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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Bradley U chapter.

True crime is one of the most popular genres of storytelling right now. I say “storytelling,” because while the facts are true, they are made to be entertaining more than anything else. True crime is a highly variable genre, and it can be used in books, shows, video essays and podcasts. 

I was a big fan of the genre in high school. I frequently watched “Buzzfeed Unsolved,” the “Watcher” YouTube channel, listened to scary podcasts, and generally spent a lot of time freaking myself out. There’s something to be said about getting scared in a safe environment, about learning the true, untold stories of people that should get justice. With that being said, there’s a dark side to true crime, and the older I get, the less I feel comfortable supporting the genre. 

The first problem with true crime is that it can quickly spiral from educational to voyeurism. People have a hard time separating their entertainment from reality at the best of times. In true crime, people consume horrific stories for self-gain, but can often forget the people in the story aren’t characters — they’re real people. For example, the recent Jeffery Dahmer show, starring Evan Peters, recreated the testimonies of various family members of his victims. While this makes for good television, people forget that those experiences aren’t from a made up script. They are from real people, real people that will forever be impacted by a horrific crime committed against someone they love. True crime, to me, often feels more exploitative than entertaining. Often, true crime also serves the interests of police in the form of “cop-aganda,” especially when it comes to serial killer media. In real life, police officers were often biased. Instead of completing thorough investigations, they let their biases lead them. Instead of blaming police-incompetence, crime is blamed on the “super-genius” of serial killers. 

Aside from exploiting the stories of victims, true crime hurts the listeners, too. While there’s nothing wrong with listening to true crime, it can also negatively influence your mental health. Recent research suggests listening to true crime can increase paranoia. In addition, it can make you more anxious and fearful of becoming the next victim of a murderous stranger. Not to frighten anyone, but in the United States, it is more likely you will be killed/harmed by someone you know, and not a stranger. All true crime does is make you fear strangers and reaffirm existing biases of who the real “criminals” are. 

I know I’ll probably keep watching “Watcher” and old episodes of “Buzzfeed Unsolved.” I’ll never judge people for listening to true crime podcasts or reading scary novels about serial killers. All I ask is, the next time you consume this kind of content, think a little more critically about the kind of messages you’re absorbing.

Charlotte Tolly

Bradley U '25

Charlotte is a third year UX design major with a passion for art and writing. In her free time, you can find her baking, reading, or spending time with her friends.