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The author compares cinematic constructions of mass shooting perpetrators, victims, and social factors against academic knowledge and news media to determine how films perpetuate myths, reinforce academic knowledge, and act as a source of popular criminology. Cinematic findings highlight perpetrators as young, White, school shooters, and motivation types including fame seeking and defeated by society. Films construct diverse forms of victimization involving direct victims, indirect victims, and perpetrators as victims. Finally, movies emphasize sensational news media coverage as a contributing social factor. Implications of these findings suggest films blend with news media misconceptions and perpetuate myths that reinforce stereotypes of criminality, cause people to overlook warnings, and increase perceptions of risk. Despite this, they reflect academic knowledge by conveying nuanced perpetrator motivations and the news media’s contribution to the phenomenon. They also provide a source of popular criminology by illustrating the public’s fascination with violence and the emotional dynamics of victimization.


This is the author's accepted manuscript of an article originally published in Victims & Offenders, available at



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