Society's Obsession with Serial Killers

Nowadays, television is full of true crime stories and documentaries. Shows like Investigation Discovery’s Swamp Murders and Blood Relatives include reenactments and soap opera-style scenes to spice up the stories. These elements are made fun of in season 17, episode 12 of South Park called "Informative Murder Porn." In the episode, Stan’s mother Sharon and father Randy are eager viewers of true crime shows that also contain soft-core porn. They use the shows to spice up their sex life.

Crime documentaries are usually made to mimic the work of a detective. The reenactments are relatively realistic and kept to a minimum. An example of this is the 2017 crime documentary The Keepers. Journalist Tom Nugent, along with two self-made detectives Gemma Hoskins and Abbie Shaub, try to crack the 1969 murder Sister Cathy Cesnik, the former teacher of Hoskins and Shaub. Usually, the reason for these documentaries is to find justice for the victims and their families.

Sex and the duality of human nature: these are two lenses through which we can analyze a person’s interest in serial killers. How can someone treat another person only as an object? Could I outsmart such a monster if I encountered one?

Screen Shot 2017-12-08 at 6.28.14 PM.png

When people and media talk about serial killers like Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and Gary Ridgway, they often concentrate on painting a vision of the killer’s violent sexual tendencies and question how they came across to people who encountered them at work or other social events. Didn’t anyone notice anything strange? How can someone go on for decades, doing horrible things to people, without one of his relatives or coworkers suspecting anything? What would it be like to be fucked by a death note-carrying animal? Could I ever use another person as a pure object of my deepest and most violent fantasies?

Usually, you hear the phrase "I don’t understand" when people talk about serial killers and their actions. In a way, there is nothing to be understood; socio- and psychopaths don’t share the same value system and emotional life as those who see themselves as lawful, God-loving people. What is striking, though, is that many serial killers have stated that they do believe in God and fate. To them, though, God speaks in a very different tone. If you know a person who is firm in their belief in God and believes his actions are all kind and caring, then a serial killer is the other side of the coin. The serial killer firmly believes that whoever and whatever comes his way is meant for him. One serial killer who had raped and murdered hitchhiking girls said that the morning of the crime he knew the exact reason why he left home and went cruising: it was the same reason the girls left their houses and stuck her thumbs up next to a road; it was God’s sign that they were meant to be.

Screen Shot 2017-12-08 at 6.30.39 PM.png

If we think about serial killers from this point of view, then the interest lies in the fundamental fight against good and evil. Where there is light, there is also darkness. It’s not so much about understanding the other human being, it’s more about us taking the time to ponder about the basis of our society. What are the boundaries and the norms we hold dear to us, and how do we keep our loved ones safe? It’s more about taking a decisive stand and giving out clear punishments than trying to cure something that cannot be cured.