A Beauty and The Beast Phenomenon- Why Regular Women Fall For Serial Killers

carol

My senior year of high school consisted of way too many coffee runs. Don’t get me wrong- each and every individual coffee venture has enriched my life by blessing that particular day with extra flavor and caffeine. However, one particular Starbucks run had a rather large influence in shaping what is now a pretty big passion of mine. 

My friend and I were catching up in Starbucks after our weekly mentoring session when she asked me if I had ever seen the Ted Bundy Tapes, the new Netflix documentary series everyone was talking about. Before that day, I was already very much interested in the legal side of crime, but I knew very little about the serial killing sector of crime. I told her I hadn’t seen the series, and that I didn’t even know who Ted Bundy was. She gave me a brief synopsis of the documentary and told me I absolutely HAD to watch it. So I did- I watched the whole documentary in one weekend, and as horrible as it initially sounds, I couldn’t get enough. 

I was so excited to tell all my other friends that they too had to watch this series, but often when I would recommend it to people, I would be met with the classic “Oh, so you’re another white girl that’s in love with Ted Bundy” stereotype. I was initially really confused when I got this response, for I couldn’t comprehend that there are actually fandoms of girls who swoon over a man who so brutally and mercilessly killed over 30 women. I genuinely believe my interest in this man and the crimes he represents stems from a psychological and sociological approach (those are literally my college majors…and also even if he wasn’t a serial killer, Bundy physically is just not.my.type). Nonetheless, if someone wants to psychoanalyze me and tell me I’m lying to myself, feel free. 

Anyways, I still wanted to understand why there is a world out there full of women who fall for men like Bundy, and why so many women are interested in true crime in general. Is this fascination, and in extreme cases, obsessive adoration, innate or learned? If it’s just a matter of curiosity, why don’t men dedicate as much time as women to understanding killers?  Is there something wrong with these women, or is something wrong with society for looking down on them? Though there’s not one clear theory that explains it all, my Google venture led me to some really interesting perspectives. 

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Why Just Mercy is Much More Than a Film

This past Tuesday night consisted of rushing to eat dinner, driving with my mom to the movie theater, seeing a film based on my favorite book of all time, driving home in the fog, folding laundry, and ending the night by shaving my legs. Like a lot of girls, shaving is a pretty normal occurrence for me, and I don’t usually think much of it. That night, however, a very weird wave of uneasiness came over me as I began to shave, and after about 10 minutes, I realized why that wave was hitting me: In the movie I watched hours earlier, someone else was having their legs shaved too. However, for this person, the shaving was not voluntary. This person was getting their whole body shaved in preparation for being put to death by an electric chair. His name was Herbert Richardson, and he was one of the death row inmates who attorney Bryan Stevenson represented in the movie Just Mercy. The horror on Richardson’s face as the prison guards shaved him from head to toe to speed up the electric current was extremely prolific, and it made me look at the simple act of shaving my legs through a completely different lens.

Herbert Richardson was an Alabama man sentenced to the death penalty after a bomb that he created and delivered killed a young girl. Richardson had an extremely traumatic childhood, yet he chose to rise above the trauma and do good with his life by enlisting in the military and going off to the Vietnam War. The young man was extremely psychologically traumatized during the war, leading to his honorable discharge. Upon returning home, his PTSD exponentially increased. At one of the hospitals he stayed at, Richardson met and fell in love with one of his nurses. They dated for a while before she tried to cut off contact with him. Not able to think clearly, Richardson devised a plan to win her back. He would construct a bomb, leave it on her porch in a box, detonate it, but save the nurse just in time. He had experience with bombs in the war, and he didn’t see this plan going wrong. Except it did. A little girl inside the nurse’s house saw the box on the porch, picked it up, shook it, and was killed instantly. Richardson, who was watching from across the street, was horrified. He had not intended to murder anyone, let alone a little girl. The courts, however, didn’t pay much attention to this. Nor did they pay attention to his deep psychological trauma. Nor did they pay attention to the honorable discharge and his dedication to fighting for the country. They saw a cold-blooded killer, put him on death row, and sent an electric wave through his body to kill him as revenge. Even the help and expertise of Bryan Stevenson and his team wasn’t enough to save this man. This is what the death penalty looks like in Alabama. As I watched his story play out on the screen, I had to keep reminding myself that this actually happened in real life. You would think that no court would overlook so much good and only focus on the bad, but as Richardson’s story proves, a system so ingrained in racism and discrimination often does just that.

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