He is the embodiment of absolute evil, a vector of dread and horror.
Popularized by Hannibal Lecter (
The Silence of the Lambs
), Norman Bates (
M le maudit
and other cult characters, the serial killer returns to our screens on February 8 with season 4 of
, portrait of a serial killer seeking redemption in love.
A few months ago, it was another multi-repeat assassin, Jeffrey Dahmer, who established himself as one of Netflix's biggest historical successes, passing the bar of one billion hours viewed.
“The serial killer fascinates, because he is the one who has killed the most without being caught.
Because of this “success”, he is attributed with fantasies of omnipotence and exceptional intelligence that pique our curiosity.
We are challenged by what we cannot imagine, ”continues psychiatrist Daniel Zagury, author of the book
The Enigma of Serial Killers
"In the absence of a motive, this transgressive figure constitutes a source of projection and a material for fiction on which we can plaster everything: we see in it the angel of death, the sexual sadist, the robot assassin,
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A boon for screenwriters and broadcasters in search of renewal and aware of the plebiscite with regard to legal fiction and thrillers.
Émilie Semiramoth, streaming manager at AlloCiné and columnist at Cercle Series on Canal+, explains: “Since the advent of cable in the 2000s, tormented characters, like Don Draper in
, have installed the figure of the antihero.
This then contributed to the acceptance of the serial killer as the main character.
Evan Peters plays a chilling Jeffrey Dahmer in Dahmer, on Netflix.
Formerly, according to the journalist, the serial killer was “the psychopath of the week”, an essential but secondary figure.
“He has long been the recurring enemy, like John le Rouge in
”, agrees his colleague from France Inter and Télématin on France 2, Benoît Lagane.
“But faced with the need to stand out by offering more transgressive content than free television accessible to all, cable and later platforms imagined other profiles.
appeared in 2006, changing the game for good.”
The character embodied by Michael C. Hall thus satisfied his bloodthirsty impulses, but only by eliminating the bad ones.
“This is what made him sympathetic and excusable, especially in the United States where the cult of the vigilante à la Inspector Harry is still very strong”, analyzes Émilie Semiramoth.
We are challenged by what we cannot imagine
Daniel Zagury, psychiatrist
Over the years,
will have spawned heirs in turn seeking sentiment and new extenuating circumstances.
To the point, sometimes, of transforming the object of repulsion into a pure object of fascination.
, it is the hope of a saving love that makes the hero, a murderer who has become a husband and father of a family, accessible over the course of the four seasons.
The series expert deciphers: “Stories that take a look at an era or a society through the figure of the serial killer seem more interesting to me.
I'm thinking of
or season 2 of
American Crime Story
, about the assassination of Gianni Versace.
built its hero on a form of romanticization.
His mechanisms and his obsessive character are exposed, but above all the image of a handsome, cultured, well-educated young man who knows how to be charming remains.
Everything that, on paper, makes him an ideal son-in-law.”
In other words, his criminal impulses are ultimately just one component of his personality, just a drop of stagnant water in an ocean of qualities.
, starring Tahar Rahim as Charles Sobhraj, one of the greatest serial killers of the 1970s, on Netflix.
To escape this complacency, some creators have found a solution by playing with the shift.
, Bryan Fuller took an arty look at his universe, with an aesthetic bias so strong that it installed a healthy distance from the viewer."
A distance all the more important as the main actor of the series, Mads Mikkelsen, immediately imposed a relationship of seduction.
Because this is the other major change in the personification of the predator: he is increasingly glamorized, like Tahar Rahim in
or Penn Badgley in
The Silence of the Lambs
, we did not take our eyes off Anthony Hopkins because he manipulated, frightened, embodied the fifty shades of evil with finesse.
On the contrary, there is a real relationship of seduction in
, in which the character maintains a real cult of the body.
We are entering a gray area, which is sometimes disturbing,” concludes Émilie Semiramoth.
Axel Granberger and Alyzée Costes play Albert and Solange, a couple of serial killers from the 1970s, in Les Papillons noirs, on arte.tv.
The border between good and evil is indeed increasingly nebulous in fiction.
Many spectators obviously make allowances, but others see in these portraits only an anthology of souls in perdition, in search of a saviour.
Driven by their "celebrity", many serial killers receive love letters in prison.
"The women who fall in love with these men have quite substantial weaknesses," analyzes Dr. Zagury.
“Their desire is linked to the idea of transformation.
They don't want to marry a criminal who is going to commit more atrocities.
They want to be the motor of their redemption thanks to the force of their love.”
These fictions will have contributed to the trivialization of this figure, to the romantic fantasy that it sometimes generates.
“By becoming a loss leader, the serial killer can tell anything and everything, concludes Benoît Lagane.
But, like all trends, I believe this one will run out of steam.
Before the serial killer, evil was embodied by the terrorist.
Read alsoThe dark destiny of Marie-Andrée Leclerc, the companion of the serial killer who was called the "Snake"
Today, new "villains" are emerging, the ogre, for example, who can both embody transgression in a less and less carnivorous society or the absolute evil of the post-MeToo era when he attacks Women's.
Harvey Weinstein would then be the perfect person to carry one of the seasons of
, the Netflix anthology by Ian Brennan and Ryan Murphy which, launched with
, intends to focus on "monstrous figures who have impacted our societies".
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(1) The enigma of serial killers
, by Daniel Zagury, Éditions Pocket.