Miss Sabrina Locke

Research project: A Critical Examination of the Commodification of Serial Killers by the Mass Media


It is often assumed that the media's fascination with serial killers is a relatively new occurrence dating from the mid 20th century and continuing into the 21st Century with the burgeoning of streaming media. However, this macabre preoccupation with the violent crime of serial killers and their punishment dates back to the expansion of Crime Journalism during the 19th century. The media has fed the public's interest in the serial perpetrator while showing a determined lack of interest in the perpetrator's victims. The forgotten victims are placed as mere footnotes to their tragic lives and stepping stones for the fame of the person who killed them. This PhD project examines the historical roots of the commodification of the serial killer by the media and its continuing development and expansion to the present day. 

This research gains insight from the work of David Schmid, in his book Natural Born Celebrities: Serial Killers in American Culture (2006), and Ian Cummins, in his book Serial Killers and the Media: The Moors Murderers Legacy (2019).  Schmid highlights American serial killer culture and how it is marketed through Hollywood productions, in tandem with the emergence of the dubious world of ‘murderbilia'. Cummins focuses on a case study of the Moors Murderers, Myra Hindley and Ian Brady, and highlights that the ‘True Crime' genre raises several moral and ethical issues while, briefly, pointing out the more immediate problems arising from the dramatised adaptations of real-life crimes. However, both of these studies stop short of exploring the phenomenon of on-line streaming services and, in particular, the consequences of their constant output of ‘True Crime' material. My research will explore all these areas further and will analyse the cultural history and commodification of the serial killer. It will explore the discourses arising from the media attention given to serial killers as contrasted with the media's lack of attention to the serial killers' victims and it will appraise the evolving media representations of serial killers and their crimes.

  • Research degree: PhD
  • Title of project: A Critical Examination of the Commodification of Serial Killers by the Mass Media
  • Research supervisor: Professor Will Brooker
  • Other research supervisor: Dr Matthew Melia


I gained my B.A. (Honours) at Kingston University through the program, Fine Arts and Art History. The course combined Art practice alongside Art Historical elements, which included the highlighting of core concepts, an exploration of contemporary art, and critical evaluation into how race is presented in Art. My accompanying dissertation explored Why are Video Games not considered an Art form?. I completed my M.A. degree in Visual Culture and Art History at Richmond The American University London where my M.A. thesis, ‘Triple A' Video Games and Photorealism: A critical examination of Video Games as an Art Genre, concentrated on Photorealism in video games. My Postgraduate course consisted of Art and its Histories; World Arts; Art Education; Contemporary Art and Visual Culture, with a focus on social media and television. Using elements of Visual Culture and commodification, I researched into the ways in which commodification has spread throughout modern society, specifically focusing on how those who commit heinous acts have been increasingly granted a form of celebrity, essentially rewarding them for their murders. 

Areas of research interest

  • Commodification
  • Representation of Criminals in media
  • Victim representation in media
  • Person as Brand (Celebrity Culture)
  • Video Games as an Art genre


  • BA Hons Fine Art and Art History, Kingston University
  • MA Visual Culture and Art History, Richmond The American University