The morning of Tuesday, July 15, 1997, was beautiful, inspiring Gianni Versace to leave his mansion in Miami Beach, Florida, and walk to a local café to purchase an Italian newspaper. As Versace walked up his steps to unlock his gate doors, serial killer Andrew Cunanan was behind. Cunanan shot and killed Versace at 8:45 a.m.
Versace’s South Beach mansion, Casa Casuarina, became an unofficial memorial for the slain designer in the days following his death. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images
Versace was a beloved designer and father to the Versace fashion franchise. The show “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story,” which can now be viewed on Netflix, details the story of Cunanan and his victims’ tragic murders, despite being coined under the fashion designer’s name, promising a story of his life and death.
While it’s easy to get caught up in Cunanan’s story and what led him to pursue Versace as a victim (we’ll let Town & Country do that for you), it’s important to remember that murder victims are more than a statistic or a brief chapter in a tragic story, which is the downfall of many true crime stories. Too often, we lose track of the realness of these stories, forgetting that the victims are everyday people just like us (or are insanely rich fashion designers, but still people with lives and loved ones).
This is the reason many people are upset about the recent Ted Bundy coverage, including Netflix’s documentary and the upcoming movie, “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil And Vile”, starring Zac Efron because people believe that the movie will romanticize Bundy and force victims’ friends and families to relive the gruesome tragedy that ended at least 30 young women’s (and one 12-year-old child’s) lives.
Many times, when we talk about the victims, their serial killers’ names are attached, which is unfair to the victims and only plays into the murderer’s ego. While there are many psychological factors that lead someone to take another’s life and should be looked at on a case-by-case basis, many murderers and serial killers, such as Cunanan, are searching for a life of fame or to give meaning behind their name. This is why many killers watch the news and become obsessed with reading stories about their crime, which Cunanan was shown doing after murdering Versace in broad daylight.
True crime stories are so intriguing, especially to women, for many reasons. For some people, it’s a way to better prepare themselves against crime. If you hear a story about a man hiding under women’s cars to attack them, you’ll probably start checking under your car before approaching it. While it can lead to a life of fear for some, it actually calms anxiety for others because they feel better prepared for a situation to happen.
People might also be obsessed with stories of true crime because it plays into evolution by letting viewers see how others were victimized and how to protect themselves, according to Marissa Harrison. Harrison is the associate professor of psychology, behavioral sciences and education and the program coordinator of the Psychology Department at Penn State Harrisburg. She is also the author of “Female serial killers in the United States: means, motives, and makings”.
“I’m sure there are numerous reasons why people are interested in crime, particularly brutal crimes,” Harrison said to Hopes & Fears. “My feeling is that it is at least, in part, an evolved mechanism to hone into something that can harm you, so that you can avoid. That is, you would pay attention to, and have interest in, the horrific, because in the ancestral environment, those who ‘tuned in’ to horrible events left more descendants, logically because they were able to escape harmful stimuli.”
If you’re interested in becoming part of the true crime fan club, check out these sources:
- My Favorite Murder
- American Crime Story
- I Survived
- Buzzfeed Unsolved
However, before tuning in, while it might be entertaining or relieving to hear people talk about these gruesome stories, it’s important to remember that they are real and were very traumatic endings to many, many promising lives. Take a minute to remember the victims and the pain they suffered.