In Mindhunter, everyone's a pervert—but that's what makes them normal.
The Netflix original series, whose second season dropped in August, chronicles the origins and development of the FBI's profiling unit and its quest to identify the serial murderers who haunted the American landscape and cultural imagination in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The investigators' goal is to learn what drives killers, to understand not just how but why they do what they do. Their primary method is to conduct extensive interviews with multiple murderers who have already been convicted.
That means lots of tense, unnerving interviews with men who, inevitably, have deeply disturbed psyches and immense psychosexual hang-ups. Most obtain sexual satisfaction from hunting down their victims or fantasizing about violence. They get off on cruelty and control.
It would be easy to imagine a version of the show that portrayed kink as a gateway to violence, a marker of a potential criminal. Yet the series goes out of its way to stress that what many of the era viewed as sexual or psychological deviancy is, in fact, relatively normal, from homosexuality to BDSM to mental illness. The investigators all have psychological hang-ups and unusual sexual proclivities of their own, some of which they're forced to carry in private shame.
Their challenge, then, is to identify what separates the violent individuals from the rest of us. The show makes it abundantly clear that simply having erotic preferences outside the mainstream—even way outside—isn't what pushes someone over that line.