The brown locks are perfectly synchronized with the hue of the enticing eyes, which are curtained by the long lashes. Lashes, as long as their list of murders; locks, as tangled as their psyche. “Jawline”, as sharp as the weapons they might have used to mercilessly kill the innocent human beings who comparatively were not as good looking as required in order to sympathize with.
In 2018, street racer Cameron Herring along with his friend John Barrineau were found guilty for their role in the death of a mother, Jessica Resinger and her 21-month-old daughter, Lillia, in a street racing crash on Bay Shore Boulevard, Florida. “Finding him guilty on two counts of vehicular homicide, Herring was sentenced to nine years in Florida state prison for the first count and a total of 15 years for the second,” wrote the local news of Tampa Bay, Florida. It was a quite transparent of a case, where one would expect the reactions of sympathy for the mother-daughter duo and expressions of rage for the street racers. But if the world was as facile, I would not be here writing this article.
Quite unexpectedly, the ‘handsome’ Cameron Herring’s sentencing left thousands of people divided. It was his looks and his stares while sitting in the courtroom, as a consequence of felony, that became a source for the people to reject the claims and call for a second chance, claiming that his punishment was too much for an accident. Sadly, this is not something new to the corrupt and sick world.
On a more extensive level, appears the case of the notorious serial killer, Ted Bundy, a man who killed over thirty women back in 1979. Bundy is known to have received fan mails, empathizing and supporting him, while being put on trial. “Call me crazy but Ted Bundy is hot.” Tweets like these were trending since the premiering of the series ‘Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes’, which is known to have surged jam-packed tweets, romanticizing the killer, and not focusing on what the series truly meant to bring out to the world.
Being attracted and to develop a sexual interest for those who commit crimes is defined as Hybristophilia. Given the human curiosity, it is somewhat natural to be intrigued by the nature of the serial killers in order to understand the individuals on a human level. This has led to the widespread popularity of films and documentaries inspired by the criminals. But where does curiosity end and obsessions begin?
Pictures of the ‘charismatic’ killers like Bundy, are found juxtaposed with crowns, and texts, lusting over their mugshots in ‘True Crime Community’, an online platform on Tumblr made by people, mainly women for the sole purpose of adulating serial killers. With an ample of content options on platforms such as TikTok, a section of teens choose to create modelling videos, imitating murderers, where they dress up as killers like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer or Charles Manson, and pose for the camera. Although it may seem as if not much goes on in making these videos, but just the notion of copying murderers, (without any apparent cause) gives out the statement, “I’ll murder people hotly!” which is unsettling enough to be concerned with.
Another big issue coming in the same sphere as this is the popularizing of movies that glorify domestic abuse, consequently leading to the bolstering of rape culture. Blindfolding the audience with attractive actors and sultry scenes, the makers make it seem like a “guilty pleasure romance movie”. One of the most recent examples being, the Polish erotic drama, ‘365 Days’, that has quickly gained global popularity since its debut. Even with unbelievable events and a highly unrealistic plot, the movie maintained a place in the top 10 ratings on Netflix alongside a few family-friendly hits. The movie, centering on Laura, who is kidnapped by a mafia, Massimo, who gives her 365 days to fall in love with her, overlooks the idea of consent, normalizing “the bad touch”.
The singer Duffy, a sexual assault survivor, in an open letter to Reed Hastings, the CEO and co-founder of Netflix said: “To anyone who may exclaim ‘it is just a movie’, it is not ‘just’, when it has great influence to distort a subject which is widely undiscussed, such as sex trafficking and kidnapping, by making the subject erotic.”
The more series and movies run with these troubling gender dynamics, the more normalization of such crimes happen, with millions of people thinking of it an as “okay thing to do”, leading to the eventual implementations like that of a serial killer or rapist.
Coming to the choice of casting, either it be Penn Badgely in the Netflix crime drama ‘You’, or Zac Efron, playing Ted Bundy in the 2019 film: “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile”; with this constant characterization of the attractive, and adored actors as murderers, audiences begin to build atrocious castles in the air, fantasizing about being victims of their crimes. In a series of tweets, Penn Badgely himself has asked the audience to stop romanticizing his character, ‘Joe’, and instead take a moralizing stance on the matter. “At the end of the day, Joe is a murderer with “a whole lot of problems,” the ‘You’ actor said. These portrayals in turn, also lead to a growing fan base of the criminals themselves. Instagram and Twitter have witnessed a growing presence of fan pages of Ted Bundy, since the release of Zac Efron’s 2019 film mentioned above.
The publicizing of evil through fiction, plays a big role in becoming a reality in private. Despite our society’s predilections for the ‘charismatic killers’, we need to keep in mind the innumerable innocent lives lost, what they truly deserve, and what we can do, as responsible human beings to bring a halt to this.
Maryam Hassan is a student pursuing English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Zaina Shahid Khan