Netflix is bombarding us with shows and documentaries about serial killers, knowing that almost every one of their viewers will latch on and binge watch every one of them. A Netflix original show came out in early September titled ‘You’. This show, while addicting, has some very questionable moments.’“You’ is a show based around the character Joe becoming obsessed with a young woman who came into the bookstore where he was employed. Throughout the show, Joe's obsessions grow stronger, causing him to do some unspeakable things in order to grow closer to the object of his obsession. He continued to stalk her, lie his way into a relationship with her and murder anyone he felt was in his way. Joe Goldberg was played by the handsome actor, Penn Badgley, who has been quick to shut down the glorification of his character on Twitter. The real question is why are we so obsessed with characters such as Joe Goldberg?
For years before this new show ‘You’ came about, people have been obsessing over fictional killers with books, movies and TV shows such as ‘Silence of the Lambs’, ‘Bates Motel’, and my personal favorite, ‘Criminal Minds’. The movie ‘Silence of the Lambs’ is a movie about Hannibal the Cannibal, a fictional character who would eat his victims after chopping them to pieces. While the storyline of the movie was fictional, the character was loosely based on a real-life serial killer in Mexico. The show ‘Bates Motel’ shows the life of a boy, Norman Bates, and his unusual relationship with his mother. Throughout the show, you can see how his psychological health is affected by the unusual relationship and how this slowly creates a serial killer of him. The iconic show ‘Criminal Minds’ is a show about the people who catch the serial killers, allowing the audience to get inside of the minds of serial killers, which is fascinating to most viewers. This show does allow you to follow the characters through their lives and see how the traumatic events they face affect their daily lives. However, this show often shows gory and specific details of the kills that should make the show impossible to binge-watch, but it doesn’t. In fact, it makes it addicting.
Does the fascination of these fictional killers create a romantic view of serial killers? Maybe. Does it lead to a fascination with real-life serial killers? Definitely. People today are becoming obsessed with learning more about the psychology behind what makes a serial killer. This obsession is what lead to the creation of several documentaries on serial killers, such as the new Netflix series ‘The Ted Bundy Tapes’. Ted Bundy was a disgusting man who was found guilty on multiple accounts of kidnapping, rape and murder. Bundy did confess to at least 30 of the murders he committed in over seven states in the ’70s. People are going crazy over the Bundy Tapes you listen to with the new series. Some of these people are just fascinated with the mindset of one of America’s worst killers, but still, know he was a horrible man. However, there are people who have grown obsessed with Bundy himself and have created a romanticized view of him just as people did with Jeffrey Dahmer and Charles Manson. There are people out there who watch these tapes and empathize with the killers.
Some of the universal fascination with serial killers is bound to stem from the numbness to death created by society’s idea of ‘normal’. It is not unusual to turn on the news and hear of a horrific death that recently occurred, in fact, it is unusual not to hear of one. People are becoming desensitized to death, especially to murder. People see death as distant and unreal, that is until it happens to someone in their life. It’s morbid, but I think the people that empathize with serial killers are neglecting the fact that people actually did die. Parents lost their child. A human being was killed for no real reason. Serial killers are not lone wolves or misinterpreted; they're just bad people who need help.
The importance of separating yourself from the fascination you may have with the mindset of the killers in these shows. Penn Badgley has done a great job in separating his character in ‘You’ from who he really is. He continuously shuts down the fan-girls tweeting him to ‘kidnap’ them by simply replying with a ‘no thx’. As long as you understand that Ted Bundy, Charles Manson and the thousands of fictional killers on TV aren't good people, then continue watching your shows. I know I will. However, the moment you find yourself romanticizing a character like Joe Goldberg, maybe it is time to switch to a new Netflix series.