As time passes, I am seeing more and more people on social media get into true crime, whether that be through podcasts, documentaries, YouTube videos, etc. While this is definitely a fun interest to say you have, I personally believe that an extensive interest in it can be unethical.
I want to be clear, I’m not saying true crime is not important. In some situations, it’s incredibly necessary. For example, cases are often studied when getting degrees such as criminal justice. Retellings of these unfortunate stories can definitely be done in the right way; my issue is when these retellings glorify the events that happened.
I believe, as a generation, Gen Z is relatively desensitized when it comes to bad things happening in the world. While I don’t believe this is our fault, I think this is where the lines start to blur when it comes to true crime. There’s nothing wrong with finding the story of a crime interesting, but I often find that those who consume lots of true crime media fail to keep the victim in mind while doing so.
This is, however, not entirely the consumer’s fault. In the past few years there have been many major productions of movies that essentially glorify horrific past events. The first two that come to mind are Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile and My Friend Dahmer. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile was a Netflix original that followed the crimes and trial of Ted Bundy. Similarly, My Friend Dahmer tells the story of how Jeffery Dahmer grew up.
To me, there is a big difference between these movies, made for entertainment, and documentaries. Documentaries are made to educate and are supposed to tell the story without bias. Movies tend to humanize the criminals they are the subject of. Netflix has a massive reach through the media and the fact that this movie may have played a role in the glorification of these killers is alarming.
While I stated that I don’t think this desensitivity is our fault, I do think it can be very dangerous. If you consume any type of media for long enough, you get used to it. True crime is not something that we should be getting used to. This makes it even more dangerous for the victims of the crime, as well as for the person consuming them. I think the entertainment industry glorifying and humanizing real-world criminals plays a major role in this.
As far as podcasts and YouTube videos go, I think the validity of their retellings is a case-by-case basis. I don’t feel qualified to speak on any specifics, since I don’t listen to or watch true crime, but I will say that my main concern is always the exploitation of the victims. Every time an event in true crime is retold, it is often digging up something traumatic for family members of the victim. In some cases, the family may be okay, or even be in favor of the story being retold but either way, they never will be able to leave that part of their life behind.
I want to stress that yet again, not everyone who consumes true crime media is a bad person or anything like that. If you are doing it while being respectful and keeping the victim in mind, I think it’s alright. My main issue is less with the listeners and more with the production of this type of media. It’s very easy for true crime to get out of hand and glorify killers. After all, these criminals wanted to be remembered, and by constantly producing media about them, we are keeping them alive.
To summarize, I think there is a very fine line between respecting and exploiting the victims of past crimes. I believe that true crime should be produced more for educational purposes and less for the entertainment that is causing this true crime obsession to grow.