The Threat of “True Crime”
Watching Dahmer won’t make every viewer a serial killer, but it won’t help us love our neighbors either. As Marshall McLuhan observed, we become what we behold.
John StonestreetMaria Baer
One of the most popular shows ever produced by Netflix is a new, dramatized series about serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who murdered 17 people in the 1980s. Viewers have collectively spent more than 700 million hours streaming the show, which includes graphic depictions of torture and death.
The show’s popularity points to the human obsession with violence and evil. The true crime genre has exploded in recent years, which may not only reveal a problem … it could also create problems.
After all, art shapes our imaginations and therefore can affect our behavior. Research demonstrates that everything from eating disorders to self-harm, crime, gender dysphoria, and even facial tics can be learned by exposure. This is what is meant by “social contagion.”
Watching this series won’t make every viewer a serial killer, but it won’t help us love our neighbors either. As Marshall McLuhan observed, we become what we behold. And eBay is reporting an influx of “Jeffrey Dahmer Halloween costumes” listed for sale.
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