The general public in America has a fascination with serial killers, obsessively poring over their lives and gruesome killing sprees. Netflix’s impressive spread of dramas and series starring the most infamous serial killers of the 21st century has almost single-handedly ensured that these men live on long after death.

For decades film and television have made serial killers look dangerously intriguing to the American public. The seemingly normal personality of serial killers, combined with their gory crimes has created a cult following across the country. Over the past decade, thanks to new documentaries and psychology behind these twisted individuals, the serial killer cult following is enjoying a comeback. In 2016, Charles Manson’s summer of murder is played out in Aquarius, and this year, Ted Bundy not only has The Ted Bundy Tapes documentary but also a feature film starring Zac Efron.

From the safety of our couches, we are able to follow the trail of bodies and study the psychological motivations and desires of a killer. Crime shows like CSI: Miami and Criminal Minds provide viewers with a psychological drama that examines the mind of a serial killer. These shows featuring the killer as the lead feeds into the public’s obsession, highlighting their ability to seem likable and charming despite being a violent killer.

Serial Killer Lineup on Netflix

The torch that was lit with the nation wide news coverage of Ted Bundy’s murder spree decades ago, has been carried on with film and television highlighting other infamous instances of murder. The onslaught of dramas revolving around charismatic serial killers perpetuates the stereotypical serial killer, a charming handsome and a seemingly model citizen. Our obsession with true crime and charming upstanding men who turn out to be murderers is magnified by shows featuring an attractive male lead who personifies the concept of a sheep in wolf’s clothing.

Casting actors like Zac Efron to play a violent and dangerous serial killer effectively blurs the line between art and the real person for viewers, who often end up feeling attraction towards the fictional portrayal of the serial killer played by an actor. Hollywood has carried on a chilling reality, the only serial killers who are promoted after death are the ones who knew how to play their victims and audience alike. Our entertainment industry plays these men’s’ desire to be noticed, producing content that fills our streaming queue with dramatic retellings of their murder sprees, further stocking our obsession.

Television takes us into the mind of a serial killer

Documentaries and crime shows centering around infamous murderers feed into our morbid fascination of crime. The thrill of being scared coupled with the mystery and intrigue surrounding serial killers serves as the perfect foundation for captivating television. The desire to understand the reason behind the madness is the driving force behind crime shows that walk viewers through the psychology of a serial killer’s’ actions and personality. Society attempts to solve the puzzle of serial killers, using their life story in order to understand the psychology behind the murderer.

The appeal of shows about serial killers lies in our desire to experience and watch content that is different than our own experiences. People who routinely watch serial killer dramas get a sick thrill out of being scared and serial killers are a ready supply of real-life horror, the metaphorical bogeyman who blends into our society with ease. Despite the horrific crimes and gruesome details, we are unable to look away, amazed by both the killer and the gruesome murders they leave in their wake. Our morbid fascination with serial killers ensures that they live on long through the screen long after their deaths.  

Our macabre fascination with serial killer’s stem from the fact that they perfect a charade of normalcy and are disturbingly capable of blending in with the rest of civilization.  

Society as a whole is intrigued by the disturbing and dark mind of a serial killer. In an effort to understand them, serial killer fans watch old footage of court trials and obsess over modern dramatizations of the crimes. The ability of someone so normal and charming to commit murder drives a borderline obsessive consumption of media and entertainment which chronicles the killer’s life and murder sprees. From a psychological viewpoint, people are attracted to the strange and bizarre, drawn into the gory details of their trail of murder.

We, as an audience are obsessed with understanding the hidden personality and actions of a serial killer, who is able to pass as normal and even mundane. The clean-cut and polite law student, Ted Bundy captured the attention of a nation during his murder spree in the late seventies and the subsequent trial. His picket fence life coupled with a body count of over twenty young women to this day attracts a morbid fascination among the general public. His ability to compartmentalize murder while leading a normal life continues to be a point of fascination, inspiring movies about his life.

Amanda Parisse is Generation Z Voice at the Pavlovic Today. She is studying Communications with an interest in psychology, at Goucher College in Towson Maryland. Her specific interests include civil liberties,...

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