True crime continuously is prevalent in our lives. From popular Netflix shows like Tiger King and Making a Murderer and best selling books like Mindhunter to true crime youtubers and podcasts, people engulf true crime media like never before. But why? Why has this happened? Why are people obsessed with true crime? Today’s blog post is hopefully going to answer that. Let’s get to it.
One reason why people are so obsessed with true crime is simply to do with fascination. David Green who is with the University of Law states that “as humans, we have a morbid fascination with events that can have such an impact on the lives of others.” It’s almost this need of being nosy. Some of us are always keen on knowing everything about others. Author Caitlin Rother also says we are “simply fascinated by aberrant behaviour and many paths twisted perceptions take.” Again,there’s this sense of nosiness with the criminal. Investigative journalist M William Phelps adds to this by stating we are “fascinated by the criminals, what motivates them and what they do next.” So not only are we nosy because of wondering why a criminal does what they do, we’re also nosy in order to be one “one step ahead” if we can “figure it out.”
Another reason why people might be obsessed with true crime is the idea of figuring out the crime itself. David Wilson, a professor of Criminology, states we like to “try and solve the mystery.” Katharine Ramsland who’s a professor of Forensic Psychology adds to this by saying “true crime on TV and in books offers a puzzle that people want to solve.”
This can stem from documentaries presenting the crime in a chronological order, particularly true crime youtubers. Furthermore, true crime documentaries, as stated by David Green, take us “into the world of crime. The police investigation, the work of solicitors and the barristers and the court proceedings are rarely experienced by the public.” I would argue this is more prevalent in the UK. In the USA, there are instances where cameras are allowed in the court so the general public are able to see that albeit on the news.
It’s worth noting that these documentaries allow us to consume this material in a comfortable situation. Dr Meg Arroll, a psychologist, says “true crime stories allow us to explore the darker side of nature in a safe way.” We can “switch off and return to normal.” It might sound strange that some of us want to consume a darker side of nature but David Canter, a professor of Psychology explains that the “danger we feel while consuming true crime excites us.”
This leads on to a psychological aspect of why people are obsessed with true crime. Emma Kenney states that “watching crime shows triggers a chemical reaction, affirming moral views about right and wrong.” We like this idea of continuously knowing that the views we have are correct. David Canter adds to this by saying the “fight of flight idea stimulates physiological arousal.”
I would like to end this by saying that this obsession with true crime isn’t something new. In fact, obsession with true crime has been around since the 18th century. Nell Darby, a crime historian, makes us aware of this. She mentions that “hanging was a form of entertainment.” It’s known that families would gather for these and public executions were common. Equally, “19th century newspapers recognised this interest in crime and were happy to cater it.” For example, they were always publishing the latest information regarding the Jack the Ripper case. They would post about the letters, graphic information about the killings and more.
I hope you enjoyed this post. It took a lot of research but I’m very proud of it. Thank you for reading and I shall see you next time!