We Need To Stop Romanticizing Serial Killers

Jordan Claes

We've come a considerable way as a society when it comes to the ideals of gender equality. But even in the wake of the #MeToo Movement, it seems that Hollywood still has a hard time differentiating between romance and emotional abuse.

Our inability to distinguish one from the other is creating more harm than good, which is why we need to stop romanticizing serial killers like Joe from You as quickly as is humanly possible.

As crazy as it might seem, romanticizing serial killers is nothing new. It's been happening for literally hundreds of years.

One of the most well-known examples of this type of fetishism took place over a century ago.

From August 7th until September 10th 1888, at least five prostitutes were murdered on the streets of London, England. After the fifth victim was found, the killings stopped just as suddenly as they began.

The killer's true identity was never discovered, but the world came to know him by another name — Jack the Ripper.

This twisted and macabre fascination with serial murderers exploded in the 1970s during the trial of Ted Bundy.

Ted Bundy came from an average working-class home. He graduated from the University of Washington and planned to study law in Utah. Ted was well-liked by his peers and many considered him to be friendly, charming, as well as incredibly handsome.

In 1989, he was put to death after confessing to the killings of at least 36 women between 1973-1979. Ironically, the killings made Ted something of a celebrity and he was the first nationally televised murder trial in American history.

In the past 30 years alone, there have been countless examples of serial killer culture infiltrating our paradigm.

CNET | Netflix

Films like Natural Born Killers or The Watcher starring Keanu Reeves are easy targets. Heck, I myself was utterly obsessed with Dexter up until season 5 (thanks for nothing, Julia Stiles).

But lately, there's a new show that's caught my attention. One that I feel comes a little too close to transcending the barriers of reality. I'm talking about Joe Goldberg; I'm talking about You.

If you haven't seen it, *You* follows bookshop manager Joe Goldberg on a spiraling psychotic descent into murder.

Joe begins stalking an aspiring writer named Guinevere Beck. After infiltrating her life via social media, Joe manipulates Beck into a budding romantic relationship.

Time passes and Beck begins to slowly chip away at Joe's precarious house of cards, eventually seeing him for the monster that he truly is. Faced with the threat of exposure, Joe kidnaps Beck and eventually murders her when she tries to escape.

What's most dangerous about *You* and other films/series like it, is that it manipulates audiences into feeling empathy.

Up until recently, filmmakers weren't interested in making their audiences empathize with monsters. Now, it's all we see. The lines have become so blurry between hero and villain that most have trouble discerning between the two.

When we begin empathizing or rationalizing acts of abhorrent violence, especially when they're directed toward women, we become willing participants in the act itself. It's almost as if we're vicariously playing out our darkest revenge fantasies.

Furthermore, this warped portrayal of male sexuality and dominance is incredibly detrimental.

Has anyone paused for a moment to consider whether or not casting hunky dreamboats like Zac Efron to play Ted Bundy or Penn Badgley to play Joe Goldberg might be sending a harmful message to the wider female audience at large?

I don't know about you, but I for one don't think it's a particularly good idea to be conveying the idea that women should glorify and sexualize characters whose only goal is to hurt them. I guess I'm just old fashioned that way.

So what do Jack the Ripper, Ted Bundy, and Joe Goldberg all have in common? Far too much, I'm afraid.

You does little more than to scapegoat and victimize its female characters. It perpetuates a false idea that women inherently have something to apologize for and that the violent (often brutal) acts we see befall them, fictionalized or not, are somehow warranted.

It's the whole "she was asking for it" argument re-bottled and re-packaged for an entirely new generation of aspiring women-haters. These men don't deserve our sympathy but they should warrant our outrage.