True Crime – the newest form of entertainment 

Urheber*in: Bellinon Lizenz (CC):

Imagine this scenario: You have finished another hard day of work, and you want to do something relaxing before going to bed, so you decide to listen to the new episode of your favourite podcast, telling a story about a convicted serial killer who got famous for brutally killing over 30 women. It may sound weird and creepy to some people, but it is actually a very common genre of entertainment that is surprisingly popular among women. But how can we explain this extraordinary phenomenon, and isn’t this obsession over true crimes already a problem in our society? 

In 2010, a study by the University of Illinois revealed that, when given a choice of violent reading material, it was noticeable that more women had chosen to read stories about death and the dismemberment of victims. Men, on the other hand, were mostly drawn to non-fiction books about war or gang violence than to this newly hyped “true crime” genre. Over the years, research has been done about gender and aggression and has established that men are more likely to commit violent crimes, while women are very often the victims of those. So it is even more surprising that women are the ones that are so fascinated by the true crime genre, and furthermore are even more interested in especially women getting killed. But how can this be explained? 

Dr. Marissa Harrison, an associate professor of psychology at Penn State Harrisburg assumes that this “obsession” did not only arise because of the lack of exciting stories, but rather to provide information that the consumers feel could help them to avoid or escape from a potential attacker. Furthermore, women might try to understand the murderer’s psyche and why such horrible things happen. One should also not forget the curiosity, which applies to both men and women, and is a normal human trait, that affects our interest towards the “world of evil”, which people are afraid of but simultaneously still can’t get enough of. This phenomenon is called the “train wreck” phenomenon, which, according to scientists, is based on our survival instincts that are triggered by tragic events or stories. To this day it is still highly debatable whether we really react to and learn more from negative experiences than we do from positive ones. 

But as “innocent” as it might sound, this extreme interest can have negative consequences for our society today and in the future. Not only can true-crime stories increase people’s paranoia and cause an isolation out of fear, but also might “encourage” mentally unstable people to follow their “idols”. For example, the names of famous serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer or Richard Ramirez may sound familiar to you. Not only do they have a fanbase that admires and celebrates them, but also people who actually try to be better and more successful than the “originals”, which is absolutely sick and disappointing. 

These days, there is probably nothing that could stop the rising popularity of true crime-related works, and maybe it shouldn’t be considered such a bad influence after all. It is nothing new that people become obsessed over such twisted things as crimes and yet, those people didn’t create drastic dangers that couldn’t be brought under control by authorities. At the end of the day, it’s a human thing to be interested in dark topics, and it’s okay as long as it stays a “healthy obsession”.

Kate Beifort