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The Science And Morality Of The Romanticization Of Serial Killers

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at VCU chapter.

If you have been on the internet at all, you’ve probably realized some people have a weird obsession with serial killers. While it’s not every person, it is a good handful of people. I’m not talking about finding the psychological profile of these people interesting, but the romanticization of their terror. You can also see that these posts increase when a new movie or television show comes out.

Some examples of this are Netflix’s “Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” in 2022 or “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” in 2019. Both forms of media had conventionally attractive actors such as Evan Peters and Zac Efron play the roles of Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy, respectively. While the actors might be attractive to people, it does not mean the role that they are playing is. It is absolutely abhorrent that individuals blur the lines between an actor and a real person that they are playing, then begin romanticizing mass murderers.

Is there a science behind this phenomenon though?

According to Ella Johnson of the City University of New York, trauma and internalized sexism play a huge role in this. People have been interested in true crime since the 1550s but has increased due to the fact new media platforms have been developed such as the internet. Additionally, it is also believed that women are more drawn to true crime in order to learn survival tricks. However, Johnson’s research concludes while some women may have these fantasies of serial killers, it is something they most likely will not act upon. Additionally, her findings state that women who had experienced traumatic events such as child abuse were more inclined to have a fascination with said individuals. She states that is most likely a coping mechanism by these women as they can relate to the trauma of serial killers or victims.


no. i don’t “feel bad” for him. i recognize the systems and people who failed him — ultimately failing his victims, and reserve my sympathy for their family members, who actually deserve it. #dahmer

♬ original sound – DANISHA CARTER

Another researcher, Rachael Jones, believes that women see these men being massively exposed in the media. She applies labeling theory as the main reason why some women romanticize serial killers. If these women were to be involved with said serial killers, they would also become a household names as serial killers are. However, Jones concludes that some women fantasize about being with these men because of the trauma that they have faced from men in their lives, but believe these serial killers will not hurt them but make them famous.

While there are multiple different theories explaining the romanticization of serial killers, it does not make it morally right or neutral. All of these serial killers hurt real people. Their victims are not just the people that they senselessly murdered, it is their loved ones as well. For example, pretend that the person that was the closest to you was killed in cold blood, then the person that perpetrated this crime had mass media coverage and fans. How would you feel? I would assume much like the families of Kimberly Leach, Errol Lindsey or any other victim’s loved one of a serial killer.

Kaitlyn Austin is an alumnus of Virginia Commonwealth University, with a bachelor's in political science with a concentration in civil rights. She is passionate about social justice, advocacy, and astrology.