A killer obsession: Why we love TV killers

2016-06-21 22:00

Johannesburg - Serial killers are one of the hottest trends on TV these days. It’s obvious that television networks are making a killing (pardon the pun) with this sort of programming nowadays. But why are we so obsessed with serial killers? And why do they make for such good TV?

1. They give us a rush

Besides the popular Dexter, there’s also And Then There Were None, Hannibal, The Following, Ripper Street and True Detective to name a few, that share a serial killer storyline. 

These series have flooded our TV screens with images of body bags, morgue slabs, pale corpses and all the violence normally tied to such gruesome, grisly crimes. According to Dr Scott A Bonn, a professor of criminology, media expert and former vice president at NBC Television Network, “serial killers seem so purely predatory and unremorseful that our society cannot help but display a macabre interest in them.” 

He explains that serial killers receive a huge amount of media attention due to the unfathomable savagery of their deeds and says we just can’t help watching.

“Many of us just can’t help watching the spectacle of serial killers, and we receive a rush of adrenaline from their deeds, although it is often difficult for us to admit, and we may feel a bit guilty about the inappropriate thrill that their horrible acts offer us. Serial killers seem to appeal to our most basic and powerful instinct – that is, survival.”

2. We’re drawn to the darkness

We asked senior lecturer of Film and Television Studies at the University of Cape Town, Dr Ian-Malcolm Rijsdijk why serial killers are so intriguing. He believes our fascination with serial killers stems partly from a human capacity to imagine horror – even as we flinch from it. 

“Think of Edgar Allen Poe and Mary Shelley as two of the most obvious examples. We are drawn to stories of catastrophe but we are also drawn to tales of human darkness because, in some way they might reflect our own subconscious desires.” 

Dr Rijsdijk explains that, “television allows a safe space of play because of the constant domestic context. Television also allows for longer-running character development. So, for example, a character like Hannibal Lecter – as powerful and engrossing as he is in The Silence of the Lambs as played by Anthony Hopkins – can grow in very interesting and personal ways when the subject of a long-running narrative, as we now see in the series Hannibal.” 

3. It’s what people want

Meanwhile, TV networks have defended their shows in the media. When serial killer thriller The Following made its debut in America, FOX Entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly said, "Well, clearly there's an appetite, OK? Let's just say that for a fact." 

He was talking at a press conference to promote The Following and explained the success of these types of shows to the audience, some of whom were concerned that the show’s content is too gory: "We can look at the success not only on television, but in the box office and in all aspects of entertainment and media. People like these things, OK? So that is the business that we're in, of providing things that people like." So put the kiddies to bed and curl up with some killer thrillers.

Watch Dexter, Hannibal, Ripper Street, The Following and True Detective now by signing up for your free seven-day trial at www.ShowMax.com.

(Sources: Why We Love Serial Killers by Dr Scott Bonn, Docbonn.com, Hollywoodreporter.com)

Read more on:    showmax  |  tv  |  dexter

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