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2019 | 32(1) | 103-118

Article title

The Body as Evidence: A Cultural Approach to America’s Fascination with Murder

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American culture is rich in “popular” murder cases and virtually all serial killers have been elevated to a celebrity status. Serial killer industry selling murderabilia is booming, and the popularity of true-crime shows, podcasts, and books is at an all-time high. This paper aims at the analysis of the cultural trend of serial killer celebrities, treatment of the media coverage surrounding their victims as well as the victims’ bodies before and after death, and the overarching narratives concerning murder in American history and culture. Serial killers – celebrities, monsters, anti-heroes of American culture – fuel their own industry, established in postmodern times as the self-referential nightmare of commodified death. Both serial murderers and their victims are the object of said industry. However, the bodies of victims are objectified threefold: as the victims of the crime, as elements of the murder industry, and as the evidence of the crime itself. Additionally, the socioeconomic background of some of the victims, often referred to as the “less-dead” victims according to Steven Egger’s theory, reinforces the narrative in which they are merely objects of the crime, not individuals. Together, all these factors constitute what Mark Seltzer calls “wound culture,” a culture gathered around the bodily trauma. Thus, the paper will consider the role serial killer victims’ bodies have on the cultural perception of narratives surrounding death, violence, and the cult of the perpetrator.



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