Monday, February 04, 2019

on real monsters

I've been a bit conflicted over whether to watch or pay any mind to the new Netflix documentary on Ted Bundy mostly since over the past couple of years what was once a slight fascination with serial killers has become kind of a magnetic repulsion.  I had this weird moment in New Orleans a couple years back at the Death Museum, surveying the serial killer letters, and suddenly was a little nauseous about the particularly gross mysogyny that typically accompanies serial murderers (well, cases like Dahmer & Gacy aside, but I feel like the dynamics are similar, just oriented toward other demographics.) There is something distasteful about elevating these men, even for their monstrousness, in a culture where today's variants--the school shooters, church shooters, the mass killers are not stalking the bushes anymore, but just coming out in the open and taking lives.  Or even the general levels of violence propagated against women by men.  Is this elevation, even the horror factor of it, not attention that should be leveled elsewhere?

This of course, says the girl who writes about dead girls all the time--who even now has been doing research on HH Holme's Murder Castle and doomed Hollywood starlets like The Black Dahlia. The documentary framed the 70's, post Manson, was the dawn of the serial killer, which of course is not exactly true, obviously with the above topics and a long history of serial murderers but just that the 70's allowed television to spread the news of them far and wide. Also, for police, the dots were easier to connect I imagine. So,  I found myself turning it on during a slow Sunday morning while I ate breakfast and worked on some writing things, but soon was watching with a bit more attention and thinking about a world that produces these sorts of monsters and fear. 

Certainly, having been born in 1974, my childhood took place in the shadows of this  fear. This was why you never got in cars with strangers. Why you checked the backseat of your car.  Never walked alone at night.   In Illinois, a teenager was shoved into the trunk of her car in broad daylight and found months later floating in a river.  In the late 80's, a mere mile or so from our house, a prostitute was found in the forest preserve.  I've written about this before, the fear you instinctually learn to have as a woman in the world at odds with the desire for freedom.  Danger vs. knowledge.   I remember amidst an avalanche of horror movies that posed these dangers a tv movie version of Ted Bundy that posed him as a charismatic killer.

The documentary brings it up, and a friend mentioned it the other day, that Bundy's crimes were something that could ONLY happen in a world where women moved about freely without male accompaniment, went to college on their own.  Even 20 years before, women were much more sheltered--certainly not living alone in houses. Much like Satanic Panic arose from women leaving the household and careful watching over their children 24/7, this particular sort of killing--young, unsupervised, women, added fodder to the world's argument that it wasn't safe for women to move about with such freedom.

You watch something like this and it makes you wonder how someone, even the violence aside, could be so self-deluded--Bundy's story of himself to himself vs, how those around him describe him, and yet I've met people--been once close friends with, even dated, people who share similar personality tendencies if not the violence. Fuck, another recent Netflix doc about that Fyre festival creator is very much the same--not murder, but gross self-delusion.  And beyond this, the same sort of toxic white mail entitlement that still guides today's violence. (and that same toxicity that made him think he would continue to do it.)  Also the presentation, the conventional attractiveness and reasonably well-spokeness that at first allowed people to continue to believe he was innocent and allowed him to present as something else than the monster he was.

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