OPINION: These Documentaries Glorify Murder


A Netflix documentary about the life of the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.

Isabella Cafarelli, Shen Pen Contributor

Have you heard of Netflix’s Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story? Well, it climbed the charts very quickly. So many people are fans of the show, and serial killer documentaries have become more and more popular. Jeffrey Dahmer isn’t the only criminal who’s been gaining this attention though; others are Ted Bundy, Richard Ramirez, and John Wayne Gacy. As exciting and interesting these shows are, how ethical are they? I’m not trying to say documentaries are all bad, just the ones that are clearly Hollywood-like. They’ve influenced the media to think certain ways and the amount of attention they’re getting is becoming overwhelming and problematic.

It’s always exciting to watch action in fictional stories, but can that also be said about the events portrayed in these documentaries? They may have people sitting on the edge of their seats, but turning these moments into entertainment is insensitive to the victims of these killers. Kathy Kleiner, one of Ted Bundy’s victims, was 20 when she was attacked by him. He murdered two of her friends and shattered her jaw. Kathy, now 61, said, “I did not ask to be put on the journey with him in his life – with his killing and his abuse.” She even tried to reach out to the studio but never got a message back. She also said she couldn’t have imagined being related to one of the girl’s he’s killed and having to watch that. These shows now give these people labels and associate them with these killers. Those events were obviously traumatizing, and now they have to relive these moments that they’ve spent years recovering from.

These documentaries also give these criminals fame and attention. They use attractive and loveable actors to play as these killers. That’s good for companies money-wise, but not good for the audience. Using Zac Efron as Ted Bundy and Ross Lynch and Evan Peters as Jeffery Dahmer gives these documentaries a more glamourized look to them. This can lead to people romanticizing or even supporting these killers. Serial killers are also starting to be viewed like they’re celebrities. There are so many users on social media who show their attraction to serial killers. That is very unhealthy to think and they excuse all the horrible things they did just because they believe the killer is attractive. Even one popular Halloween costume this year is Jeffery Dahmer. A serial killer shouldn’t be someone you dress up as for a holiday; that’s just wrong.

These companies are simply profiting off of traumatic events. These documentaries are made to make money; everyone’s been obsessed with true crime lately, but these companies don’t hold back on the content they produce. Companies spend thousands of dollars to produce graphic content to make their viewer disgusted. They do that in hopes for their show to outrank others. It’s very immoral for these powerful companies to be recreating these kinds of events. Some of these killers assaulted or even ate their victims, and that’s just another great idea for these producers.

These documentaries do teach people about these criminals. Their deceptions of the killers and events are accurate. However, Hollywood can dramatize these scenes to some extent. People can also say it’s just supposed to be another form of entertainment. While these are true, this form of entertainment can be viewed as seriously problematic and insensitive to certain viewers. When people first watch these, I’m sure their first thought isn’t about how insensitive it is. Just digging deeper and realizing what’s on your screen could open someone’s eyes to how problematic documentaries like these can really be. Also, if they really cared about spreading awareness, they could have used actors that looked like the killer and not ones that would just give them popularity. Being fascinated by true crime isn’t a bad thing at all, but these shows that glamorize these killers aren’t something that should be supported

Although Hollywood serial killer documentaries are fascinating to the public, they’re actually problematic. From the way they’re produced to the reason they’re made, these documentaries are insensitive to victims, glamourize murderers, and overall, supposed to be a money maker by producers that are immoral.