Podcasts. Documentaries. Movies and TV shows. True-crime entertainment has flooded the visions of our society, captivated our attention and made us all question why we can’t look away. I am no stranger to this phenomenon, as a subscriber to podcasts like “Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom” and “Root of Evil,” as well as a loyal viewer of shows like “Forensic Files” and “Making a Murderer.”
I could probably name 20 more forms of true-crime entertainment that I have watched or listened to and recommended to others. I don’t question the validity of why these shows exist and have existed for decades, what I question is what this says about our society. Why do we enjoy watching some of the most real and gruesome crimes unfold in front of us as a form of entertainment?
In 2009 Michael Mantell, former chief psychologist of the San Diego Police Department, told NPR that being true-crime obsessed is “normal and healthy.” Cases like Ted Bundy and the Golden State Killer are historical and are just a part of life. Other psychologists have said that evil fascinates us — obviously — or that we like to be scared in a controlled setting.
All of these statements are agreeable as someone who participates in this genre of entertainment.
But I do believe that there is a fine line between true-crime that is informative and true-crime that is desensitizing our society — and we are walking along that line.
I am not making any fanatical claims that true-crime entertainment raises the crime rate, or saying we should boycott these podcasts and television shows. What I am suggesting is that as a viewer, you should ask yourself, and then answer, ‘What about this podcast, television show or movie is so fascinating to me?’
Is it purely for entertainment? Then remind yourself that the case in front of you happened in real-life and is more horrifying than you could understand through a screen or headphones. Are you watching for historical purposes? Then think about how these crimes may have affected the victims and everyone around them.
This may seem like an overly P.C. way of looking at what you may just see as entertainment, but too much desensitization of gruesome and perverse crimes could have subconscious effects on our minds.
The obsessive interest in serial killers is not a personality trait or a “fun fact.” True-crime is not just a new movie starring Zac Efron that is over when you close your laptop. Watch true-crime TV shows, listen to true-crime podcasts and talk with friends and family about what you saw/heard. But do not let this entertainment change fact to fiction in your eyes.