Murder is nothing new to the United States, let alone the world and its expansive, violent history. Humans and our potential for violence has been debated and studied time and time again for many reasons. Mainly our innate drive for understanding, but also because of our deep seated fascination with violence and death. While wars present us with incomprehensible numbers of human suffering, there is a different medium of human horror that has lived in America (and around the world) for a very long time, fascinating and terrifying us more than any wartime atrocity: serial killers.
The psychotic killer clown of John Wayne Gacey, the smooth charismatic charm of Ted Bundy, the crazed cult of Charles Manson, the mysterious cyphers of the Zodiac killer, these read like fiction rather than reality. Yet unfortunately, they are very real and very tragic. Since the first reported serial killer in the United States, H. H. Holmes and his murder hotel in Chicago in the 1890’s, we can easily track the immediate obsession our society has taken with the awful deeds committed. To give an idea of this obsession, H.H. Holmes has been featured in tabloids, written and graphic novels, TV shows on Discovery, NBC & CW, featured in the hit “American Horror Story” as well as a puzzle. Yes, America decided to make a jigsaw puzzle of a murder castle.
The recent uptick in serial killer related media such as the Netflix special on Ted Bundy and the much anticipated “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil & Vile” movie about Bundy featuring Zac Efron has sparked much discussion about the healthiness of this obsession. While the curiosity we have towards these tragedies is fairly innocent, there are extremes that push the envelope. On Tumblr, a social media site geared towards microblogging, there have been examples of groups coming together online to glorify and praise these killers on their attractiveness and sexuality. While rarely touched upon by traditional news sources, this type of behavior is heavily discussed (and defended) on internet forums such as Reddit, YouTube and of course Tumblr.
In this new age of the internet where anyone with any interest can find others sharing said opinions, we are increasingly more wary of this kind of glorification. Anderson Cooper refusing to say the name of the Orlando nightclub shooter on live TV is just one example of the push that may news outlets are making to take the attention away from the perpetrators and prevent potential fandom such as the kind found on Tumblr.
An anonymous Tumblr user by the name of Jeffrey-is-a-babe said, “I don’t want to slut shame, but Jeffrey Dahmer didn’t lose his virginity until he was 25 years old, and before his apprehension at age 31, he managed to sleep with over 200 dudes. Daaaamn, Dahmer.”
It should be acknowledged that yes, it is fairly easy to find extremes for any situation on the internet which are not indicative of the general populous opinions, this being an example. For the most part it is easy to view these TV shows and movies as entirely innocent fascination, however with rising gun violence and an ever darkening spectrum of violence displayed in media, our society should be wary of where the line is drawn.