It is undeniable that I am obsessed with true crime. It really is an addiction, I know so many cases like the back of my hand and I must shamefully admit that too often I turn on a new episode, documentary or podcast to find it is a story I have already heard before.
But I am far from alone, it is clear that there are many fans of the genre just like me. I can honestly say, I have never met someone who is just mildly interested in true crime, it really is all or nothing for people like us. Now does that make us disturbed? Or odd? Or morbid? I guess that depends on who you ask but I think, there are far less sinister reasons why true crime captivates so many of us, so let me explain some of them.
True crime makes me feel smarter
My interest in true crime is all about unravelling that good old mystery of who, why and how and once you’ve gotten hooked on one case I promise you it’s very hard to stop looking for more. What can I say, I’ve been addicted to solving mysteries from the beginning of my life when I discovered Cluedo and watched Scooby-Doo on repeat and I know I’m not the only one.
Every single crime is a puzzle that I thrive to solve and it helps me unwind from the stress of day-to-day life by investing my mind in the details of these cases as I join the hosts of various shows, podcasts and documentaries to try and unravel the answers behind these senseless tragedies.
I think for many of us true crime fans there is a great sense of accomplishment and reassurance to be gained from when you are able to breakdown and understand the most senseless human acts. So answer me this, what isn’t attractive about being able to give the unanswerable some answers? And who among us doesn’t sleep easier when they feel like they’ve gained some closure?
True crime makes me feel optimistic
I know that sounds like a truly bizarre statement to make but let me expand. A lot of people may assume that all true crime content is just there to reveal sick, perverse details of crimes that offer some sort of fulfilment for our innate morbid fascination but generally that really isn’t the case.
Yes the details can be sickening and they are often a challenge for even the most well-versed true crime fan to digest without a flinch but the overall narrative of the true-crime genre is almost always about good beating evil. It’s your classic superhero arch but applied to real life. It’s your worst horror film villain in human form which makes it all the more terrifying as to what they have done and all the more rewarding when they are impeded by some good detective work.
My optimism is further enhanced by forensic science, which is practically witchcraft as far as I’m concerned. I’m never not amazed by what things can be used to stop people from getting away with these horrible act – a single hair, plant particles, carpet fibres, you name it they’ve got a way to figure out where it comes from.
The progress that these forensic and criminal justice fields are undergoing in modern times is truly inspiring and something that excites me greatly. Cold cases are being cracked wide open right now and criminals who may never have faced consequences are no longer safe from justice, just look at the capture of The Golden State Killer.
Joseph DeAngelo the man accused of being the Golden State Killer is wheeled up before a judge. He's expected to plead guilty to a series of murders and rapes that terrorized Californians during the 70s and 80s. He was caught using DNA evidence. #goldenstatekiller #GSK pic.twitter.com/2WtM7CIKh0— Anthony Leong (@anthonyleong83) June 29, 2020
So yes true crime makes me optimistic, it makes me believe that we are moving in the direction of making crimes all the more difficult to commit. Every time I read about new cases and how criminals have been captured I feel inspired by the work that was done to make that happen. I have vast appreciation and respect for those working in the field of criminal investigations and these true crime tales feel like a window into what they have achieved so far and where they could be heading.
True crime makes me feel safer
Now if you thought optimism was a weird reaction to have towards true crime, no doubt safety is an even more bizarre notion to throw out there, but hold on… True crime at its core is just stories of humanity at its worst and that is both a frightening and fascinating topic. Being a fan of true crime does not mean you don’t feel that fear, I think that is half the attraction just like an adrenaline junkie. But why use fear as a method of escapism? Well, what if I told you that the fear of being a victim isn’t escapism to me, it’s reality.
The overwhelming majority of true crime fans are women, who are also the overwhelming majority of victims in these horrific cases. Yes I enjoy learning about true crime but I also can’t walk a street without worrying about the car pulling up near me, I can’t keep my eyes to the ground for long enough when I notice a strange man trying to get my attention, I can’t help but flinch when a biker comes near me after an incident that happened in my first year of university and I can no longer walk to the shops without the comfort of pepper spray in my purse after an incident that happened just last year.
So why would I be filling my head on a near-daily basis with stories of what is truly the worst-case scenario? It sounds like a very backwards way to handle my anxiety and the fear I have of the world we live in right? But for some reason, I have found ingesting true crime to be one of the few ways I feel like I can regain control of what is out of my control.
If someone chooses me as a victim, I know that no amount of true crime stories will make a difference to my fate, whatever happens, is down to the circumstances of that moment and yet my mind feels so much more at ease moving around this world knowing that I have consumed endless different scenarios from these true crime stories. If the worse case were to happen to me, I hope that somewhere buried in my psyche is the answer to surviving and surely wanting to survive is the most basic human instinct of all? So perhaps the daily fear women are made to feel surrounding their status as a potential victim could be a core contributor to our true crime fascination.
These stories as horrific as they are, are far from useless bits of entertainment, instead, I have gained so many important bits of advice that help me to feel safer every day. For example, when I get into the car I lock the doors immediately, I ‘fuck politeness’ as the ladies at My Favorite Murder put it and I always let someone know where I am going when I’ve left home.
From these stories I have also learnt that the most imminent threat is never the stranger on the street but usually someone in your life and the most consistent motive is either jealously or money. Most importantly I’ve learnt that murder rarely comes out of nowhere and that’s why hind-sight from these cases is our best chance of spotting the escalation of dangerous people. So maybe trying to stay safe is why I can’t peel my eyes away, because I feel I must proactively lookout for potential threats.
Of course, the responsibility should never be on any victim to be safe but it is fiction to believe that we currently live in a world that abides by that truth and so until that happens I guess true crime is where I’ll continue to get my self-help even if it’s just to give myself a false sense of control and my mind a little ego boost.
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