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Atlantic Documentaries

‘Serial Killers Are a Uniquely American Phenomenon’

May 15, 2019 | 90 videos
Video by The Atlantic

In 1979, the American discourse on serial killers was irrevocably changed. Ted Bundy’s serial-murder-and-rape trial, which was nationally televised, ushered in a new era of live entertainment. Fifteen years later, O. J. Simpson’s trial became the next national obsession. Today, the true-crime genre reached new heights with the podcast Serial. The proliferation of successful murder-centric content that followed is indicative of a public obsession.


Why do serial killers inspire such fervent intrigue among Americans? A new video from The Atlantic investigates.


“Serial killers are in many ways a uniquely American phenomenon,” says Joe Berlinger, the acclaimed true-crime documentarian behind the Paradise Lost trilogy and the director of the popular Netflix series The Ted Bundy Tapes. In the video, Berlinger explains why this dark subject maintains its enduring grip on the American psyche. The Atlantic Senior Editor Julie Beck also describes the process by which serial-killer lore is inducted into Americana, and why women are more likely than men to be interested in true crime.

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Authors: Vishakha Darbha, Caitlin Cadieux

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Original short documentaries produced by The Atlantic