Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Glamourous Jack

           Why does the media glamorize serial killers? Some could argue the media glamorizes serial killers to make a profit by putting the graphic and disturbing story on the front page next to a big blood stained photograph to catch the reader’s eye. Others could say that journalists or media professionals may have hidden agendas such as becoming famous for breaking a murder mystery story. It is no secret that news reporters receive recognition and profit for focusing on violent criminal acts. For the case of Jack the Ripper, a multiple murder mystery was created and fabricated by the media to create hype around the story, but eventually resulted in fascination that still exists today.
Murder has been around for centuries but no one was interested in meeting a killer who slit someone’s throat in a dark London alley. However serial killers were an outcome of the industrial time and didn’t really happen until the late 18th century. Some argue the birth of serial killers was the result of a more modernized society. As the growth of newspapers, pamphlets, and then the television- the media became interested in serial killers and resulted in a societal interest. Of course Jack the Ripper is one of the most well known serial killers in history because he established a particular style of murder. He would lure east end London prostitutes by acting like an interested customer and then slit their throats all the way across, cut them open from the vagina to the breast and throw their guts over their right shoulder. What is vital to think about is the three way relationship between the killer, the media, and the audience. 
 Was it the media spotlight on killers that drove the rise of victims during the 20th century? Unfortunately the fact is we live in a mediated world because what is depicted in the media has the power to influence and shape our perceptions and psyche. If the public’s link to the outside world is through the media, which features murder and mayhem it is bound to have an effect on the attitudes, beliefs, and values the public adopt and display. For example, the media influence is apparent though the public’s behavior regarding violence.  Serial killer stories need a certain type of audience, one that is always in pursuit of entertainment, shock and awe, and a fascination with stardom. Due to the saturation of violent images and stories in the media society has become desensitized and resulted in the normalization of violence. Similarly, the desire to be shocked by violence is very similar to the desire to see someone naked. As Berger (1977) claims a feeling of excitement occurs during the moment of seeing someone naked for the first time and results in an element of banality. Furthermore, it doesn’t matter if it’s the first time or hundredth that nakedness results in a positive feeling. Lastly, Berger (1977) argues the sexual experience of nakedness is a process rather than a state. Seeing someone naked or seeing a gruesome image has shock value and people want to feel stimulated through sex or violence. Murderers and pornography have established their cultural place since violence and nudity has become a collective spectacle and one of the sites where private desire and public fantasy cross paths.
                Furthermore, society has become bombarded by images, for example, an average person is 3,500 ad messages a day according to Adbusters magazine. It is due to this image saturation that contributes to passive viewers of media messages. Furthermore, during the coming of age of literacy, the left brain thinking was more prominent but nowadays society is asked to think in terms of images. Today thinking in images or right brain thinking is predominated. As a result, the invention of television and visual mediums have sharply reversed left hemisphere dominance and increased the use of the right brain. In general, the left side of the brain is more rational and the right side is more creative and artistic. As Freud has pointed out, language and image are also situated in separate parts of the brain. Freud referred to primary (which is more image based) and secondary processes (which is more language based) are the two different levels a viewer interacts with the media. The primary process is more of a gut feeling, or an unconscious response, but the primary process is not able to learn from experience. On the other hand, the secondary response is more intellectual and takes a moral or logical response and can learn from experience since it’s based on language. Freud goes on to argue that once someone has learned a language the secondary processing takes over from the primary, but primary processing still happens unconsciously, like in dreams. Perhaps this can explain the desire to watch violence on television, because we can acknowledge the difference between good and evil at the logical/ verbal level but evil characters can still remain entertaining, interesting, or thrilling at the image/visual level. Unfortunately due to overexposure of violent images the audience is left as passive spectators and uncritical states of mind can result in boredom and create the urge to find new stimuli or the hunger for more gory violence.
                An example of the desire to be closer to violent acts of crime or the fascination with serial killers is a new industry called “Murderabilia.” For example, a Jack the Ripper action figure is expected to be produced in the future. What’s more is the sale of products made by serial killers. These products include anything from a lock of hair, a drawing, a finger nail, or even a brick from Jeffry Dahmer’s apartment building. This trend makes me question if the people buying these products really know what they are supporting? However anyone who rents a film, or buys a movie ticket which promotes acts of serial killing is guilty. Even those of us who know the names of serial killers, like Jack the Ripper or Jeffry Dahmer have been impacted by the glamorization of serial killer stardom. As a result, all of us spectators and consumers of the mass media are part of the cyclical relationship between the serial killer, the media, and the audience.

No comments:

Post a Comment