The Dahmer Hype: understanding the romanticisation of serial killers

From people cosplaying as Jeffery Dahmer to Katy Perry’s almost a decade-old song resurfacing because it merely mentions him, a serial killer who claimed 17 victims took over the internet seemingly overnight with the release of the new Netflix biographical documentary called Dahmer. The show was streamed for around 200 million hours one week into being aired, resulting in him becoming a global sensation. This romanticisation of the killer led to TikTok trends and some creepy behavior, such as the following:

As humans, we inherently know what is evil or righteous, yet the former is what instinctively draws us. Glorification of serial killers in this manner is not only insensitive towards the families of the victims, but it also raises questions about human morality. The psychology behind this behavior is in question; understanding these behaviors requires us to explore a multitude of aspects which go beyond the boundaries of the hype created by the media.

Directors often blur the lines between a documentary and a show, puzzling the viewer into thinking that everything portrayed is a work of fiction. However, this is untrue. In the context of the article, documentaries are pieces of history depicting real-life incidents of victims who suffered at the hands of a twisted murderer. With the same sigma male mindset, people who worship Patrick Bateman begin to worship the likes of Jeffery Dahmer because he is just another character to them.

Moreover, portraying murderers in this manner grabs the attention of people who are desperate to be in the spotlight, even if it means pushing beyond the lines of morality they have set for themselves. Killers that fit the conventional beauty standard are practically promoted by the media, with the “face card” overshadowing the heinous crimes they committed, increasing the public’s infatuation with the character. Additionally, the inclusion of conventionally attractive actors (such as Zac Effron and Evan Peters) in the cast to embody serial killers again presents the viewer with a dilemma, drawing them towards felons.

From another perspective, however, some people are romantically attracted to these perpetrators (hybristophilia). This group includes those who have previously experienced either verbal, physical or emotional abuse. Therefore, they believe that a man now behind bars cannot hurt them in any way, guaranteeing safety whilst they express their love.

Although it might be our first response, questioning the morality of the people who do admire these convicts would not be a justified action, as many of them do not comprehend that their thoughts fall under the gray area. Seeing them on their devices, viewers perceive perpetrators as characters in their favorite shows. Crime documentaries are essential to understand human psychology, helping us prevent similar situations in the future. However, in order to curb the consequences like the ones we discussed, there is certainly a need to change the way in which we approach these documentaries: directors should depict a story grounded in reality. The dramatisation of these incidents and depicting them as an episode of “YOU” should be discouraged. But will those documentaries fill the streaming services’ pockets as “Dahmer” did? Exactly.

Since the research on the topic is limited, the psychology behind our infatuation towards criminals is still debatable. However, it is reasonable to say that many of us agree that their glorification has many adverse effects on our society. This conclusion begs the question: is it moral to promote content that aggrandises the assailants? We leave the answer up to you.

by: Shizza Jamshed & Hammad Sindhu

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