“Warning: the following content may contain elements that are not suitable for some audiences.” This sentence is very well known by people who have a dark and maybe weird taste, but definitely popular: True Crime. It has been taking over TV, streaming, podcasts, YouTube, literature and conquering more and more fans around the globe. There is not one single space that the genre hasn’t dominated. But what is True Crime, anyway?
The name says by itself: True Crime content consists of telling stories of real crimes while exposing details of what happened and following the investigation step by step. Different from “based on real facts” stories, this non-fiction genre exposes real-life facts and talks about people that, in fact, were involved. No romanticization, additional drama, or euphemisms. And, for that exact reason, it’s very graphic: atrocious murders, hideous crimes, and no happy endings.
It doesn’t look very pleasant, does it? Well, apparently, it does. Just give a check at Netflix home page: Making a Murderer, Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel, Don’t F**k With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer, The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann, Confessions with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes… These are only a few of the documentaries available on the streaming platform and all of them were an absolute success for critics and audiences.
It is important to notice that the media, in general, has always bombed people with this kind of thing. Sensationalist news telling brutal murder stories to catch the public’s attention, like it was entertainment, and movies about serial killers helped to create some kind of glamour around the theme, especially around the ’80s and ’90s, when notorious killers like Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer became better known. After that, the interest in it started getting more and more popular.
Today, the problem of glamourizing crimes is still very present. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile is a movie that tells the story about Ted Bundy, a serial killer of about 36 women (probably more), the movie is, theoretically, based on real facts, but here are the difference between it and true crime: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile stars the handsome and charming Zac Efron as Bundy (1st red flag) and changes a few facts to favor the plot’s drama. If you don’t know the monster that Bundy was before watching the film, you might even end up thinking “well, he doesn’t seem that bad!”. But watching Netflix’s Ted Bundy Tapes, a true-crime documentary narrated by Ted Bundy himself (tapes from when he was in prison), you might have the worst kind of nightmares (real story, I do recommend it, though).
But before Netflix and podcasts were a thing, literature was already loaded with True Crime. Books like Helter Skelter (1974), about the infamous Charlie Manson, his cult, crimes, and history, became super important for pop culture. After that, people never seemed to get enough of crimes.
But back to the beginning question: why are True Crime contents becoming more popular than ever? Apparently, the darkness about it is what makes it so compelling. It makes it possible to explore the dark side of human nature from a safe distance. As weird as it may seem, it is comfortable.
True stories make the public much more interested than fiction because they happened in real life. It could happen to anyone. It puts us inside the thing. While reading, listening, or watching true crime we end up thinking “would I be able to survive it?” or even “how would I hide the body?” and “how would I run away?”. Besides that, it is also fascinating to analyze extreme human behavior. What causes a human to kill and eat another human’s flesh like Jeffrey Dahmer did? It may look morbid, but for a lot of people, that’s incredibly interesting.
There’s also the “fun” part: you get to play armchair detective. Once you’re already inside the narrative, it starts raising more doubts than answers, especially if it is unsolved. The Madeleine McCann case, for example, has remained unsolved since 2007, and people never stopped investigating or creating theories about her disappearance. Podcasts, documentaries, videos about the little girl never stop coming out. Unsolved mysteries are such a phenomenon that there’s even a Netflix documentary series with this exact title.
By the way, even though most of the victims of serial killers are women, they’re also the group that consumes the most this kind of content, maybe because it gives them tips on how to spot danger and staying alive, like some kind of survival reflex. Podcasts like My Favorite Murder, by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, and the Brazilian Modus Operandi, by Carol Moreira and Mabê Bonafé are commanded by women who talk about the darkest and most brutal things with such naturality that you feel like you’re talking to a friend about it. Besides that, they also approach the theme with a lot of social awareness, condemning sexism, feminicide, and other problems.
There’s even a hilarious Saturday Night Live skit about the female obsession with True Crimes: https://twitter.com/nbcsnl/status/1365894914907779073?s=20
How about you? Are you True Crime obsessed already? If not, stop wasting time and check out the docs, books, and podcasts mentioned!
The article above was edited by Thays Avila
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