Are Serial Killers the Latest Heartthrobs?


Clay Arnold

With the media sensationalizing violent criminals, todays younger audiences are desensitized to violence.

Clay Arnold, Editor

The definition of hybristophilia is the sexual interest in and attraction to those who commit crimes. While some may suggest this is a far-fetched and uncommon concept, today’s media has been filled with true crime content that leads to idolization and infatuation with infamous killers and offenders. 

The latest Netflix series, “Dahmer- Monster: The Jeffery Dahmer Story” has garnered a large amount of attention among today’s youth. The series features Evan Peters as the namesake killer, known for his roles in American Horror Story and X-men: Apocalypse. The show has earned a TV-MA rating, meaning it is not intended for audiences below the age of 18 due to depictions of mature language, substance, gore, nudity, smoking, sexual violence, and violence. This is the case for most projects from Ryan Murphy who has been credited with the creation of American Horror Story, Ratched, Glee, and many more widely popular titles. A large issue many have with this show is the apparent sexualizing of the title character. Jeffery Dahmer, who killed 17 men over the course of 13 years has been the subject of commentary from the media since his arrest in 1991. This commentary ranges from criticism to admiration to sexualization. This is not exclusive to Dahmer though. Ted Bundy, the Menendez Brothers, and Richard Ramirez are all convicted offenders of heinous crimes who have garnered fans and admirers so clearly there is a growing trend in idolizing violent men. 

The popular short-form content-sharing platform, Tiktok, has become a hub for videos regarding people’s comments on the series, Peters’ depiction of Dahmer, and the idea of sexualizing killers. This may be due to certain scenes in this series directly depicting sexual moments in Dahmer’s story. Ranging from sexually violent scenes to images of Peters in sexually explicit situations, it is no wonder this series has faced criticism for oversexualizing this monster. Many have pointed out that it is disrespectful to Dahmer’s victims and their families. The same goes for the victims of other serial killers. Ted Bundy was heavily sexualized when a film surrounding his story was released on Netflix in 2019. The movie starred Zac Efron, leaving many viewers unable to look past his physical appearance. Many began to idolize Bundy and his story despite the fact that he is one of the most infamous serial killers in history. 

A similar case is with the Menendez brothers. Lyle and Erik Menendez were arrested for the murder of their parents in 1889. These brothers claimed to be innocent and with the help of their lawyer, Leslie Abramson, their trial was broadcasted all over the world. With the two brothers both being conventionally attractive, many sympathized with them rather than looking at the logistics of their case. The two were convicted and remain in prison where one brother found himself married to not one but two fans. Had the media not amplified their story, the two would not be sexualized to the point that they have fans fighting for their affections from behind bars. 

Similarly to Dahmer and Bundy, Richard Ramirez has been a large topic of conversation since his likeness was used in the Netflix series “Nightstalker” in 2021. He also appeared in season 9 of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story in 2019. The Television series showcased Ramirez throughout his childhood and in sexual situations with other characters. These depictions are to blame for the recent humanization of the real-life monster that was the Nightstalker. Just like Dahmer, Ramirez’s victims and their families should be thought of and respected rather than pushed aside for an attractive actor committing theatrical acts that reflect the real horrors that took place at Ramirez’s hands. 

Simply put, the wrong message is being sent. When actors who are known for their attractiveness are cast in these roles, audiences are more drawn to sympathize with the real-life killers that are displayed rather than their equally real victims and their families. Additionally, this contributes to the rapid desensitization of today’s youth as well. As previously mentioned, the Dahmer series is rated to fit a mature audience. Since its release, the series has received attention from all ages which shows how effective the rating actually is. With audiences unbefitting the rating a show is given, the impact said the show has on those watching it will not reflect the intended impact it is meant to have. The intended impact that true crime media is meant to have closely resembles that of a historical resource. Information and commentary are meant to be received from theatrical reenactments of true events. Instead, an unintended audience receives the information and sexualizes the story to the point that the overall perception of the subject of the show (killers in this circumstance) is completely distorted.