Collage made by Natalie Meschuk of Serial Killers being romanticized. (Photography by: Natalie Meschuk) (Natalie Meschuk)
Collage made by Natalie Meschuk of Serial Killers being romanticized. (Photography by: Natalie Meschuk)

Natalie Meschuk

Romanticizing Serial Killers

February 28, 2023

Usually, when people imagine serial killers, one visualizes gruesome murders and horrific crimes. But, surprisingly, there are a lot of individuals who romanticize these killers. With the growth of social media and new streaming series, people have been exposed to more coverage regarding serial killers such as Jeffery Dahmer. Nearly 2 in 3 Americans are fans of “serial killer content,” an alarming statistic found by Morning Consult.

Netflix’s 2022 show, “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story,” tells Dahmer’s life story through the victims’ perspectives. The TV show is ten episodes, approximately an hour each. 

One of the victim’s sisters, Rita Isbell, spoke out about the show, and said, “I was never contacted about the show. I feel like Netflix should’ve asked if we mind or how we felt about making it. They didn’t ask me anything. They just did it.”

Many people were upset when they found out that Netflix filmed the show without asking permission from the victim’s families. 

A resident of Huntington Beach, Jesse Meschuk said, “I personally don’t think it’s appropriate for Netflix to have made that show, because what Jeffery Dahmer did was quite terrible, and I don’t think we should be promoting it as entertainment. I think it tends to glorify terrible actions, violence, and murder. I think as a society, we shouldn’t be doing that. I know there are some people who say it’s more about understanding the mind of a serial killer, and that there is some value in understanding that, but I think most people will not interpret it that way, they’ll view it in an entertaining way, and I think that’s disrespectful to all of Jeffery Dahmer’s victims.” 

Anne E. Schwartz, a part-time reporter for the Milwaukee Journal, solved the Jeffery Dahmer case in 1991. Schwartz had gone to Dahmer’s apartment and found evidence of the crimes that he had committed. Throughout the Netflix Dahmer show, police officers, who were characters in the show, were depicted as homophobic and racist. Schwartz said that this depiction was “incorrect,” and that Netflix was re-imagining the actual situation. 

Netflix’s show has surpassed 1 billion hours viewed, bringing considerable attention to Dahmer. After the show was published and made available to the public, Tiktok users began taking their interest in Dahmer to social media. When searching up the name Dahmer on Tiktok, disturbing edits pop up of him—along with Evan Peters, an actor who oftentimes portrays murderers—being romanticized. 

Lucy Ford, a freshman at Lake Washington High School said, “I have seen a few videos on my for you page of Dahmer being edited.” She also said, “They’re calling him attractive because it’s just the actor playing him. I believe that Evan Peters [The actor who plays Dahmer] is also attractive, but I don’t believe people should say that Jeffery Dahmer is hot.” 

Production companies have made content featuring serial killers over the years. Casting agents have chosen actors who people think are attractive. In the 2019 film, “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile,” Zac Efron played Ted Bundy. Zac Efron is best known for the “High School Musical” movie, in which he famously played Troy Bolton. Viewers find the character of Troy Bolton, and as a result, Zac Efron, attractive, which has led to people romanticizing Zac Efron as Ted Bundy. Netflix made a statement on Twitter, just two days after the Ted Bundy movie came out, about people romanticizing Ted Bundy. There are multiple examples of attractive actors taking on the roles of these killers. Before Evan Peters was chosen to play Dahmer, he was known for his looks, Zac Efron was as well. So many people have claimed that Jeffery Dahmer is “hot” but are they really talking about the actual serial killer? Or are they just saying that because the actor portraying him is attractive? 

Meschuk adds, “[People on the internet] might be thinking that the actor is hot, and responding to that, and it’s just a perfect example of why I don’t think they should’ve ever made the show. Again, it is taking something that was a horrible act, and now all of a sudden, you’re not talking about the victims, and what can we be doing to prevent violence like this. We’re talking instead about how hot the actor is who plays a serial killer. It just makes our priorities all backward.”  

A perfect example of why producers shouldn’t make TV shows on horrific killers is the case of Stuart Harling. Harling is known as the 19-year-old who murdered a nurse, Cheryl Moss. Stuart was known to be a “loner,” he played violent video games and stayed in his room. Before Harling murdered Moss, he put a “murder kit” together with items he had bought off eBay. Harling killed Moss on April 6, 2006. 

Mrs. Moss could not defend herself, and sustained several severe injuries. Harling stated that he was inspired to be a serial killer after watching a documentary on Richard Ramirez, otherwise known as “The Night Stalker.” 

Ramirez was known to be a serial killer in the 1980s. He had over twenty-five victims and committed multiple crimes between 1984 and 1985. Many documentaries have been made about Richard Ramirez, similar to Jeffery Dahmer. People on the internet romanticize and edit videos glamorizing Ramirez. Individuals, especially on Youtube, upload these videos and gain thousands of views. These videos are disturbing, and people add music, usually popular songs that many people enjoy. 

Media users that praise killers are dangerous. For people like Stuart Harling, it can inspire them to do questionable activities like murdering innocent individuals. Even though Stuart did watch a documentary, sometimes documentaries are hazardous to certain people too. 

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