Problematic Protagonists

Delving into the Internet’s Obsession with Toxic Male Figures



Does Patrick Bateman in the movie “American Psycho” have an unhealthy fanbase? | Photo by Anothercicada (ShareAlike 4.0 International)

Who are your role models? Your parents? Your relatives? Your teachers? Maybe even some of your friends? While these are all normal people to look up to, some young men today have decided to embrace the advice and behaviors of less admirable male characters from shows, movies, and video games.

From small screen offerings like Bojack Horseman to Breaking Bad to movies such as American Psycho and The Joker, young people are idolizing individualis, albeit fictional, who demonstrate self-destructive and less than sane behaviors.

There is such an abundance of male toxicity in the media that people easily misunderstand the point of these characters and end up glorifying extremely harmful behavior, especially on social media apps like Tik Tok and Instagram.

The idolization of these characters can have dangerous consequences if left unchecked.

Patrick Bateman, the main character in the film American Psycho is portrayed as a heartless monster with no regard for human life.
Although the film encourages the audience to see Bateman as a psychopath, in recent years, quite the opposite has occurred. On TikTok, young boys see Bateman’s lack of care for others as a liberating mindset–he simply does not care what others think of him.
Bateman is supposed to be an example of an introverted and insecure individual, who hurts others to feel something inside himself. Instead, young men are using Bateman as a role model for how they should act, misinterpreting his pathology as being powerful and strong minded.
This same idolatry has been applied to Walter White of Breaking Bad, and Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of the Joker from the 2019 film of the same name.

Many young boys put these individuals on a pedestal as a beacons of masculinity and power, when in reality, they are idolizing maniacs whose power comes from hurting others.
Even more disturbing is that the growing trend is no longer limited to fictional characters.

The inappropriate romanticization of toxic male figures reached all new extremes when Tik Tok users began posting about real-life serial killers and others guilty of violent crimes.

Using clips from actual courthouse hearings, people created videos showing their adoration of murderers using “thirst-trap” audios.
Comment sections for these videos are often flooded with fans gushing about their attractiveness, while some sane users argued that the whole act was completely barbaric and disrespectful towards the victims of their inhumane actions.

Entire stan accounts were created and followers of this serial killer loving cult skyrocketed. Members of these groups often found the criminals physically attractive and usually harbored sympathy for them.

In one instance, Cameron Herrin, who was sentenced to 24 years in prison for the deaths of a mother and daughter, Jessica and Lillia Reisinger-Raubenbolt, found himself with a large TikTok following. Although Lillia was not even 2 years old when she and her mother were killed by Herrin’s car going at a speed of more than 100 mph as he engaged in illegal street racing, fans advocated for Herrin’s release using #justiceforcameron to garner attention, completely ignoring the fact that his actions resulted in the deaths of two people.

Kate Fowler, a reporter for Newsweek wrote: “The app [Tiktok] hosts video edits of Herrin hearing his sentencing in slow motion, which have gained a collective two billion views, along with comments

advocating for his innocence. While others simply cited his apparent attractiveness: ‘He doesn’t deserve that, he’s too cute,’ wrote one user.”
People have also fetishized Richard Ramierez and Ted Bundy at a growing rate; both men are convicted serial murderers. This obscene infatuation goes beyond physical attraction as some people have gone as far as condone their crimes. Ramierez and Bundy have both received fan mail, and like a band on tour, have had groupies follow them around. On one occasion, one of Bundy’s fans even dressed up like one of his victims.

Unfortunately, over time the fixation on these violent men has not been pacified. New Crazed fanatics continue to emerge and create posts in favor of these criminals.

The Internet is easily accessible to everyone, including children. Young minds are very impressionable and toxic traits are not something that they should be learning or idolizing. They don’t know enough to not mimic dysfunctional behavior and are not mature enough to understand the immorality behind certain actions.