Are we seeing crime as a story or a tragedy?
The genre of true crime became popularized by In Cold Blood, a book written by Truman Capote in 1966. Ever since the publication of this book, there has been a steady increase in documentaries, podcasts, and series revolving around true crime cases. There has been a bigger boom in recent years of the consumption of true crime and more morbid topics because of easier access to information. However, with the increase of media being shoved out about these sensitive topics, we have to acknowledge the elephant in the room that has come from this.
Diving into the bottomless pit that is the true crime genre, one must ask themself, “what crosses the line of this kind of media being exploitative of the victims and their families?” True crime has become popular in podcasts and Youtube channels where some make it their whole livelihood. They put ad-breaks in their videos discussing the gruesome murders of innocent people that they have no relation to.
Along with profiting off of tragedies, many turn a real-life incident into a story to tell for purely entertainment value. Often, true crime Youtube channels do things like makeup while retelling cases and to many, it feels like the case is being desensitized and made into a story to tell instead of a real event. Bailey Sarian is a popular true crime youtuber and her actions of trying to make light hearted commentary about killer cases is constantly being debated. There needs to be care when talking about the torture and killings of innocent lives. It seems like people are becoming more and more desensitized to cruel true crime cases because they forget that there are real people involved.
Some may ask, “How can we be informed about these true crime cases if everything is seemingly exploitation?” With bad, there is also good, and some true crime channels handle the cases they cover with care. Kendall Rae is a prime example of how a true crime channel should be. She gives correct, researched information and often collaborates with the family members of the victim to involve them with the making of her videos. Coffeehouse Crime, Dark Curiosities, Disturban, and others like those are also very reliable in handling cases and being respectful.
An example of extremely exploitative retelling is the recent Netflix series called Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story and while it is not considered a documentary, it is still handling multiple victims of horrible tragedy. There has been a lot of talk around how the show is inaccurate at some points and gives the spotlight to the serial killer and not the victims. They did not reach out to all of the victims’ families beforehand, only a few, and that the families left out were outraged because of it. If Netflix wanted to make a show with a serial killer in the spotlight, they should’ve made a fictional story instead of capitalizing off of murder victims.
True crime is something that should be taken in an informational aspect with every case that is talked about treated with the respect it deserves. Serial killers and murderers should not have recognition like they currently do. A lot of true crime media is exploitative, we just need to look for resources that handle it with care instead of a cash grab.