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Monday, April 22, 2024

Why romanticizing serial killers can be dangerous

It’s important to recognize when our media consumption is playing into a culture that sensationalizes these individuals



Serial killers have been a popular subject of recent Netflix originals, viral TikToks and true crime podcasts in which there is a tendency to romanticize them. As there is now a suspected serial killer in the Bay Area, it’s important to remember not to feed into this rampant sensationalization. 

Over a span of three months, five homicides took place in Stockton. In their investigation, police have linked them to the same suspect, and on Sept. 4, they announced that two additional homicides that occurred in 2021 may also be connected. 

This series of fatal shootings across the Bay Area has led authorities to suspect a serial killer is responsible and at large. On Oct. 4, Stockton Police released a video of a possible person of interest on Twitter.

The victims who were killed by the suspect are Paul Alexander Yaw, Salvador William Debudey Jr., Jonathan Hernandez Rodriguez, Juan Cruz, Lorenzo Lopez and Juan Vasquez Serrano. One victim, Natasha LaTour, was shot in April 2021 but survived the attack.

While people often know the stories of serial killers, it’s less common to hear about the victims and survivors. Pop culture has played into society’s morbid fascination with these individuals, creating countless TV shows, podcasts and documentaries humanizing the killers and detailing their methods. Real-life serial killers have even taken inspiration from crime-based television shows. When consuming this kind of content, it is important to remember that these victims are real people and not just characters.

One example includes the new Netflix original series “Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” which has received criticism regarding how the show depicts the victims. The families of the victims of Dahmer have been taking to social media to express their concern. Eric Perry, whose cousin, Errol Lindsey, was killed by Dahmer, tweeted that shows like these are “retraumatizing” his family and the families of all of the victims alike.

“Monster,” which is now the second-most-watched English show on Netflix of all time, isn’t the only example of the increasing popularity of serial killers in pop culture. True crime is the most “in-demand” documentary genre in the U.S. There have even been instances where TikTok users “stan” serial killers and share their adoration on social media. 

News media has also played a part in sensationalizing serial killers. Oftentimes, these individuals crave admiration and attention for their crimes, so when news outlets begin to nickname them and treat them like trading card characters, there can be dangerous results. While giving a serial killer a catchy nickname might sell more papers or scare people enough to pay attention to the news for once, it comes at the cost of potentially increasing the problem. These nicknames also help give serial killers more notoriety and infamy, often playing into what they want.

Although The Aggie doesn’t often cover violent crime, we do our best as a news outlet to avoid sensationalization when discussing sensitive topics. It is important to report on these events, but when doing so, journalists should focus on the facts and information that are relevant to readers.

It can be dangerous to glorify these serial killers, so it’s best to not give them catchy nicknames just because it makes a good headline or a highly-profitable Netflix original.


Written by: The Editorial Board