Natural Born Celebrities: Serial Killers in American Culture

Front Cover
University of Chicago Press, Dec 1, 2006 - History - 327 pages
3 Reviews
Jeffrey Dahmer. Ted Bundy. John Wayne Gacy. Over the past thirty years, serial killers have become iconic figures in America, the subject of made-for-TV movies and mass-market paperbacks alike. But why do we find such luridly transgressive and horrific individuals so fascinating? What compels us to look more closely at these figures when we really want to look away? Natural Born Celebrities considers how serial killers have become lionized in American culture and explores the consequences of their fame.

David Schmid provides a historical account of how serial killers became famous and how that fame has been used in popular media and the corridors of the FBI alike. Ranging from H. H. Holmes, whose killing spree during the 1893 Chicago World's Fair inspired The Devil in the White City, right up to Aileen Wuornos, the lesbian prostitute whose vicious murder of seven men would serve as the basis for the hit film Monster, Schmid unveils a new understanding of serial killers by emphasizing both the social dimensions of their crimes and their susceptibility to multiple interpretations and uses. He also explores why serial killers have become endemic in popular culture, from their depiction in The Silence of the Lambs and The X-Files to their becoming the stuff of trading cards and even Web sites where you can buy their hair and nail clippings.

Bringing his fascinating history right up to the present, Schmid ultimately argues that America needs the perversely familiar figure of the serial killer now more than ever to manage the fear posed by Osama bin Laden since September 11.

"This is a persuasively argued, meticulously researched, and compelling examination of the media phenomenon of the 'celebrity criminal' in American culture. It is highly readable as well."—Joyce Carol Oates

 

What people are saying - Write a review

Queer London: perils and pleasures in the sexual metropolis, 1918-1957

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

What begins as the story of Cyril L., who, at 20, was married and had a daughter, but discovered he was gay shortly after moving to London's West End in 1932, quickly turns into an overwhelming sprawl ... Read full review

Natural born celebrities: serial killers in American culture

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

The adage "Don't judge a book by its cover" is particularly apt in the case of this scholarly work. The cover photo might repulse serious readers, which, sadly, would deny them the opportunity to ... Read full review

Contents

The Victorian Killer as Media Star Jack theRipper and H H Holmes
31
Defining the Enemy Within The FBI and SerialMurder
66
Serial Murders in American Popular Culture
103
Natural Born Celebrities Serial Killers and theHollywood Star System
105
Out of This World Aliens Devils and SerialKillers in Television Crime Drama
138
Next Door Monsters The Dialectic of Normalityand Monstrosity in TrueCrime Narratives
175
The Unbearable Straightness of ViolenceQueering Serial Murder in True Crime
209
Serial Killing in America after 911
244
Notes
259
Works Cited
285
Index
311
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

References to this book

About the author (2006)

David Schmid is assistant professor of English at the University at Buffalo.

Bibliographic information