by Mia Schoenbeck
In the wake of the largest school shooting of 2018, which happened on January 23 at Marshall County High School, there will likely be media and congressional attention in the form of talks of gun control as more and more details about the shooting come out. There will also be another kind of attention from an internet community known as the “True Crime Community,” which has been known to obsess over shooters to the point of sexualization. And, while I don’t think being interested in true crime is something worth condemning fans for, the fetishization of the killers — that is, idolizing people who literally killed innocents — sickens me.
There are two categories of fans of school shooters: those with “hybristophilia,” defined as having an attraction to people who have committed crimes or have done terrible things; and those with a morbid fascination of the shooters themselves, often identifying with the shooter. Both of these types of fans tend to put shooters on a pedestal, often times disrespecting the victims of the shooter’s violent crimes.
An example: There is a massive community of “Columbiners,” or people obsessed with the Columbine shooting — in particular, shooters Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris. Columbine was a 1999 school massacre often referred to one of the worst school shootings, ranking as the 5th largest school shooting in American History. To some internet users, the massacre is a source of entertainment.
Currently on Archive of Our Own, a popular website where users can anonymously post “fan works”, there are about 35 fan-fictions staring Klebold and Harris. Many of these feature the two teenagers in sexual situations with each other or with other people, often ignoring victims, or even disrespecting them. There is a lot of fan art depicting the two shooters on websites like DeviantArt and Tumblr, often depicting the illustrator in a relationship with one of the two shooters.
This idolatry of shooters and killers exists in the media as well. So many times, the names of the victims are forgotten, while the media and public hold the names of the shooters in their collective memory. When listening to reports of killings, the perpetrator and crime are always talked about more than victims are. Shows like “Law and Order” are scary examples of how society likes to hear about violent crime.
We must stop ignoring how much attention killers or perpetrators of violent crimes get. As it becomes okay for victims to disappear as the images of shooters to take over media coverage, it becomes normal to see the two teenagers who shot up their school become unlikely heroes. And as the number of shootings rises, there are more killers in the media every day.
We need to stop normalizing the fetishization of killers, by looking at how crimes are reported, by looking at how crimes are received in the public eye. It can’t be okay in society to relate to those that kill others.