Thu, 25 Feb | Zoom

Fifty Shades of the Ripper

The Romanticisation of a Nineteenth-Century Serial Killer in Modern Culture
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Fifty Shades of the Ripper

Time & Location

25 Feb, 17:30 – 19:00

About the Event

The murderer known as ‘Jack the Ripper’ was a nineteenth-century media sensation. From sensationalised news reports to Gothic literature, the Ripper became a part of popular culture that has endured to the present. Twenty-first-century novels have portrayed the Ripper as an alluring sexual predator, with some even describing him as ‘sexy’ or ‘romantic’. The emergence of several such narratives indicates demand in the literary market for Ripper erotica. This subject matter attracts readers by – supposedly – tapping into their dark, sexual fantasies, which in return increases sales figures, and consequently, produces more texts alike. This can be in part attributed to what I term the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey effect’, describing how appetites for dark, erotic fiction and film have become ‘mainstream’. Netflix has also recently re-shaped twenty-first-century gothic through its streaming of sexualised serial killers, most evident in the likes of psychological thrillers, You (2018), Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (2019), and, most recently, The Fall (2013), which originally aired as a BBC drama but has recently re-emerged on UK Netflix in August 2020, seven years after it first premiered. This obsession of sexy serial killers and the fictionalisation of brutality towards women contradicts the ongoing #MeToo Movement. I explore in the first half of the session how the Ripper, a man who butchered women, can be reimagined as ‘sexy’ in the twenty-first century and in the second half, the cultural impact of our fascination and romanticisation of serial killers in film.

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