Does Casting for Serial Killer Movies Matter?


Amber Swienski and

Crime junkies nationwide are going crazy over Netflix’s new series Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story starring Evan Peters. The story portrays Jeffrey Dahmer’s story starting from when he was a young boy into his last killing. However, the news of a new Jeffrey Dahmer series was not the source of excitement. It was the fact that Evan Peters, heartthrob since his role in American Horror Story, was playing Dahmer. We have seen this in a similar case where Zac Efron was cast as Ted Bundy in the movie Extremely Wicked; Shockingly Evil and Vile. Ross Lynch also was cast in a Jeffrey Dahmer movie called My Friend Dahmer. Does casting these conventionally attractive actors genuinely make a difference to audiences’ minds when watching these movies? Is the audience focusing on the actor portraying the serial killer or are they focusing on the true story and the victims?

There is a harmful aspect to casting these actors as serial killers. Casting these actors, despite their talent, can take away from the message. Creating this connection between the actor and serial killer, these movies are creating a false perception for the audience watching. For example on social media more specifically TikTok there has been an increasing number of fan accounts for these killers. These accounts gather images of serial killers and put them over music trying to make them seem attractive like people do with celebrities. One account called “rrmyloverrrr”, a fan account for a nutritious serial killer during the mid 80’s Richard Ramirez has multiple videos of Ramirez from his trial with music behind it. These accounts, especially on an app that has a younger audience, can be incriminating for their brains. Edits like these are allowing people to live out their romanticized fantasies of serial killers instead of focusing on the actions these killers committed and the lives they took.

I wanted to see if there was an impact on how people view it outside of social media. I went around Tewksbury Memorial Highschool and asked students and teachers what they thought. I asked these questions without telling the people I interviewed what I was writing about. I asked people if they find Evan Peters, Zach Efron, and Ross Lynch conventionally attractive. I asked ten people if they find Evan Peters conventionally attractive and nine out of ten said they do. Same results with Zach Efron and Ross Lynch. I then asked how people feel about these actors portraying serial killers in movies. Most people said similar answers such as “I think it is weird and it makes me uncomfortable” and others said that “It romanticizes serial killers and their actions by having these attractive people play them”. The next question I asked was when they watch these actors do they see the actor or the serial they are portraying? I gave the example of when watching the Jeffrey Dahmer movie My Friend Dahmer do they see Ross Lynch or Jeffrey Dahmer? Almost all of the people I interviewed agreed that they saw Ross Lynch. I asked the same question to the other actors and movies and the results were the same. There is an overall similar opinion among people who I interviewed and almost all think that having these attractive actors portraying serial killers in movies can create a romanticized view of them.

Now, this does not prove every single person watching these movies can not separate the actor and the serial killer they are portraying. However, from fan accounts to interviews from peers around my school, there are enough people who view these movies as entertainment not educational. Movies like these do not give justice to the victims. There is a difference between creating a fictional serial killer and a real one. Real killers took real lives and did all the gruesome things that special effects makeup show in movies. Overall, casting these heartthrobs to portray these killers does overall change the way that audiences watch these series and romanticize these killers, and makes them seem like characters instead of real-life people.