Date of Award


Document Type



Communication, Media, and Theatre

First Advisor

Matthew Sage, MFA


Fictionalized serial killer narratives have been essential to media for decades, beginning with the early noir films, detective novels of the 1940s and 50s (Murley, 2), and western narratives which heavily depicted good versus evil (Hall, 5). As media has evolved, fascination with true crime has continued to grow and in turn, began to increasingly provide inspiration for fictional films and TV shows, especially through streaming service television shows like Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes (2019), Mindhunter (2017), and Making a Murder (2015). Through research on the psychological interest in violence, the blurred line between fact and fictional serial killer narratives and their marketability this thesis focuses on the exploitation of mental illness in fictionalized serial killer narratives centering around the depiction of serial killers as monstrous celebrities. It uses Stuart Hall’s encoding/decoding theory to explain how incorrect and negative messages about mental health are encoded into filmed media which affects how society views mental illness. These narratives demonize mental illness and this thesis argues that the media has turned the serial killer into a consumable character by exploiting their mental illness. Its goal is to enlighten audiences about how their consumption of fictionalized serial killer narratives, affects the way in which they perceive those living with mental illness.

Thesis Final .mov (11388912 kB)