Criminal Romanticization: A Deep Dive


Photo From Maxim Hopman on Unsplash

Image depicts the levels of abuse that can occur during relationships. Photo From Maxim Hopman on Unsplash

Hybristophilia: The term that used to identify those who have an attraction to those who commit crimes. There is a burning question that true crime enthusiasts and experts alike ask: Why do these people love these killers and criminals? In the media, these real monsters are portrayed as beautiful with actors swooning over fans. Why is that dangerous?
To recognize why romanticizing criminals is so dangerous, we first must examine and understand why people love these killers and criminals. You might not understand how a person can have feelings of love for a killer or a criminal. So let’s start off with a famous couple you might know from DC Comics to get a bit of an understanding: Joker and his girlfriend/ex, Harley Quinn.
While there are some fans of this problematic couple who see nothing wrong with their relationship, If you dig further, you will understand just how toxic it is.
Harley Quinn, (Harleen Quinzel) was a psychiatrist who was assigned to the well-known Joker.
The ‘Clown of Crime’ himself manipulated Quinn into believing he had feelings for her, gaining him power and his freedom from the asylum. An example of this was shown when he threw her into a vat of chemicals in the comic Suicide Squad made in 2011.
While these two may just be fictional characters, they can help us better understand the real cases of people falling in love with real killers and criminals. In the newly released Harley Quinn show, it is revealed to the audience just how toxic he truly was. They also show how Harley discovers true love with a partner who isn’t planning to kill her just to get to Batman. In this article, author Soham explains how the show changes her for the better and how the Joker was toxic to her, not only that but it shows her turning a new life after leaving him.
The truth about these relationships is that the admired has no feelings for their admirers. They only care about the attention, fame, and possible freedom they may receive from that relationship.
Well-known serial killers like Ted Bundy and Jeffery Dahmer were just a few of the recipients of love letters and confessions from young women and teens. But what causes people to feel sympathy for them? Dr. Thomas, a school psychologist for the past 30 years, states “Empathy is a kind of understanding of a person’s perspective and their situation, their feelings and how they feel sympathy.” When asked what sympathy is, this is what he said, “It makes people sympathetic to others. Usually, sympathy or demonstrating sympathy occurs in usually sad situations.” In Netflix’s Dahmer, people were given a glimpse of his past, which most have said was the main reason they felt sympathy. When talking about Hybristophilia, we have to keep in mind factors that play when it comes to it, such as what type they are, and why they are what they are. Some are extremists who would do anything to get their ‘soulmate’ out of jail, others are just into the fantasy of rescuing and having power in the relationship. Cult leader, Warren Jeff, married his admirer, a prime example of Hybristophilia since the reason for the two getting together was the fact she admired him for what got him sent to jail, if he wasn’t convicted then chances are the two would have never crossed paths.

While many people are speaking out on TikTok against the new Netflix show. Not many people are exactly asking people for their thoughts, so we decided to ask a few members and the sponsors of the True Crime Club for their thoughts and opinions. Ranya Jebsi, ‘25, had this to say, “I felt it did a good job, they don’t like true crime very much. But it’s like the first thing that a lot of people sort of start watching so it’s cool that people are getting into it”. We also talked with Charlie Murphy, ‘26 in the club. She explains how the show doesn’t idolize nor over sexualize him in it, and explains that mostly good things came out of it, besides the ever more growing Fanclub.
Sponsors Laurie Thorpe, a special education teacher, and Mitzi Biddle, an English and special education teacher were also asked for their thoughts. Ms. Thorpe stated her opinion, saying, “I do worry about that, you know, glorifying it and you know, I’m concerned about that, especially when they create these movies like the Dahmer one”. When Ms. Biddle was asked for her opinion on the Dahmer show, this is what she had to say, “I have no interest in watching the show. I think I would feel gross watching it”. According to an article done by Indy100. Some viewers felt sorry for Dahmer and his past when watching it.
When asked how they made sure their students don’t romanticize crime. This is what they had to say. “Maybe it is just the way we portray it or the way we talk about it, you know, without drumming up the certain aspects to the crime”. Ms. Biddle also had things she wanted to add to what Ms. Thorpe said, she goes on to say how they do their best to balance the crimes they investigate and that they’re also looking at it from a forensics perspective, they want to be careful that their students don’t romanticize these crimes and instead look at what they did.
Websites such as Rotten Tomatoes show us how people view this show, and the reviews have been mostly positive. Despite most of it being positive, they still hurt victims and their families. When people aren’t informed and make crime into entertainment it erases the voices of the victims, their family, and their trauma.