Take a look at any television show with police detectives tracking down murderers and serial killers, or shows about the killers themselves. From Dexter to CSI to Criminal Minds and a bajillion other programs, it seems we’re madly in love with the inner working of the minds of crazed, methodical and often hyper-intelligent slayers of other human beings.
Why should this be? Is it for mere entertainment purposes, or perhaps the sheer joy of puzzle-solving, that we adore murder mysteries and dramas? Or do we gravitate toward this kind of lethal programing in order to learn more about the darker aspects of the human mind, and our own quirky and often-violent way of looking at the universe?
When I was a tad younger, I dug all of those “let’s get into the whackadoo mind of the killer in order to stop him” type of criminal investigation and psychological profiling shows. These days, not so much. My basic take now, as far as fiction and real life are concerned, is that some people kill simply because they like it, and others do it ‘cause they’re nuts. No further explanation needed.
Even though I’ve become a bit apathetic about trying to understand the motivations that drive a serial killer or a mass murder to choose the homicidal path, I am aware of the fact that I come from a society that eats this stuff up. From our films and television shows, to a seemingly endless barrage of news coverage about school shootings, and the shooters who ultimately decide to tear a school, theater or public space apart, we’re fascinated by the psychological causes behind why some folks get off on killing a whole lot of people.
In a strange twist of irony that, as the social discussion about guns and killing ramps up in the media and as we wrestle with our humanity and the inherent violence that lives inside all of us, murder rates and gun violence are actually going down. And they’ve been going down for quite some time.
Regardless of the reality on the street, nothing seems to entertain us more than murder, or grab our attention like mass shootings. The deed itself, the psychological reasons behind the act, the killer’s clever tricks, how the criminal investigators use puzzle-solving techniques to reveal clues and navigate red herrings — all of these things make us giddy with excitement, or at the very least mildly distract us as we do other things while the television is on.
Quentin Tarantino, no stranger to depicting killers and a hell of a lot of violence in cinema, has to constantly defend the violence he so artfully portrays. While he doesn’t necessarily make the kinds of films that delve into the minds of killers, he definitely shows us the results of their overwhelming desire to kill. Just look at the Kill Bill movies, Inglourious Basterds or Django Unchained. Tarantino believes, “violence is a form of cinematic entertainment,” and that, “Ii movies, violence can be cool.” Violence committed by killers, of course.
At the end of the day, there are all kinds of reasons why murder and murderers intrigue us so. We are, after all, a violent species with big brains that are always trying to make sense of the world around us, and why we should or shouldn’t act in a certain way.
Getting killed sucks, truth be told (bet you were already aware of that tidbit of information), but it has happened to every species that has ever lived on this planet since life began. Even though it’s something incredibly common, the motivations behind arbitrary and planned homicide continue to fascinate us. Apparently, the viewing of this orchestra of murder, in fiction and often in real life (celebrity murder trials and the like) brings us a lot of joy as well.