that people actually did die. Parents lost their child. A human being was killed for no real reason. Serial killers are not lone wolves or misinterpreted. Would you say that to their loved ones?

On a less individual scale, serial killers are a part of American culture, with their popularity surging in the 60’s and 70’s. Since then, countless movies, TV shows and even song lyrics have been dedicated to them. Our society seems to enjoy that. We love serial killers like we love horror movies: it’s fun to scare ourselves, then press the ‘off’ button and curl up into bed, safe and sound. I don’t think the overwhelming success of “Silence of the Lambs” was because we all think murder is cool. Understanding the devastation of serial killers while still being able to learn about them is possible.

I love how Badgley is responding to the strange tweets he’s receiving after “You” aired. After all, there’s no better way to reply to someone asking you to kidnap them other than “no thx.” I think it’s important that actors keep this kind of distance from their character. Badgley knows Joe is a bad person, and is not in the mood for the twitter fangirls. There’s nothing wrong with being interested in psychology but if that turns into romanticizing serial killers, fictional or otherwise, you should probably ask yourself why.

Categories: Opinions

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