by Katherine Dee
Wednesday, 14
December 2022
Dark Web
11:30

A dark online Sandy Hook subculture is growing

Social media platforms are awash with fanwork of Adam Lanza
by Katherine Dee
A recent tweet from one of Adam Lanza’s fans

Ten years ago today, 20-year-old Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and fatally shot 26 people. Twenty of those people were first-graders. 

The spectacle around Alex Jones’s involvement in spreading misinformation about Sandy Hook has become a bigger conversation piece than the event itself. But tucked in some of the internet’s darker youth subcultures, however, Sandy Hook’s legacy is more salient.


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Open up any social media platform —TikTok, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, DeviantArt, Pinterest — and on typing in one of maybe a dozen keywords, your screen will be awash with fanwork of Adam Lanza. 

The content hides behind different hashtags, ostensibly to evade censorship: misspellings of Lanza’s name, lanzapilled, lanzarexia (a cutesy reference to his alleged eating disorder), the euphemistic “TCC” (True Crime Community) — the umbrella term for people who valorise murderers. But across platforms, the posts are the same — remixes of Lanza playing Dance Dance Revolution, expressions of romantic desire, a reimagining of him as an anime or film character or even LGBT or gender-bent, riffs on popular memes, and imagined glimpses into his internal world set to music.

Adam Lanza reimagined as intersex by an anonymous Twitter user

Lanza isn’t the only shooter to receive this treatment, though he is among the more popular. 

This video, for example, combines a remix of dialogue from American Psycho and I Monster’s “Who Is She?” with a video of 24-year-old Randy Stair, who fatally shot three of his co-workers in 2017 before committing suicide. Another shows a slideshow of photos of Elliot Rodger, who killed six people and injured 14 others during the 2014 Isla Vista Shooting, set to a catchy pop song, with an imagined dialogue captioned: “Umm why do you like him?” / “Your beauty never ever scared me.” Though not every shooter has a dedicated cult following, most have at least some fans, and, therefore, some fan art. 

Fandoms that coalesce around murderers are not a new phenomenon. Charles Manson and Ted Bundy famously had fan girls, as did the Night Stalker, Richard Ramirez. One of the more unusual knock-on effects of the Columbine shooting was the creation of a fandom known as “Columbiners,” who treated the shooting as others might treat Star Trek or their favourite boyband. But where these people and communities used to be sideshow attractions that existed on the fringes, today they are hardly rare. 

Wherever there is a dark or provocative youth subculture, imagery of mass shooters abounds. What’s fascinating about this imagery is that it is aesthetic, not moral — most members of TCC make sure to clarify D-N-C; they do not condone. For the most part, members of this community are not bloodthirsty would-be psychopaths who see these shooters as demigods of retribution. Often bundled up with hashtags like #incel, #femcel, #depression, #despair or #isolation are relatable depictions of adolescence and early adulthood, with young people struggling to find their place in the modern world. 

Like the video of Elliot Rodger, some fans see themselves as holders of some esoteric knowledge that the mainstream is incapable of penetrating. Only they understand the pain these shooters experienced because they feel it too. They don’t condone the atrocity, but they see mirrors of their own feelings of alienation and despair. Other fans, like those who create fan art of Adam Lanza as a transgender person, seem to be using these murderers as canvasses onto which they can project their teen angst. 

There remains a question of how much of this perpetuates violence. A nontrivial number of mass shooters had some interest or investment in this fandom; Adam Lanza — who kept a spreadsheet of mass shooters, their kill counts, and weapons used — even had a Tumblr account where he chronicled his interest. 

While the answer may be unclear, what is clear is that this community is growing. A broader malaise is spreading through younger generations, who are evidently struggling to deal with a despair of their own.

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Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
1 month ago

Wow! I have a hard time believing this is actually that common. If you dig deep enough into the dark recesses of the Internet, you can find all kinds of freaks. As long as they stay in the recesses, I’m not sure I can bother worrying about them.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
1 month ago

yes – but you missed the point of the growing despair of our youth which we should be aware of………………..

Mike Michaels
Mike Michaels
1 month ago
Reply to  chris sullivan

Lied to since reception class that the earth will burn up shortly I’m not surprised they are upset.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 month ago

The individual human mind is quite capable of understanding and even sympathizing with people whose behavior they would never duplicate or imitate. Why else would television and movies be filled with vigilante justice, romanticized mobsters, western gunslingers, swashbuckling pirates, etc. Romanticizing criminals, deviants, and rogues is hardly new, because most of us are mentally flexible enough to understand the motivations of those characters even if we feel strongly they should die in prison. The tragedy is multiplied twofold because in addition to being the villain and the perpetrator of crime, the murderer is also a victim, usually a victim of his own circumstances, or personal failings, or vices, or influences, or some combination of the above. For example, on the subject of pirates, one of the more realistic portrayals is “Captain Phillips”. One can watch and feel sympathy for both Phillips and some of the pirates who kidnap him. The gory conclusion can be seen as both a good ending, or a tragic one. IMHO, it’s both and it’s neither.

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
1 month ago

Great piece, especially in drawing a distinction between those who see some of their own angst in killers but DNC and those out there who are threats to go on their own rampages. Part of the agony for all of us is finding a way to tell the difference in time to stop the violence, and to begin learning how members of the former group can devolve into the latter, and how we can push them back again.

Tony Sandy
Tony Sandy
1 month ago

Heroes are those that save lives, not kill others. People have always worshipped the death instinct and these are called losers because winners want to be here and want to be alive. They have hope as opposed to those that feel they are excluded and therefore have none and want to leave this world (look at the suicide rate). See thanatos and Freud and The Juggernaut in India. Me, I understand that when I am depressed but have never l felt the need to hero worship, murderers.

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
1 month ago

No question as to why this is primarily a US problem?
Perhaps it has something to do with their monumentally stupid gun laws?

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
1 month ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

Your reminder here that the gargantuan majority of American gun owners never harm one single soul, and that gun violence is the work of people, not inanimate objects.

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
1 month ago
Reply to  Daniel Lee

But an AR15 sure helps facilitate the slaughter, doesn’t it?!?! Better make sure they are readily available to every loon and psycho who fancies shooting up an elementary school or church!

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
1 month ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

Every seen a shotgun wound? I have. AR15s and similar weapons are not howitzers. They are high-powered, but so are any number of hunting rifles. They are semi-automatic, but so are any number of other weapons, from .22 cal target shooting pistols to squirrel rifles to common self-defense handguns. There are even semi-automatic shotguns. Taking these ordinary weapons away from the almost uncountable majority of people who own them and never harm anyone would be to punish them for the actions of a very tiny group of criminals and mentally ill people. But of course the long game is to take all the guns away because “gunsbadgunsbadgunsbad.”

Betsy Arehart
Betsy Arehart
1 month ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

Yes, there are far too many guns running around and killing people.

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
1 month ago
Reply to  Betsy Arehart

Not quite there but close – well done!