TV & Film: Is Serial Killer Television Missing The Feminine Touch?

TV & Film | Serial Killer | True Crime | Friday Fright Night |

In this day and age, we are slowly starting to see women being represented better in films and on TV. However, this is not the case when it comes to crime thrillers that are popping up more and more on mainstream TV.

Now I’m not talking about the millions of true-crime documentaries that are on Netflix (that I am also obsessed with), no I’m talking about shows like The Fall, You or even Hannibal. Shows that follow the murderer and (sometimes) the police at the same time. Where you get inside the mind to see what pushes them to kill. The kind of shows that essentially glamorises it all.

A few articles out there state that female serial killers do not make for good TV, simply because women are perceived by society as ‘nurturing caregivers’ and that they’re the ‘quiet’ killers. We are all well aware that women are perfectly capable of committing the same violent, horrific crimes as their male counterparts, but we’re never shown this on TV.

TV Film Serial Killer

It’s 2021, I think we can all take a woman brutally murdering a bunch of people for fun (or for other reasons) and not cry about it. We are all suffering through a national lockdown and I’m pretty sure it’s brought a few of us close to murder!

I’ve done a bit of research and found that there are barely any shows about female serial killers, not ones where they are the protagonist anyways. Most are there simply to add to the story (CSI, Criminal Minds etc.) or to make the male lead look like he’s finally met his match, but then triumphs over evil one way or another (Alice Morgan in Luther). For me, this is just another area of misrepresentation.

Why is it ok to glamorize male serial killers by giving them multiple TV shows with multiple series, with new shows coming out every year?

I was only able to find about three mainstream shows that feature a female serial killer as the ‘protagonist’:

I’m going to be pedantic here and say that we shouldn’t really include Killing Eve, because Villanelle is a trained assassin, which means we are down to TWO shows…

Sharp Objects

Sharp Objects is an American mini-series (8 episodes) starring Amy Adams, based on the book written by Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl and Dark Places), released in 2018. It follows the story of an emotionally troubled reporter who returns to her hometown to cover the murders of two young girls. I’m not going to post any spoilers (just in case anyone wants to watch the show or read the book), but this show does not follow the killer directly.

Dark Angel

Dark Angel (not to be confused with the America sci-fi drama featuring Jessica Alba) is a two-part TV drama mini-series, released on ITV back in 2016, and based on the adaptation of the book: Mary Ann Cotton: Britain’s First Female Serial Killer by David Wilson. Now this show actually follows Mary Ann Cotton (Joanne Froggatt) as the protagonist (FINALLY) and the murder of her three husbands.

So out of the three shows I managed to find, only one of them is what I’m looking for. The only problem is that Dark Angel is only two episodes… Not the greatest representation to our alleged FIRST female serial killer.

Female Serial Killers Throughout History

This is why I’ve been researching some of the more ‘intriguing’ ladies that liked to murder a bunch of people. Women will always deserve more respect than we will ever receive, and that means our killer ladies also deserve to have their stories told and glamorized as much as those murderous men!

Where are my shows about Juana Barraza? Nannie Doss? Jane Toppan or Leonarda Cianciulli?

Period dramas seem to be the ‘in’ thing at the moment, so does that mean I can get a period thriller about Elizabeth Báthory? A woman who practised vampirism and is listed in the Guinness World Records as the most prolific murderer due to the fact that she allegedly killed more than 600 virgins in order to drink their blood to preserve her youth

In part two, I’ll be talking about some of the murderous ladies I’ve listed above and I think you’re all going to like Juana Barraza!

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