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?
Yofee, Ellen B. “Here Pigs!” Gear October 1995: 10-12
The editors of Time Life Books Serial Killers. Alexandria, Virginia: Time Life Books, 1992.
The editors of Time Life Books Mass Murderers. Alexandria, Virginia: Time Life Books, 1992.