Media’s idolism of murderers worrying

Illustrated by Tj Favela
Illustrated by Tj Favela

The consistent media attention given to murderers and their crimes is harmful in many ways.

With the release of Netflix’s “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story,” the ethics of true crime stories, specifically those centered on horrific murders, has once more been called into question. 

The show was released within a wave of controversy due to some of the victim’s families speaking out about the series. Specifically Rita Isbell, sister of one of Dahmer’s victims Errol Lindsey. According to an interview with Insider, Netflix did not contact Isbell about the show, yet still used an emotionally vulnerable moment recreation of her victim statement for their own benefit.

Another reason why this sparked outrage online was that Netflix initially labeled the show as LGBTQ in their categories. The show depicts young men of color being stalked and killed by a horrible man, yet it was labeled as LGBTQ content.

Netflix has since removed the label, but all of these factors lead back to the discussion of whether or not the genre of true crime has gone too far.

It seems that the obsession with these sorts of gruesome stories has reached worrying levels, even with the case of Gabby Petito’s death in August 2021. With the oversaturation of the murder media market, it’s as if we’re desensitized to the fact that people were brutally murdered.

These are actual people whose families are now having to relive the trauma of having their loved one taken from them because it’s what’s popular right now. What is worse is that there are some people who, due to the sympathetic way the murderers are portrayed, have revived the “fan clubs” they had.

These cases should be a one-and-done discussion to inform the public, as long as it’s with the victim’s family’s permission. But instead, the murderer is the headliner and the details of the victims are washed away in a wave of fan girl posts about how hot Zac Efron looked as Ted Bundy.

The constant retelling and making of documentaries about these cases do nothing to slow down the obsession the public has with true crime. The only thing it does is put more money in the pockets of the production companies because they know it’s what will get the most clicks.

In a perfect world, the discussion of these crimes can be used to inform and alert the public. Telling these stories is important because it will give the victims a chance to be seen again, but if you focus only on the person who killed them and exactly how they did it, it’s incredibly disrespectful to their memory.

The scenarios can help viewers identify when they are in a dangerous situation and how it can be prevented, but when you show the murderer in a humanizing light as they watch their victims from the bushes it’s not informative, it’s idolism.

Discussing cold cases so they can be reopened for the purpose of justice for both the victims and their families can be incredibly healing and helpful. Sensationalizing the death of a human being by telling the story multiple times for more views or dollars is just wrong.

It is alright to have an interest in these cases if you are determined to understand the case and how it can be prevented in the future, but if there is instead an obsession with the killer or the methods they used that is incredibly dangerous. There’s always the possibility of an obsession becoming too overpowering and leading someone to recreate a case they heard on some beauty YouTuber’s channel.

But apparently, in the world we live in, not only will this case be immediately documented on TikTok in a 30-part series, but there will also be a Netflix documentary released in the next year, and that is chilling to think about.