Ron Rosenbaum in Slate:
Why America Loves Serial Killers
They give us an alibi for our murderous culture.
Don't turn away: Serial killers are America's alibi, and every time you pay your 12 bucks for another serial-killer movie or put one on your Netflix queue, you're feeding the beast.
You're an accomplice. In making serial killers giggly, kitschy chic, we're all accomplices.
The glamorization of evil is one least attractive features of our age. For my money, Silence of the Lambs was an obscene book and movie for precisely this reason.
I'm not a big fan of the slasher/serial killer horror genre. It's partly a matter of philosophy, part cultural inheritance.
A college friend once summed up the moral of the Friday the 13th series as "you can't kill the boogie man." At the time that struck me as an accurate assessment which meant the movies were profoundly nihilistic.
The glorification of sadism is repugnant, and, in itself, is a deal-breaker. These movies also have little appeal because i find it impossible to identify with the victims and their contrived helplessness. The "plots" require too much suspension of belief for any student of Col. Jeff Cooper.
Can't kill the boogie man? Yes we can!
This post by Ace explains why True Detective struck such a nerve and why it was a breath of fresh air on American TV:
Figures like Holmes or Peter Wimsey are fictional and bear little resemblance to real detectives. But they are hyper-realistic compared to the serial killers in modern thrillers. Writers like Thomas Harris have turned the detectives into somewhat intelligent bureaucrats while making the killer the one endowed with the rare mind. Philip Marlowe is only the " personification of an attitude, the exaggeration of a possibility;" Hannibal Lector bears no resemblance to real serial killers. He is the personification of an impossibility as a criminal, but the perfect example of moral rot as an "artistic" creation.
The show ultimately was, as Pizzolato said, not about the serial killer at all, but about the two men, Hart and Cohle, and their long, rocky relationship with one another.
And it's about mystery. The serial killer plot is a pretext to explore mystery -- and evil -- and philosophy -- and sex -- and all the rest of it, but in the end, the show was about the mystery and muddle of life. Not about some Hannibal Lecter-like supercriminal and his lunatic beliefs.
In the end, he wasn't the interesting one; the heroes were the interesting ones.