The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Trigger warning: This article mentions topics of homicide, criminals, and the criminal justice system. Please read at your own risk and be careful of what you search for online.
“Micheal Myers”, “Chuckie”, “Jason”, and “Scream” were all staples in the horror movie industry, as well as our childhood. People don’t only watch these movies for the blood, gore, and occasional boob scenes, but because the idea of murder is fascinating. I always had a desire to understand why people committed these crimes (which is why I am a psychology major). I binge-watched all of the Netflix documentaries but wanted more than just the same crime repeated over and over again. That is when I discovered true crime podcasts. At first, I hated podcasts because the ones I grew up with were linguistic ones that my dad liked. But then I discovered “Crime Junkie” and “Rotten Mago.” These two podcasts are now on my constant rotation and always playing in my earbuds. To save you from the 11,000 minutes of crime podcasts I listened to (according to Spotify), I’ll shorten it to the biggest lessons these podcasts taught me.
- There are a lot more infamous serial killers than you think.
When you think of a serial killer, you probably think of Ted Bundy, the Zodiac Killer, or Charles Manson. These men, along with many others, have become infamous because of their heinous crimes but also because of their strange behavior– behaviors like representing yourself in court, sending letters to the newspaper, or hypnotizing people. While these are fascinating, these aren’t the only serial killers who lurked in the dark. There are many other serial killers who had just as gruesome crimes. Killers like Israel Keyes, Charlie Brandt, Dr.No, the Denver hammer killer, and many more to count. A reason that these killers don’t get enough attention is that they are attacking in lesser-known areas or they attack for longer periods of time.
- Gruesome crimes don’t just happen in Los Angeles.
Nearly all infamous crimes that have occurred are in the sunny hillsides of Los Angeles, California. Infamous cases such as O.J Simpson, Golden State Killer, and the mysterious death of Lisa Lam at the Cecil Hotel. Surprisingly, horrendous murders don’t just exist in California, but happen all across the globe and are just as fascinating and goose-bump-worthy. Some of the most fascinating ones to me are the Dnepropetrovsk Maniacs (this one is extremely disturbing), Peter Manuel, and, of course, Jack the Ripper.
- It is okay to be rude sometimes.
From what I know, a lot of ways that killers have tried to lure people in, especially women, is by asking for help. Ted Bundy, for example, pretended to have a broken arm and asked two women for help carrying things into his car. Of course, it is good to help others, but it is okay to be rude and say, “I can’t help right now.” You can fake a phone call, offer to call that person for help, or flat out ignore them. While it may seem rude, it is okay to protect yourself and be suspicious of others. As women get the stereotype of being extremely helpful, sweet, and naive, a lot of criminals prey on that. Don’t pull over to help someone unless you are with a man, offer to call them help and drive away or simply ignore them. It is better to be rude than to be attacked.
- True crime is overly franchised.
It is okay to be interested in human behavior and the darkness of the world. Crime is an interesting subject, which is why they have classes for it and why it has become such a big topic for the entertainment industry. However, this line is easy to cross when we forget that this isn’t fiction, but that real human lives were lost. I have seen so many blankets, cups, hats, and even shirts that say “this is my true crime watching shirt” and it is covered in fake blood. There are serial killer coloring books and even Pop Figures of those killers. These products are incredibly insensitive to those affected by their crimes. Killers are not celebrities, they are monsters. Murder isn’t a made-up concept from a documentary, but a human life that was taken away. It is important to remember that these are traumatic and dark events that will impact people forever. It is okay to be interested but it isn’t okay to use someone’s death as merchandise.
- Victims don’t get enough recognition, especially POC.
It is difficult to bring attention to every victim of a murder. However, there has been a trend in the media where white women victims receive more attention than women of color, LGBTQ+ members, or those who are sex workers. Ever hear of the Green River Killer? Probably not, because all 48 of his victims worked in the sex entertainment industry. When Gabby Petito went missing, almost every news channel or newspaper was covering her disappearance but that is not the same for the 5,712 missing indigenous women who have yet to be found. Ted Bundy wasn’t just famous because of his odd behavior, but because all of his victims were white, rich women. Every victim of a crime should get equal amounts of news coverage. On another note, documentaries and podcasts fail to describe or give justice to the victims. Their names are usually forgotten because we are so obsessed with the killer than the life that was lost. Race, sexuality, and occupation should not determine someone’s worth to be televised.
- The justice system is incredibly flawed
In the summer of 2020, we saw clearly through the media that the police system is extremely flawed. They are also notorious for their mistreatment or mishandling of criminal cases. While I could list the thousands of cases that exemplify this, the biggest one was the case of Robert Durst. Durst was accused of three murders, one in 1989, 2000 and committed murder in 2011. In 2011, he had admitted to killing his neighbor but claimed self-defense. This murder, however, did not look like self-defense, for the victim’s body was dismembered. Even though he admitted to this murder and the dismemberment, he was not found guilty and got off with no punishment. This isn’t the first time we have seen a rich white man get acquitted of a heinous crime. There are many other cases that show this injustice, but this is the most famous one.
The world of true crime is a vast and interesting one, filled with hidden secrets and exposeés to the justice system. But behind all of its fascination, there are families who lost a loved one, grief, and the tragic loss of life. I listen to true crime not because it’s fascinating, but because there is one more listener hearing about a cold case, one more person who is learning about the beautiful lives of the victims. True crime has its flaws, but it is what has brought attention to cold cases and helps them get solved.
Recommendations of podcasts, TV shows, and movies to watch if you love true crime:
For a great book on the Golden State Killer, read “I’ll Be Gone in The Dark” by Michelle Mcnamara.
For a great documentary that captures the problems with the police department, watch the Amanda Knox documentary on Netflix.
For more information on the Robert Durst case, watch the documentary “The Jinx “on HBO Max. This is probably the best true crime documentary I have ever seen.
“Crime Junkie” offers episodes about some well-known cases but also provides attention to cold cases and missing indigenous women.
“Rotten Mango” is a podcast that offers in-depth coverage of cases with episodes that can be up to an hour and a half long. She provides a deep dive into the victim’s life and offers cases from all around the world.
Eleanor Neale, my favorite true crime YouTuber, has videos covering cases from the U.K as well as familiar cases.