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BuzzFix | Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, Chandrakant Jha: What Serial Killers Say About Us

By: Shaoni Sarkar

Edited By: Anurag Verma

News18.com

Last Updated: September 30, 2022, 10:27 IST

International

Evan Peters, Zac Efron  only lend the comfort of the actors' own personas that obfuscate the real-world repugnance of crime. (Credits: Twitter)

Evan Peters, Zac Efron only lend the comfort of the actors' own personas that obfuscate the real-world repugnance of crime. (Credits: Twitter)

While many a Netflix viewer may suspect that something in them is perhaps evil or broken or both- the part that sympathizes with serial killers or admires them- in reality, most of us just aren't that interesting.

The real-life Jeffrey Dahmer had neither the advantage of Evan Peters’ facial features nor the benefit of good lighting on a Netflix show’s set. Ted Bundy, like most people, did not have Zac Efron’s physique. The outrage against Netflix’s latest Dahmer rendition ‘Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story’ might only be the boiling point because the “romanticization" of serial killers as a phenomenon has never needed the aid of Netflix’s glitz. Even when Dahmer and Bundy were sitting inside jail cells, the process of their mythologization had already begun. They were getting fan mails and money; in Bundy’s case, he got married while he was on death row.

The Serial Killer Myth Precedes Netflix

Pop culture’s glorification of serial killers perpetuates, but has not created the murderers’ “fandom." What’s one thing that serial killers and popstars have in common? The persona: the glittering aura that fashions a smokescreen of an individual that gobbles up the gravity of their crimes or the depth (or lack thereof) of their talents. But what actually is the origin of the serial killer’s mythical persona? Is it true that something in human nature yields unquestioningly to the seduction of the dark, the evil, or the macabre?

Pop culture’s presentation of serial killers evokes an emotion that you would expect to have for a beloved antihero; say, a misunderstood, poetic vampire, or a passionate, rebellious werewolf. NBC’s Hannibal portrays the cannibal almost like a work of art- inscrutable, almost noble in the stature and execution of his crimes. In reality, Dahmer’s or Bundy’s “work" was seldom intricate and they fumbled the bag multiple times. The latest Dahmer show starring Evan Peters shows one incident where a clumsy Dahmer accidentally drugs himself before drugging his victim, and another, wherein he is discovered by his grandmother while he is attempting to murder a man.

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No Masterminds

It is well-known by now that there were larger systemic failures that allowed Dahmer to get away with his crimes against people of colour- whole institutions all too willing to look the other way and to grant him the benefit of the doubt. While it may be true that the more sinister aspects of human nature hold a certain allure, less considered is the fact that racial paradigms might be responsible for the creation of the persona itself.

Most accounts of Bundy describe him as a charming, suave seducer who gulled and lured his victims, almost as if it was something to his credit. It conveniently takes the focus off of the fact that his victims were women who lived in a culture that gave them comparatively less reason to mistrust a white man, who was in all apparent ways, perfectly average. After all, the white man has, in global culture, colonized the pinnacle of all things Good and True. Add to this the fact that Bundy was often pretending to be hurt or injured to beguile his victims, and you realise that there was no innovation at play here, just plain old deception.

Most of Dahmer’s victims were Black men who frequented gay bars at a notoriously homophobic time, and like most victims, were not expecting to run into a serial killer in such a setting. There were no masterminds in these situations, no evil-genius-mad-scientist, but simply, average white men who justifiably believed that they could get away with their crimes. In fact, Bundy was caught three times before he was finally locked up for good.

Not All Serial Killers Are Equal

As per a 2005 study by a Boise State University researcher, “African Americans and Serial Killing in the Media," Black serial killers did not generate as much media interest because their victims were also Black. It is for anyone to see that Black serial killers are not eulogized the way Dahmer is, even though his victims were also predominantly Black. Ironically, racial and class privileges maintain their stronghold here as well as anywhere.

Our culture does not afford the same star status to serial killers of colour. Netflix’s “Indian Predator: The Butcher of Delhi" shows a serial killer based on Chandrakant Jha, who was a vendor at Delhi’s weekly bazaars. He got the death penalty in 2013, but even as the show draws in viewers, Jha does not have star-struck admirers elevating him to cult statuses afforded to Dahmer or Bundy. Jha just isn’t the man onto whom one would want to project their violent fantasies; he is too much of the “other," not someone on whom our culture can, with any degree of ease, confer a heroic status of any kind.

Are You Broken If You ‘Like’ Serial Killers?

When all is said and done, those who find Bundy or Dahmer attractive are not likely to be any less or more evil than you and me. People who think they would have enjoyed a rendezvous with Dahmer have probably never encountered the stench of rotten human flesh on a person who has eaten it. Although most people have met at least one person who believes “women are merchandise," (as described by Bundy in psychological profiling of someone who would have committed the crimes that he did) they have probably not had it laid down for them in as many words.

Netflix’s general viewers are so far removed from the realities of the crimes committed by these serial killers that they probably do not think of Bundy or Dahmer as any different from the fictional Joe Goldberg from “You." Penn Badgley, who plays Joe, said in an interview with Vanity Fair, “We can’t lead ourselves to believe that if Joe would simply find the right person that he would be happy — because he’s a f**ing murderer."

Evan Peters, Zac Efron, and Penn Badgley only lend the comfort of the actors’ own personas that obfuscate the real-world (potentially real-world, in case of ‘You’) repugnance of crimes like assault, murder, and cannibalism. The problems of the global cultural obsession with serial killers began long before the mythologies turned poetic, i.e., with the killers themselves.

While many a viewer may suspect that something in them is perhaps evil or broken or both- the part that sympathizes with these killers or admires them- in reality, most of us just aren’t that interesting. In fact, some sympathy may even be due; restorative justice is not something to be looked down upon. However, the curiosity, the fervour, and the ambiance around serial killers are just a decoy calling attention off of the same patterns of oppression and injustice that are occurring everyday, right down to this moment, and with far more frequency than the odd cannibalistic serial killer being unleashed amongst us.

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first published:September 30, 2022, 09:20 IST
last updated:September 30, 2022, 10:27 IST