Serial Killers in television reflect a hostile society

Feminism spurs male aggression

Pop Culture reflects a society that undervalues female safety.
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When crimes against women are sensationalized in pop culture, viewers need to step back and reassess. 

As an artform, TV and film are more frequently viewed than any other, and when a common theme permeates every genre, it speaks to the interests and values of the viewer. 

In a Feb. 11 Frieze article, entitled "Return of the Serial Killer: How Psychosexual Male Panic is Infecting Pop Culture," writer and academic Masha Tupitsyn claimed there’s a correlation between the backlash against feminism and the focus on serial killers in pop culture.  

In the TV show Mindhunter, Tupitsyn observes that the male-dominated field of forensic science focuses on building up a language for the psychology of serial murdering but fail to shed a light on the misogynistic social systems that raises these killers. 

Both in television and in various societal institutions, these responses to misogynistic practices are passed off as decent and sufficient work, without corresponding prevention. 

For example, on university campuses such as Queen’s, a handful of resources are offered to students for safety purposes. These resources, however, fail to combat the danger that makes them necessary in the first place. 

Tupitsyn argues there’s a subconscious male sociopathy that breeds an interest in female victimization at the forefront of popular entertainment. 

This argument applies to the way society’s systems are structured as well. There’s a presumption that men will attack and harm women. This is what campus safety measures are for. 

University campuses offer a handful of resources for student safety, but fail to properly penalize sexual assaulters, contributing to an environment that allows crimes against women. 

With services like WalkHome, the blue lights, and campus security, students are told repeatedly that they have access to resources that will ensure their safety. 

Though that’s not exactly what these services are. These implemented “safety” features on campus—like the blue lights—aren’t preventative, they’re consequential.  

The blue lights on campus tell students: someone might try to follow you home one night or even attack you, Press this button to call for help.

While safety features offer a sense of security, they’re only helpful if something bad happens. Rather than implementing cautionary resources on campus, a better step would be to evaluate the culture that continues to produce assaulters. 

It isn’t surprising that the same culture that produces these assaulters also has an intense fascination with them in their forms of entertainment.  

In the shows and movies that Tupitsyn references like Mindhunter, The Ted Bundy Tapes, and The House That Jack Built, the serial killer presents a shocking and unfamiliar lifestyle to viewers. 

They live outside of society’s laws and behave in a way that goes against acceptability. 

This is arguably the source of intrigue: one could project their fantasy of a rule-free life on a character. 

When societal norms change—like they have in the past during the first, second, and third wave feminist movements—it unsettles those who benefit from traditionally oppressive systems. 

This explains why a lifestyle free of boundaries and restrictions—like that of the serial killer character—might seem appealing. 

Though extreme, the serial killer presents a solution to the “problem” of feminism: kill all the women. 

This isn’t to say that all men want to kill women, but rather there’s a subconscious attraction to the fantasy of living completely free and not having to be accountable for one’s actions. 

The lack of accountability is something that’s pervasive on university campuses in relation to sexual assault issues. 

For Queen’s students, sexual violence concerns are at a high, and while the Ford government has expressed support for existing rape crisis centres, they have withheld funds and dissolved the Roundtable on Violence Against Women, established under the Liberal government. 

This is a perfect example of a societal system failing to provide support for victims of violence. 

TV isn’t to blame for crimes against women, but it reflects a society that considers violence against them to be a legitimate and satisfying response to internal frustrations.  

Just like the men in Mindhunter who deal only with the aftermath of murder, safety measures on campus and in communities offer solutions to crimes they assume will inevitably happen.

They don’t do anything to prevent them in the first place. 

 

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