Boise Highlights

Do Serial Killers Characters in TV Shows Normalize Murders?

ChloeAnne+Fox+watching+her+favorite+TV+show%2C+Dexter.
ChloeAnne Fox watching her favorite TV show, Dexter.

ChloeAnne Fox watching her favorite TV show, Dexter.

Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Luiza Decenzi

Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Luiza Decenzi

ChloeAnne Fox watching her favorite TV show, Dexter.

Luiza Decenzi, Reporter

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With the increased interest in the entertainment industry growing annually, the variety of story lines are expanding as well. One of the fields in which the television industry is exponentially leaning towards is serial killer plots.

Avid TV watcher and sophomore at Boise High School, ChloeAnne Fox, shared her opinions on the matter. “The idea of that is interesting. How could someone do this? How could this happen? Maybe it is just so foreign.” Mr. Varela, Boise High’s AP psychology teacher, went into more detail, “there is a part of our subconscious that probably is very interested in that behavior. We can’t act it out ourselves, so we sort of live vicariously through someone that does.”

Many believe that a serial killer and a mass murderer are synonymous, or that they have to perform some kind of ritual. However, dictionaries define them as a person who kills three or more people with small intervals between each murder. The general misinformation about serial murderers come from several different outlets that do not approach or label the killers correctly. This often leads to the normalization of serial murderers.

Examples of serial killers as the main character are easily found in shows such as Dexter and Bates Motel. Other shows, such as Scream, Criminal Minds and Scream Queens, do present a serial killer, however, events are seen through the law enforcement or victim’s perspective.

The point of view of the show often changes the viewers’ attitude and support on the events. For example, one might cheer for the FBI’s arrest of the killer in Criminal Minds, but if the same circumstance were to be acted out in Dexter, the imprisonment might be frowned upon. “They [the film industry] frame things so that we can perceive it the way that they want us to perceive it.” Mr. Varela further described the case saying, “That is what is going to keep people engaged, it’s all about achievement in that sense, we are hoping that they succeed.”

Other shows display a more complicated scenario in which the unsuspecting audience is coerced into glorifying a serial murderer without being completely aware of the situation. Shows such as Arrow depict their character as a vigilante or a hero, not indicating the true nature of the character. On that note, Mr. Varela commented that “the perception of the vigilante, is almost like a hero… And so it is all about the results that people are going to interpret. They don’t care so much about the people that they are killing, they care about the ultimate goal.”

On the matter of whether these shows warned or normalized murderers, Mr. Varela added, “I think we do normalize it [serial killers]… We get desensitized to repeated stimuli, and eventually it doesn’t have the same value. But does watching it cause it? I don’t think so.”

Mr. Varela noted that the dangers of these shows do not “make you more susceptible to serial killing.” However, the effects of watching these TV shows appear in other areas. “If you are watching a video on someone killing someone else, your brain is actually acting out whatever it is that they are doing.” Mr. Varela added, “no matter what you are watching or whatever you are looking at, mirror neurons are going to mimic the behavior of whatever it is that you are looking at.”

With a rising rate of serial killer shows being targeted to a young audience, such as Riverdale, many parents are concerned with the risk of watching certain shows. “I think it is a case by case situation,” Mr. Varela stated. He addressed his personal opinion on maturity of the spectators based on his own assessment of his students by saying, “I think high school age students can handle it.” “I don’t think you miss out by never seeing it,” Mr. Varela clarified, “But I think that if they are going to watch it, that is up to the parents discretion.”

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Do Serial Killers Characters in TV Shows Normalize Murders?