Hear Me Out: Hollywood Romanticizes Serial Killers

            After years of traumatic events, the families of prolific killers’ victims must relive the worst experience of their lives when Hollywood decides to profit off their pain. Recently, murder cases have been highlighted in the media due to the romanticization of murderers and their victims’ stories. True crime shows have been produced since the early 1960’s but have recently trended due to the immense popularity of new age social media platforms.  

            It is not uncommon for Hollywood to romanticize traumatic events either, with shows and movies such as Zodiac, My Friend Dahmer, and the newest hit show, Monster, which remained at number one on Netflix for an extended period of time. Hollywood tends to humanize and at times portrays the murderer as a victim in the viewers’ eyes, due to the immense popularity of these movies and shows. 

            The Zodiac killer, whose first and last movie was made years ago, had two survivors, both of which were interviewed after the movie came out, and both of which spoke of feelings of disgust.  

            “Why would I want to see that,” one of the survivors had said. “I don’t want to remember that time anymore.”  

            Hollywood, however, clearly did not care how these TV shows and movies would make victims feel, as they did not stop making them.  

            My friend Dahmer was a drama/horror film released in 2017. The movie originated from a book written about the author’s teenage friendship with Jeffery Dahmer. The story follows Dahmer from 12 years old up to his first offense that is not shown. 

            Although the movie itself may not be seen as the most impactful and messed up part of this story, the viewers commentary also contributes to why this movie was such a problem. Viewers revealed that the movie changed their negative opinion on the killer into something a little closer to pity.  

            “I wanted to help him, or tell someone he needed help,” one reviewer said. “Director Meyers presents a serial killer before his crimes with all the pitfalls and quirks of his childhood, encouraging compassion for the nurture of someone notoriously known as a monster while highlighting their ominous nature.”  

            Another well-known serial killer is Ted Bundy. Crime-viewers popularly see the killer himself as attractive, disregarding any emotion that could invoke in any survivors or family/friends of victims, and every brutal thing he did to so many women. It certainly does not help when he is portrayed by actors commonly seen as some of the most attractive in the world, such as Zach Efron.  

            The popular movie starring Efron goes deeper into Bundy’s personal life, regarding his long-term girlfriend and her kid, than it does his crimes. This may be seen as better than the media completely reenacting the crimes, which I could agree with. However, it almost humanizes him through his girlfriend’s eyes, and she is finding out with the viewer that he is the killer. The entire movie practically is made solely about the girlfriend’s trauma.   

            Bundy seems to be one of the killers that Hollywood is most obsessed with, or at least has been in the past, racking up 17 movies or shows made solely about him and even more where he is mentioned.  

            However, more recently Dahmer has become Hollywood’s newest obsessions, taking Bundy’s place with Monster, their new hit show; this show rose rapidly on the chart gaining millions of views, remaining ranked number one on Netflix for a long period of time.  

            This show seemed to do all three of the disgusting things discussed such as: hiring a well-known, hot actor, making the viewers pity Dahmer, and making the viewers uncomfortable.  

            Evan Peters, an actor who has starred in multiple other shows, including his well-known performance in American Horror Story where he played the ghost of a murderous teen, is commonly viewed by the public as one of the most fit actors to play Dahmer, as his performance is seen as more realistic than Ross Lynchs’ or any other actor that ever portrayed him was.  

            However, this not only caused a well-deserved controversy for Peters, but the performance was so realistic that many viewers were made uncomfortable.  On Tik Tok, the show became a trend in a way of bashing it for the uneasy feeling it caused. Many viewers described it as hard to finish due to the discomfort. Others however, raved about seeing the actual crime photos and how they wish the show had been more brutal.  

            Sadly, none of this is the worst part of this show. The money made by this show is not going to Dahmer’s survivors or the family of his victims. Much of the money is going to Dahmer’s family. This in itself is controversial due to people believing that the family should not be blamed for his crimes; however, I disagree due to them standing by their son throughout the entirety of the trials , and even writing their own books to make money.  

            Rita Isbell, whose brother was murdered by Dahmer, was quoted in a news article regarding the series. She called it “harsh and careless.” She further went on to say, “It’s sad that they’re just making money off of this tragedy.” 

            In this book, written by Dahmer’s father, he talks about how his son’s crimes affected him and even deepened his relationship with him. He even went as far as saying that he put himself in his sons shoes during the trial to try and understand what he was feeling. 

            “At the end of the series we see Dahmer’s father, Lionel Dahmer, talking about how he has plans to make money from everything his son did,” an article by “The Tab” posted.  

            The show becomes entirely uncomfortable to view once one discovers that the profits go to the people who selfishly took the side of the killer; every victim and family member that Dahmer had.  

            To make matters worse, the families of victims were never asked or warned about the shows, they found out along with every average viewer that the killer would be portrayed and romanticized yet again. They had to turn on the TV one day and be confronted with their trauma all over again as the show rises in popularity. 

            “I’m not telling anyone what to watch; I know true crimes are huge right now, but if you’re curious about the victims my family is pissed about this show,” Isbell was quoted saying. “It’s retraumatizing over and over again, and for what? How many movies/shows/documentaries do we need?” 

            Thus, Hollywood’s obsession with serial killer shows is disgusting. Not only because of the obsession itself but because of the harm it causes victims and the family members of those who were traumatized. The shows cause great controversy, and the reviews prove that people are either also greatly disturbed or completely uncomfortable by the performances, as the killers are popularly portrayed in a more positive, humanizing light than their own victims are.  

            It would be an easy problem to solve if Netflix would stop selfishly trying to profit off of killers and victims as some of their most popular outlets. However, nobody can tell Netflix not to do that. All individuals can do is ignore the media they keep piling up and send bad reviews to those that they do, for the sake of any victims or families of such because trauma like this should not be used for entertainment.