Undeniably, we collectively have a love for anything linked to serial killers, with true crime being an extremely popular genre. Recently, there has been a huge increase in the amount of true crime, whether it be documentaries on Ted Bundy, Netfix’s making a murder or the case files podcasts. Our fascination and the want to learn about all the wrong doings and happenings in our society is such a bewildering obsession that we all could admit to having.
True crime is especially popular with women, shown by a 2010 study by the University of Illinois where women were more likely to read true crime stories than men. Criminologist from Edinburgh University, Dr. Gemma Flynn expresses that “there is certainly something that is driving women to consume true crime in large numbers”. With our fear of crime making us want to engage with true crime narratives to understand the “morals of society”. Rachel Fairburn, cohost of All Killa, No Filla podcast argues that since youth, women have been taught “to watch out” and “be careful and look after ourselves”, therefore instilling a love for true crime due to the prioritization of our safety. Women have a fear of crime that has been inculcated throughout our lives, leading us to have such a love for learning about real life crimes that frequently occur within our society.
Us as humans, have a huge love for problem solving. True crime allows for people to be imaginative, with the idea of solving a mystery and “playing armchair detective” as Fairburn says. The concept of puzzle solving excites people, thus attracting us to all the true crime and serial killer documentaries that we could endlessly problem solve for. Problem solving allows for us as humans to improve our perception and understanding of the world around us, and is a skill we use all the time. We take great delight out of the satisfaction of solving these mysteries so quickly, when it takes so long for actual detectives in real life!
A recent article on BuzzFeed highlighted some of the best True Crime podcasts to binge on. Their selection included, The Orange Tree, named after the condominium where a gruesome crime took place back in 2005 when 21-year-old Jennifer Cave was shot, stabbed, and partially dismembered in her friend’s condo. During the podcast episodes two journalism students at UT, who found all the major players in the case, attempt to understand what led to Cave’s murder. Another firm favorite listed is CounterClock which transports the listener back to the summer of 1997 when Denise Johnson was killed in her home in the seaside North Carolina town of Kill Devil Hills. Following the killing, her house was torched. What initially seemed to be a crime of passion quickly became a cold case. As part of a 13 part series, investigative journalist Delia D’Ambra revisits the case, interviewing former neighbors, police officers, and Johnson’s family members and friends, uncovering new theories and suspects along the way. And in Culpable, we hear how 21-year old Christian Andreacchio’s apparent suicide in his apartment’s upstairs bathroom was not believed by Andreacchio’s mother, who instead suspected foul play. The podcast explores this theory further and even explores the behavior and motivations of Andreacchio’s then-girlfriend. Interestingly, she went on to sue the family and the podcast in respect of their portrayal of her.
Speaking of the fascination people seem to hold for true crime, Jooyoung Lee, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Toronto said ‘“I think human beings, in general, are just drawn to extreme cases of violence. And when I say drawn to them, I don’t mean that they watch something and hope to emulate it; there’s just this fascination.”
Although, despite our love for true crime, it can negatively damage us. Disturbing content that we tend to watch within this genre can significantly cause problems like a disrupted sleep pattern or experiencing nightmares. When watching or reading this genre our bodies will release more adrenaline, triggering our fight or flight response. We then react to the violence we see and impacting our mental and physical wellbeing.
Not only this, we can become desensitized to such unsettling crimes. The normalization of crimes makes us unconsciously ignore these huge issues that we could possibly encounter in our everyday life. Many will romanticize about killers, one memorable example of this being Ted Bundy and the charming charisma many fell in love with. This leads to more wider issues like not sympathizing for the families and communities that were victimized by the criminals injustices.
On the whole, true crime is extensively popular because of the societal norms of protecting ourselves from danger, as well as the problem solving factor that we all enjoy to engage with. Nevertheless, it can become obsessive and too much true crime can cause a variety of problems for us and others too. With huge sleeping problems and becoming out of touch with reality.