Serial Killers, The Media and America’s Fascination
Turn on the television in any given evening and you can catch an episode or 20 of any number of crime shows (and all of their spin-offs) that showcases an intricate plot and horrific crimes. It is not uncommon for the viewer to get “sucked” into the storyline and then become personally invested in the outcome of the story. I often wonder what it is about theses crime shows and psychological thriller series that keep the viewer’s tuning in. What’s s the draw? Not only do we become drawn in, but at some point we even become infatuated with the subject matter and long to see more. Have was as a society completely lost all sense of right ...view middle of the document...
An individual today can now obtain fame not through recognition of achievement, but by being seen. Once merit-based fame ceased to have any meaning in society, it was no longer necessary to distinguish between good and bad forms of fame. One can see this trend in contemporary times; obsessed fans attack public figures and become famous themselves. Therefore one can easily see how the media plays an essential role in defining fame today. Murder cases that are covered extensively by the media have been known to make the killer famous. What is it about our society that makes us want to know not just the murder but also the person behind these murders?
Change in Media Reporting. Around 1985 there was a notable change in the way the news media represented crime. During the late 1980s, newspapers and television news shows lowered their editorial standards in order to compete with tabloid media such as The Examiner and the National Enquirer (Kraijeck 30). This “tabloidization” of the mainstream media has had a particularly damaging impact on the reporting of crime. Instead of an unbiased account, the American public received sensationalized stories about “the crimes of the century” and the criminals that commit them. Any type of celebrities who have committed crimes are usually at the forefront of the media frenzy; a good example of the “media circus” can be found by looking at the news coverage surrounding the O.J. Simpson incident.
Has the Media Created a Market for Death? In today’s day of journalism, newspapers, news broadcasts, and other media sources are constantly publicizing violent crimes, keeping the general public informed, and to some extent afraid of the world outside their homes. The convening of the public around violent scenes has come to make up what Mark Seltzer calls a “wound culture,” which he defines as “the public fascination with torn and open bodies and torn and opened persons, a collective gathering around shock, trauma, and the wound” (Seltzer 2). Given the sheer volume of crime stories in the media and on television for pleasure viewing, it is safe to say that the public is fascinated. It was sometime during the twentieth century that the superstar of our “wound culture” emerged; the serial killer.
The media coverage surrounding serial killers and their crimes has become overwhelming. Initial news stories of the killer are typically supplemented by biographies and other published accounts depicting the killer’s crimes. As a result, the serial killer becomes immortalized and then established as a household name. With the help of the media, serial killing has become more than a series of murders, it has also become a fast track for fame.
Killer Memorabilia = “Murderabilia”. Given the media’s ability to intrigue the public through its coverage of violent crimes, the media in essence, has created a market for death. It helped manufacture a serial...