San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

Stop glorifying serial killers as Halloween costumes and Hollywood stars

A growing fascination with serial killers in pop culture has left people desensitized to their horrific crimes
Illustration by Gabrielle Houser

As a generation, we’ve been guilty of listening to true-crime podcasts like it’s white noise in the background. We know the type of girls who can watch episodes about cold-blooded murder without batting an eye, or the boys on Halloween who dress up as serial killers we’ve seen on TV.

It’s easy to forget that these are real stories attached to real victims. But with every gruesome detail, it satisfies our curiosity to understand the mind of a killer.

The most complex minds we can’t help but gravitate to belong to serial killers. Names like Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy and Jeffrey Dahmer are well-known not only for their horrific crimes but also from popular adaptations that retell their stories over and over again.

Television series, movies and documentaries have sensationalized our country’s most notorious serial killers and to make things worse, have used famous actors to romanticize them and their crimes further on the silver screen.

Their growing fan base is evident on Halloween night when people in costumes of real-life serial killers are seen roaming the streets alongside young trick-or-treaters. On sale for $39.98, you can purchase a “Jeffrey Dahmer Fancy Dress Pack,” which includes an orange jumpsuit, blond wig and his signature aviator glasses.

For $39.98, people are willing to lose sight of the 17 boys and men who were brutally murdered by the infamous Milwaukee Monster.

In 2022, Netflix announced that its series “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” surpassed 1 billion hours viewed, making it one of the most-watched series on their platform. The company also released a successful docuseries based on the interrogation tapes of John Wayne Gacy. In 2019, Netflix made $9.8 million in theaters and had even more of an impact on streaming with their Ted Bundy adaptation, “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,” starring Hollywood heartthrob Zac Efron.

A huge streaming service like Netflix is able to profit off the twisted minds of serial killers and award them celebrity status in the media by choosing to retell their stories rather than focusing on the lives of the victims they took.

The scariest part about all of this is how unfazed people are when it comes to real-life serial killers. At least when it comes to fictional characters like Hannibal Lecter or Jigsaw, we can tell ourselves that they’re not real so they can’t hurt us. But the names of the serial killers we know so well are real. They were once people who walked amongst us, undetected, and that is what gives us a reason to fear them.

Between 1970 and 2000, the nation was overwhelmed by an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty as law enforcement scrambled to capture hundreds of serial killers across the United States. Today, serial killers no longer strike fear into people’s hearts — they spark fascination.

It’s fascination that makes people believe it’s okay to bring back serial killers from our past as costumes on Halloween night. It’s a disconnect that encourages them to walk into Milwaukee bars dressed as Jeffrey Dahmer as a joke when his last victim was taken only 32 years ago in that same neighborhood. Social media is also a scary place where thousands of users online have created trends and challenges on TikTok that idolize infamous serial killers.

This needs to end. Serial killers are not meant to be Halloween costumes. They are not meant to be Hollywood stars in films or trends on social media.

Imagine how the families of victims feel to see the most traumatizing parts of their lives reduced to a binge-worthy show on Netflix. Imagine if you had to see people on Halloween dressing up as the monster that took away your loved ones.

It’s sickening that we’ve allowed ourselves to glorify the killers and forget about the victims. When choosing your costume this Halloween, be mindful of the victims’ families and don’t dress up as a serial killer from our history.

Next time you’re scrolling through streaming services, stay away from studio remakes that attempt to humanize serial killers and profit off their heinous crimes. We can’t forget that there is a real evil in this world that inspired our classic horror movies and scary stories to tell in the dark.

People need to stop giving serial killers fame beyond the grave. Let them burn in hell where they belong.

About the Contributor
Serena Neumeyer
Serena Neumeyer, '23-24 Social Media Editor
Serena Neumeyer (she/her/hers) is a fourth-year honors student studying journalism with a minor in interdisciplinary studies. Her passion for storytelling has driven her as a writer across different media platforms including newspaper, magazine and broadcast. She led the first multimedia team to cover the Rolling Loud music festival in Los Angeles where she made her social media debut and later joined the 2023-2024 editorial board as social media editor. Her social media management skills even extend beyond the Daily Aztec newsroom and to her role as social media coordinator for SDSU’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. This year, she worked collaboratively with talented writers and graphic designers to develop the first Journalism and Media Studies magazine, AMOR magazine, which explored the contemporary art scene on campus. For Neumeyer’s contributions as a student journalist, she was recognized by the San Diego Press Club Foundation and awarded with the Frank Saldana Memorial Scholarship.