Serial Killers and Society


The nineteen-seventies was an incredible decade. It was a 
decade of change, one of freedom, a time for great music. It was also 
an incredible decade for shock, fear and serial killers. John Wayne 
Gacy, an amateur clown, was a pedophiliac homosexual. He tortured and 
killed thirty three little boys and stored their remains under his 
house. David Berkowitz, a.k.a. the Son of Sam, stalked New York City 
from nineteen-sixty-seven to nineteen-seventy-seven. He claimed to 
have been following a voice from his dog that told him when and where 
to kill. Ted Bundy, who is believed to have killed at least 
thirty-four people, was charged for only three under his own defense- 
and in fact, he was commended by the judge for his own defense. He was
put to death. 

 With the combination of a very powerful media and a society 
fascinated with gruesome, sadistic crimes, modern serial killers have 
been put in the spotlight. We are enraptured with serial killers so 
much, that we pay seven dollars to go see a movie where everyone 
except the bad guys gets strangled, mutilated, or shot- and enjoy it 
in some sick way. The media goes out of its way to glamorize murder 
and terrify the public. We support killers like Charles Manson on 
Death Row with our tax dollars. In fact, we support them with more 
than that. About two months ago there was an art show in California 
entitled: The Death Row Art Show III. Pieces sold for thousands of 
dollars regardless of their aesthetic appeal, because of the identity 
of the artists. Serial killers are becoming as popular as rock stars. 

 Serial killers are a development of the industrial world; they 
really didn't "come about" until the late eighteen-hundreds when 
society was becoming modernized and the threat of the new age sort of 
displaced some individuals so much they felt they had to kill to get 
their point across to society. Jack the Ripper is probably the most 
notorious killer in history because he established the serial killer 
profile. Ripper set up a pattern for the new line of mass murderers 
who would follow in the tradition of a truly organized killer. He had 
a sexual obsession with prostitutes that led him to target complete 
strangers for a days work. When he was done, he laid his victim out in 
a ritualistic manner with various disemboweled items placed 
strategically on or around the victim's corpse.

 Of course, murder has been around for centuries, committed by 
under-educated thieves. No one was interested in meeting, and hearing 
about a poor peasant that slit someones throat in a dark alley. But 
ever since the introduction of serial killers into our society, with 
their precision and strategy of the murder, the media became 
fascinated with these people, and so did society. So instead of 
killing or punishing these horrible people, we now have television 
networks arguing over movie rights to the killers story. News shows 
fighting to get the "exclusive interview". T-shirts with the killers 
faces on them(e.g.. the famous "Manson T-shirt"). The only explanation 
I can offer is that we are still obsessed with our own mortality, and 
we always will be. As long as we die, we'll be fascinated by those who 
seem to be invincible from death like, serial killers, Hitler...its 
almost as is we like to see the act of death itself, over and over, to 
observe the exact moment- or what it is that puts us over that 
incredible brink between life and death.

 I can honestly say I am fascinated with the serial killer. But 
since when did we condone the practice of serial killers? Why aren't
they put to death promptly after being convicted, instead of being 
kept alive for the media to interview? You have to wonder who is 
making money in this. When we allow people like this to dominate our 
media, it's like we're saying its all right to murder. Did society and 
the media forget that the victims of those serial killers are us and 
our families? Its not the serial killers that affected the twentieth 
century so much, but the spotlight that allowed them to grow. 

 Maybe if not for all the attention, there wouldn't of been so 
many deaths. There are so many maybes, so many problems. But it all 
comes down to one thing, basically, money. The media will do just 
about anything for money. When are they going to learn that they have 
been corrupting the minds and souls of observers everywhere?

Works Cited

Yofee, Ellen B. "Here Pigs!" Gear October 1995: 10-12

The editors of Time Life Books Serial Killers. Alexandria, Virginia: 
Time Life Books, 1992.


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