From Fan Fiction to Attempted Murder: A Generation’s Addiction to Pop Culture and The Internet


By: Ashley Zepeda

What started out as a simple competition on a popular internet forum has exploded into pop culture today, motivating children as young as twelve to commit heinous crimes ranging from arson to attempted murder.

In 2009 a popular internet forum called Something Awful had a contest to see which user could create the most convincing supernatural picture by taking old photographs and editing in paranormal beings. One user submitted an old black and white photo of a group of children in which he had edited in an impossibly tall and thin faceless man with long, reaching arms wearing a black suit and necktie that he named “Slenderman”.


This image quickly became shared and re-shared on the Something Awful forum and many others. It gained popularity, branching out with people all over the country creating their own fan art and fictional stories. Capitalizing on its relevance in pop culture, online companies began creating games and video shorts featuring Slenderman. The idea of Slenderman even inspired a major motion picture entitled “The Tall Man” in 2012.

Slenderman became a popular subject among the younger generations, who spend a majority of their time browsing the internet, especially among middle and high school aged children. In May of 2014 the obsession escalated when two twelve-year old girls were charged with attempted murder after luring another twelve-year old girl into the woods during a slumber party and stabbing her nineteen times repeatedly in the name of Slenderman. After the media brought this case to the public’s attention a woman from Hamilton, Ohio came forward stating that her thirteen year-old daughter had attempted to stab her after recently becoming obsessed with Slenderman. Another fourteen year-old girl set her house on fire, with her mother and nine year-old brother still inside, after she became aware of the Slenderman stories.

This disturbing occurrence of adolescents committing crimes motivated by fictional stories is not limited to the Slenderman cases. This past month in Louisville, Kentucky there was a city-wide scare after a group of individuals, believed to be adolescents, announced that they would be participating in a 12-hour crime spree based off of the recent popular movies, “The Purge, and The Purge: Anarchy”. This trend brings to light an important question of how the internet and its unfiltered 24/7 access to information, whether it be fictional or factual, is affecting our youth.

This is the first generation to grow up in a world where technology has allowed them to be constantly plugged in, whether browsing social media, watching videos or posting on sites. The problem lies in the fact that this younger generation lacks the maturity and knowledge to distinguish fact from fiction, which as seen by the recent Slenderman crimes can be a dangerous line to blur.

How Does The Public Form Their Ideas About Crime?


Increasingly, society’s perception about crime and criminal justice is being formed through exposure to various forms of media, which include television, video, movies, and the internet.

The number and variety of media options about crime, both factual and fictional is huge, and increasing every day.

News broadcasts which report crime in a community, can be classified as “crime information.” For the most part they provide accurate information about crime.

On the other hand “crime as entertainment” are just what they claim to be, fictional crime stories. CSI, Law & Order, NCIS are programs which come to mind.

In addition, “reality crime” shows have made their appearance in that past several years. Some of those include American Justice, Cold Case Files, COPS and many others.

Thanks to all of these types of programs, the boundary between real crime information and crime entertainment have increasingly blurred the line between reality and fiction in the REAL criminal justice system.

As a result, we, in the Office of the Fayette Commonwealth’s Attorney, spend an enormous amount of time in jury selection discussing misperceptions of jurors about the reality of the criminal justice system versus the fictional crime solvers of the entertainment world.



Louisville takes the threat of violence seriously.

The story-line of “The Purge” and its sequel “The Purge: Anarchy” involves a society that encourages crime and violence during a 12 hour period, once a year. In the films, random violence begins after a siren sounds, and all crime, including murder, become legal for 12 hours.



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