Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Killing For Fame

By Katie Morton

X Factor, Big Brother and Britain’s Got Talent, are to name only a few of the shortcuts introduced to the public for the opportunity of stardom. However, in a culture utterly obsessed with becoming famous, it seems that the quest for fame has taken a dark and twisted turn.

It has been brought to the attention of many criminologists that some serial killers key motivation for killing, has been to become famous.

In an age which celebrates the well-known, as opposed to the talented, it turns out it doesn’t matter how you acquire fame because in any case, bad publicity is better than no publicity.

The Boston Strangler for example, killed several women in the pursuit of fame in the late 1960’s. Disturbingly a local paper received a call from a frantically upset man shouting: “How many people do I have to kill before I get my name in the papers or some national attention!” After a few headlines, the murders of the Boston Strangler stopped and he was never caught or herd of again.

Mark David Chapman, John Lennon's killer

Similarly, Mark David Chapman, killer of John Lennon, believed he would be famous because of the murder her committed. He said to police officers: “I thought by killing him I would acquire his fame. I was Mr Nobody until I killed the biggest somebody on earth.” Regrettably Chapman received the attention he desired with the recent release of ‘The man who killed John Lennon.’ Still serving a life sentence, Chapman, has been interviewed on many occasions as well as having a book wrote about him.

Ironically, most serial killers achieve celebrity status and to the dismay of the victim’s family, go on to attract fan bases. Commonly serial killers receive love letters, marriage proposals and gifts, which you may consider to be delusional; although, this seems not to be the case. Instead the fascination with the serial killer is a widely established interest, revealed by the success of the murderbillia industry (which sells personal belongings of the killers), said to be worth millions.

Bizarrely, toenail clippings, locks of hair and even blood have been auctioned off to fans. In one case Charles Manson’s hair was sold for $995, approximately £610.
Lee Baron of the University of Northumbria, believes that the fame of the serial killer has arose because of media attention. He said: “The serial killer, irrespective of crimes that are frequently horrific, has become a significant cultural figure that seems to share the same status as celebrity figures drawn from the worlds of film, music and sport.”

With the huge success of Hannibal Lector, people have been lead to believe that serial killers are superior, intellectual, charming and witty, which is the case for some. Ted Bundy, for example, lured women to their death with his good looks and charming personality. HeeHeHe would ask for the help of women passing by before hitting them over the head, sexually assaulting the victim, strangling, sometimes decapitating, and dumping the bodies. As a man of politics, Bundy represented himself in court, at points reducing the jury to fits of laughter, whilst flirting and telling jokes.

Contrary to popular belief, serial killers are dull, unintelligent, and self indulgent. Lee Baron, who lectures media and journalism students, believes that journalists are to blame for the celebrity status some serial killers receive: “For many, serial killers are famous people, while for others, they are actually celebrities. And it is not difficult to see why: they commit acts that are globally reported upon, and they become highly recognisable through media representation.”

Edward Gein 

In the case of Edward Gein, (in my opinion, the most extreme serial killer), his killing spree inspired the horror film, ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’. Gein, who lived in a small, rural town, was never suspected to have been the cause behind the disappearance of a number of local women; however, an unfortunate neighbour stumbled upon his homemade furniture consisting of arm chairs, made with real arms and legs, as well as human heads on his bed stand.

As scary as it is, ‘we’, the public, are fascinated by these people. It is undeniable that we find them captivating with ‘People’ magazine voting Geoffrey Dahmer (one of Americas biggest serial killers), as one of their top 100 most intriguing people of the 21st century.
Lee believes that we are in awe of such people as he tells me: “Research suggests many people are fascinated by serial killers because of the extreme nature of their crimes and because they stand outside of the law.” He also said: “In terms of perceptions of serial killers, research suggests that although many clearly are repulsed by their crimes, others are fascinated by the horrific actions of individuals.”

Until we can distinguish between fame and notoriety, many more serial killers may be motivated to kill for fame as Lee has said: “Crimes of an unspeakable nature can, it seems, make you famous.”

I believe it’s a sad state of affairs when murder is considered a worthy talent capable of making you famous. What was the saying? Good guys finish last...

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