Can serial killers be ‘sexy’?

Netflix recently urged their viewers over Twitter to stop referring to Ted Bundy as “hot.” Sparking debate on Hollywood’s portrayal of serial killers.

Online Tumblr communities romanticise serial killers. A cult following for the Columbine shooters called ‘Columbiners’ has emerged on the site and those who are obsessed with serial killers proclaim themselves to be ‘true crime enthusiasts’. 

Examples of such blogs are: 

https://serial-killer-wonderland.tumblr.com

https://tea-and-skeletons.tumblr.com/tagged/true_crime

https://ydnub-t.tumblr.com

According to an interview with NPR, Rhitu Chatterjee, a mental health professional, this type of material is likely to incite more mass shootings and acts of terrorism. She comments on the copycat appeal, “It’s a very human act. Now, we humans sort of instinctively emulate those around us, especially people we identify with, and we do this in ways we even often don’t understand or know. That’s how cultures spread. Now, if you take the case of these mass shooters, these individuals tend to be unhappy people. They’re dissatisfied, and they tend to have this us-against-them outlook about the world. Their social lives aren’t that great. They feel like they don’t really belong anywhere.”

“Now, you take somebody like this, they can go online and read up about the lives and actions of those who felt like them and who acted on their violent, dissatisfied thinking, and now they have somebody to identify with, and there’s a sense of belonging and purpose that comes with that identification, and they feel justified in how they think and what they want to act on. Another thing to keep in mind is that a significant number of mass shooters are also suicidal, and this sort of copycat phenomenon has been very well-documented in suicidal behaviour as well.”  

It has been made known that the Christchurch killer (who will not be named here for obvious reasons) was inspired by acts made by other white nationalists, “Now, we know from this man’s statement that he was enamoured with previous white supremacist mass killers, but this kind of idolising of previous shooters is not unique to white supremacists. It’s actually true for most mass shooters. Someone contemplating mass violence often will spend days or even weeks studying the lives and acts of previous mass shooters” says Rhitu Chatterjee in the NPR interview, which might be why New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden, refused to name him in a statement to parliament.

A teenager who stabbed two to death in Colchester, Essex in 2014, was known to have glorified the acts committed by the Yorkshire Ripper, according to The Independent. Providing a first hand account that serial killers are in fact inspired by those who have been given notoriety in the past for their crimes. 

Perhaps, the most famous incident of copycat crimes were those acted out by the B.T.K killer, with BTK standing for “blind, torture, kill”. He had left letters for police and media to find all around the city of Wichita, Kansas, according to Oxygen. One he had taped to the back of a stop sign and the other inside a book in a public library. 

His killing spree inspired A Good Marriage, a novela written by Stephen King, which was later turned into a movie. For the years leading up to his arrest, he taunted police by sending letters to media outlets local to Wichita, until his capture in 2005 when police traced a disk back to B.T.K. He was famously quoted saying, “The floppy did me in.” 

Though documentary evidence should be allowed to criminology students and those who study psychology, it is up for debate as to whether or not movies such as Netflix’s, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile a movie based on Ted Bundy starring Zac Efron is appropriate. Also whether or not such notoriety could play a role in inspiring similar crimes in the future. Though, not something I particularly have the answer to, it’s worth contemplating when reflecting on today’s culture of creating infamous serial killers. 

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