The glorification of on-screen criminals

Shauna Burdis

The glorification of criminals on popular TV shows and movies can have a darker and more significant effect on society than people anticipate.

Publicising violent crime and the romanisation of on-screen criminals, can not only play a negative role over the influence of people’s moral perceptions, but it also has the niche ability to create a unique type of real-life criminal, one who is not so unique in their ways, known as the copycat.

Real-life tragedies are often used as inspiration for box office hits, as we see the phrase ‘based on real events’, appear before the film starts as some kind of disclosure that what we are about to watch is something far more realistic than what a writer conjured up. Movies and TV shows depicting violent criminal behaviour have often become a muse for influenced viewers.

The influential power of movies and tv shows on audiences is widely underrated, as people can become influenced and shape their ideals around a particular character and their actions. The viewer can perceive a warped sense of reality and model their behaviour on the character, leading to incidents like copycat crime.

We’ve all heard of shows like Breaking Bad, Netflix’s successful stalker drama, You and Dexter, but it’s not just these popular shows that are glamourizing the criminal lifestyle. Cult classic films like Fight Club, The Dark Knight, American Psycho and Twilight have also triggered copycat criminals amongst their viewers. Some of these films and shows are not only famous for their acclaim but also their huge influence on audiences.

American Psycho won over the public on its examination of the rise of materialism in the western world and its provocative leading character Patrick Bateman. However, what the director didn’t anticipate was the immensely influential power of Bateman.

In 2004, a young man named Michael Hernandez stabbed his middle-school classmate to death and admitted that he modelled his behaviour after the on-screen murderer Patrick Bateman.

Christopher Nolan’s most acclaimed and profitable film The Dark Knight and its widely glorified character, Heath Ledgers Joker, inspired an incident which occurred in 2009, when a young girl in the U.S assaulted a high school teacher.

The girl returned from the bathroom with the Joker’s trademark smile carved into her face and then ran at her high school teacher with the razor blade in her hand.

The cultural romanticisation of characters like Joe from Netflix’s You and Heath Ledger’s Joker goes far beyond the realm of Hollywood, glorifying these characters can enable the decision to overlook their behaviour and in a sense, accept it.

Shauna Burdis

Image Credit: Netflix