One of the latest serial killer crime dramas, The Following, takes a slightly different approach to the genre. The murderer in the series, who uses imagery from Edgar Allen Poe to commit his crimes, is in prison, having been caught years earlier by the show’s protagonist played by Kevin Bacon. While he escapes in the first episode, he is safely returned to prison by the end of the hour. Yet, the killings continue. How is this possible? The answer is what makes this show different from so many others.
A New Type of Killer Operating from Behind Bars
Joe Carroll, former professor and the murderer, is a master manipulator, as so many real life sociopaths and psychopaths are. He killed a number of women on his own before the law was able to apprehend him. Even jail cannot stop him though. He has the ability to influence others and to bring them to his side. Even his captors often find themselves drawn to him.
While he was in prison, Carroll was able to have visitors. Many of those visitors were fans of his, or former students. In real life, serial killers have “fans” as well, strange as it may sound. Something about the dark side and danger seems to draw some people, and that was a smart move by the show’s writers to include that facet. The people that he drew to him are all willing to do whatever he says in order to make him happy. That could include giving up their old lives and beginning anew under aliases. It also includes murder.
Now, Carroll has a cult of his own on the outside. They are working toward fulfilling Carroll’s grand scheme, and it seems as though everyone, including the FBI, is playing their part in the murderer’s story.
It’s a strange and dark story, certainly. Most people sit comfortably on their couches or in their warm beds and believe that it’s only television and nothing like that could ever really happen. No one could have that sort of power.
Cults Like That Couldn’t Exist… Could They?
While television writers are going to take certain creative license when it comes to these things, cults really do exist. They’ve existed since the first people gathered and one of them found that he could convince the others to do something he wanted more than likely.
You can even find recent cases that show cultish behavior. Look at Jim Jones and his cult in Guyana. He convinced nearly a thousand people who were members of the Peoples’ Temple to commit suicide. These people willingly killed themselves and their children at the words of this man. It is possible to convince people to do things that most would never do.
Carroll is a bit different though. He targeted people to become his followers who were already at the edge. He wanted people who were already flirting with violence and murder on his side. He wanted people to kill for him. Another cult leader who was able to do something similar, even though the original intentions might have been different, was Charles Manson. Manson was able to have his followers go out on more than one occasion and commit heinous acts of murder in order to get out Charlie’s “message”.
Those who have an interest in this sort of field should consider learning more about forensic psychology. Getting a forensic psychology degree will help to give you greater insight into these types of murders and cults. They can even help you to understand what is real and what is Hollywood hokum when you are watching television shows such as The Following.
Anita Schepers provides advice and information on how to get a forensic psychology degree online at ForensicPsychologyOnline.com.