We’re all humans. Empathy and pity is something that we all feel—usually anyways. As social creatures, we have been socially taught to always be humble and to be able to see and perceive something as if we were in somebody else’s shoes. But sometimes, this way of thinking is an abstract concept to understand. People tend to generally misuse the concept of pity and generalize it to every case and scenario. Thus, this idea is not far from the concept that we humans enjoy glorifying everything. We are told to see the ‘good in everything’ but sometimes the ‘good’ in everything is enforced. The term used for this is ‘romanticizing’.
Now, what exactly is ‘romanticizing’? What does it mean for us to romanticize something? The key word in ‘romanticize’ is romance. The word can be linked back to the Romanticism era of 1800. An age of Sentimentality. Melancholy. Love. It was called the Romantic Era—an era in which produced its own unique version of art, literature, music and philosophical thinking. This era focused on the inner emotions of a person. It was a celebration of nature, beauty and imagination. By doing so, the word ‘romance’ is closely linked to this era. And thus, to ‘romanticize’ means to deal with or describe something in an idealized or unrealistic fashion. As mentioned previously, it enforces something or someone to be seen better or more appealing than it really is.
With the recent development of pop culture, this term has been frequently thrown around recently as it had garnered the attention of many—and it’s not always necessarily positive. We use the said term when it comes to topics or things that are essentially viewed as something less or something that is not usually viewed in a positive light. This action is most common in popular works such as books and magazines. Very often, they create a beautiful image of things that are actually dangerous. For example, we are often fascinated with stories about one-sided love or difficult relationships—we are used to believing that strong feelings are always connected with strong pain. Bad guys with cynical jokes always seem to be very charming. Some things seem to be completely harmless, but, according to psychologists, if we change our attitude toward them, our lives will get significantly better.
Particularly, the part on ‘bad guys with cynical jokes are the most charming’ is a running trend that is currently happening in recent pop culture. In other words, we are really out here glamorizing serial killers. Yes, serial killers. We, as a generation, have really stooped low enough that serial killers can now be considered as a ‘girl’s fantasy’. Serial killers—let’s forget about all the inhumane things they’ve done. Of course. Let’s forget about how they have literally killed more than 30 women, or the fact that they may or may not have eaten some of their victims. Names such as Ted Bundy, or Jeffrey Dahmer are not uncommon to the ears. However, the reaction of hearing these names now prior to several years before would unquestionably differ. Experts say people are attracted to serial killers like Bundy, in part, because they want to understand the motives behind their horrible acts—his notoriety that can cause lingering harm for a killer’s surviving victims and relatives of those who died.
What was a small curiosity for understanding serial killers eventually becomes an attraction—sometimes an obsession. Oftentimes, women become obsessed with and even attracted to serial killers when they hear about them—to the point of professing their love in the form of letters and even marriage proposals. In the case of Ted Bundy, even after he was imprisoned, he still had a bunch of groupies that were constantly sending him love letters and gifts. He had his own little ‘fan club’ that was infatuated with him. This action is referred to as hybristophilia. For the longest time, society assigns women the responsibility to ‘fix’ men and to provide rehabilitation (through kindness, patience and perseverance) for the worst type of deviant men. Bundy’s club of groupies is basically the real life implication of said psyche.
It doesn’t really end there. Current pop culture is a hot mess of a glamorized reality. As a generation, we have slowly developed a coping mechanism towards several things that we see as unpleasant. We overcome this by romanticizing certain objects and ideas that are essentially bad. As entertaining as it can be to be able to escape from the dreaded reality to a land of daydreams from time to time, there are certain lifestyles, attitudes, behaviours and ways of thinking that our society perceive as cool and desirable—but are actually harmful and has more negative effects than they are good.
Written by: Aisyah Daniswari
Photo: Evergreen State College Archives