On July 20, 2012, James Holmes entered a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and killed 12 people (70 others were injured). Immediately after, James Holmes fan sites—most of them helmed by young women—began appearing on Tumblr. At the time, many of these women proclaimed him to be innocent, but now, two years later, he has been found guilty of murder by the court of law. So, where do these fans—called Holmies—currently stand?
Over at Slate, Amanda Hess has explored the sad, delusional, and infuriating world of Holmies and discovered that, while many have moved on, there’s a core of them who still exist and remain devoted.
The Holmies who stuck around were the ones who managed to locate some personal interest in Holmes’ evolving narrative. It’s an intimate crew: A couple dozen women and a few men who convene on Tumblr (which skews younger), and Facebook (where there’s a more maternal vibe). Some modern Holmies relate to Holmes’ struggles with mental health, blogging about their own experiences with bipolar disorder or dealing with side effects from Zoloft. Others had been invested in mental health advocacy for years before they found the Holmies. In some cases, though, the mental health stuff is a strategy to deepen the fantasy relationship with Holmes. It’s less about criminal justice reform than a pledge of commitment in sickness and in health, or else a daydream about nursing him back to adorkable. Posts read like social justice fan fiction: It’s styled like a movement, but it’s really all about you.
As Hess notes, Holmes’ fandom is hardly unique and, on Tumblr, “any white boy with a haircut is eligible.” There are fan sites devoted to Dylan Roof, Adam Lanza, and T.J. Lane. Even pre-internet serial killers like Ted Bundy are celebrated on the blogging platform. Serial killer fascination (and celebration) is not unique to the internet, but the web certainly gives it farther reach: “These fandoms are starting to seem less like organic gatherings of people who happen to harbor the same weird, offensive crush and more like automatically generated message boards that appear whenever another white boy kills, and then wait for people to click,” Hess writes.
The fan sites are endlessly frustrating and you often want to shake the participants, slap them, and tell them to wake up. Either that, or you’ll be filled with an overwhelming anger with the realization that anyone could celebrate someone like James Holmes or Dylan Roof. Dipping your toe into this particular internet subculture is so emotionally taxing that you might as well avoid it and let Hess do the heavy lifting for you. You can read her full piece here.
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