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Stranger danger? Cultural constructions of sadistic serial killers in US crime dramas.

Houlihan, Annette
June 4, 2015

Source: (2009) Australia and New Zealand Critical Criminology Conference 2009: Conference Proceedings. Pg. 111-121.

This paper explores the disruption between popular cultural constructions of crime victims from the corporeality of
gendered, heterosexual violence. Within popular culture, women appear especially vulnerable to violence committed by
serial killers with whom they have little or no relationship. However, most women are at a much greater risk of violence
from someone they know, most especially an intimate partner or family member. This paper examines the most gruesome
fantasy of violence, the sadistic serial killer who is commonly depicted in television crime shows. Popular culture uses
sadism as a metaphor for extreme violence and torture displayed through the infliction of physical, corporeal suffering on
the bodies of non-consenting, random victims. Sadism is very loosely based on character traits which have no bearing at all
on sadomasochism, but rather anti-social or egotistical behaviour. Saturating popular culture with these distorted
imaginations of violence silences the lived experience and voices of injury, harm and danger more often heard in the courts.
Further, popular culture diverts attention away from actual violence within domestic, familial and intimate spaces. (Authors abstract).


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