Hi there, and welcome to another blog of me over-analysing everything!
Like a lot of people, I find myself fascinated with true crime. Whenever I want something new and interesting to watch I will always turn to a Netflix crime documentary. I sometimes find that I am so used to watching them that I know what's coming, or I am overly engrossed in them to the point where I'm actually calling killers out for doing stupid stuff that gets them caught. These documentaries are literally teaching us how to get away with murder, but they're so gripping.
I've found myself draw to these kinds of programs since I was a teenager. I find all human behaviour so engaging to examine and analyse. Now I find myself asking the question of whether we (as a society) and internet/film culture contribute to the bigger picture. Why are these documentaries and films made? For factual or entertainment purposes? Do we glamorise killers? Or do we all watch them horrified?
I ask myself this all the time, and quite honestly I'm not sure where I stand on it. Let's look at true crime first. Documentaries, or films, surrounding the Moors Murders, Ted Bundy or Bonnie and Clyde are factual. They tell a story of things that actually happened, but they are also so extreme that we can't not watch them. They are so horrific they keep us interested. Last year when Zac Efron played the leading role of Ted Bundy in a remake of his life there was a lot of stigma attached for so-called romanticisation. I didn't understand this. The film portrayed Bundy the way he was actually viewed in life; a wealthy, educated white man. While we can hope that Zac Efron is 'too attractive' to play a serial killer, we know that's not the case. Had Bundy looked scruffy, creepy or weird the chances are fewer killings would have happened.
We either couldn't believe that killers look like 'normal' individuals, or we are scared to normalise their lives and the way the lived. While I don't quite understand why we love hearing about these awful events we do. I recently watched The Highwaymen on Netflix, which is a film based on how Bonnie and Clyde were eventually caught and killed. I found the film actually really disturbing. I thought it was a great film to watch, but it showed the true events of how beloved and almost fashionable the killers were. With over 20,000 people attending their funerals, they were somehow a style.
Another true crime example is the Don't F*** With Cats docuseries which tells the story of Canadian killer Luka Magnotta. I didn't quite realise what I was getting myself into before I watched, and before you do I will warn you it is gruesome. The story starts in 2010 when a video was uploaded to YouTube of a man killing kittens. As the video is being watched outrage sparks Facebook and a group is actually made to find whoever it is. Over a two year period, 2 more kitten videos are posted and the group know who is posting them, but they can't find where he is. To cut a very long story short, the kitten killer goes on to kill an actual person.
While the series talks a lot about how so many killers start off by killing animals and that it was almost inevitable that he would kill someone, there is one thing that impacts this story so heavily. The internet and social media. We know that some serial killers like the attention it brings, they crave it. They almost fantasise with the idea of power they hold. Hindley and Brady both took photographs of their victims before and after the murders. They then used that against everyone. They had the power of knowing where their bodies were, and they knew that without them no one would know.
Magnotta enjoyed the attention he received, good or bad. He craved it. He got what he wanted when people reacted to those videos. At the end of the series, you hear from the victim's friend who puts across that we are all focusing way too much on the killers, and not on the victims. We remember who killed but not the lives they took. Now I agree with that, but I agree more with the 'internet nerds' who found him. In the end, they question whether they gave Magnotta what he wanted and that is what lead to the escalation of his crimes. Had he gotten no response from the original video, would he have got on to this? Would he have actually killed someone if he didn't get the attention from it?
This may seem like a stupid question, and I don't think it applies to everyone. Ted Bundy would have killed anyway because his power came from getting away with it. He didn't want to be caught. Myra Hindley and Ian Brady probably would have killed too, their power was also held elsewhere. But Magnotta always wanted to be caught. He wanted the publicity from the capture. He had a platform where he was able to give himself what he wanted. He was able to make himself feel important, dominant and powerful through social media and people's responses.
Now I'm not saying these people shouldn't have reacted, because I sure would have too. I actually think they did a really good job because he was caught. They contributed to his capture. What I'm really asking is how 'bad' can social media make things? I put bad in quotations because this is all awful. When we think of the worst serial killers in the world, Ted Bundy is up there. Just imagine the amount of press, media coverage and social media talk there would be about him nowadays.
As I said above, I don't believe this idea would be the case with every killer, but it does really make me think. Would this individuals situation escalated to the extent it did if social media didn't exist? Did social media contribute to this murder? Do we cause the cycle to continue? Now this only discussing true crime. Likewise, these are events that actually happened, they are somewhat educational or informative.
Our fascination with fictional crime programmes makes even less sense. The second series of the Netflix show 'You' was the fifth most-watched programme of 2019 on the streaming service, despite it being realised on 26th December 2019. If you've seen the show then you know how gripping it is, but it's almost like the second series was a test to see how far they would or could go. Similarly to the show '13 Reasons Why', which highlights the struggle individuals go through prior to committing suicide. As if the topic of suicide isn't tough enough to squeeze into a show, they also attempt to illustrate criminal offences attached to sexual abuse and rape.
We are obsessed with seeing how far people will go. While you could argue that these shows have a real-life representation due to their topics, they are of course exaggerated for entertainment. When Luka Magnotta was arrested for murder it became clear that his attacks had all be preplanned, possibly years in advance. It was also noticed that Magnotta seemed to be acting out a movie. He was described as a film addict, particularly films which portrayed the perfect murder or chase. I don't think movies or shows lead people to commit a murder, but I do think they add to ideas. They create ideas.
Saying that this is not going to change my viewing habits, but I'm not a psychopath. I think our interest in crime comes from a good place, and it is obviously only the very few that would watch a programme on a serial killer and think 'that's cool, let's try it.' The majority of individuals are not going to be motivated by crime documentaries.
Watch crime stories, but also watch what you post online. Don't let your post be the cause of negativity.