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Is the True Crime Obsession Going Too Far?

True crime has been an ongoing interest among people, but is it starting to go too far?

The recent case of Gabby Petito gained worldwide attention as officials searched for answers after her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, came home without her after a road trip and refused to speak about what happened. Quickly, people started to insert their opinions on the case through social media, specifically TikTok, YouTube, and various podcasts. This then started a wave of theories about Gabby and her disappearance, but how ethical could theorizing on such a thing really be? Some important details of the case were spotted by sleuths online, but some people also seemed to cross boundaries, not respecting the victim and their family.

True crime podcasts, books, YouTube videos, and documentaries have been around for ages, but in the past decade or so, there has been a surge in interest. Usually, the videos include a short biography of the victim before giving specific details of the case. A lot of times when YouTubers or podcast hosts explain the cases, it almost comes across as a story time, and many viewers treat it as such.

Although many victims’ families are okay with the retelling of their case, a lot are also not. Sometimes it can come across as trivializing and exploiting the worst, most heartbreaking moments in their life as entertainment for others. Even posing with a dramatic facial expression with photos of the victim for a thumbnail to gain attention for their video can be extremely inappropriate when dealing with such a serious and real case.

Consuming so much true crime media desensitizes us to the severity of what we’re watching. Hearing the details of a gruesome and evil crime case is extremely heavy on a person, but after watching case after case, it almost numbs a person until they disconnect the case from the people in real life. It’s a lot easier to bear the details when we don’t connect the case to real people who had their own lives and loved ones, but then again, how ethical is it to use people’s tragic experiences as our own fiction?

Although true crime can be a tricky subject to navigate, it shouldn't just be ignored. A lot of popular true crime YouTubers and podcast hosts have brought the attention of millions of viewers to unsolved cases in hopes of bringing the families closure, and have had family members of victims as guests in their videos to tell their story. Sometimes, these cases can even inform viewers of safety concerns to keep in mind for themselves in the future.

There is a very fine line between respectfully explaining a case and disrespectfully exploiting a victim. Hopefully in the future, true crime cases will be handled with much more thought and respect for the victims and their families.

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Elizabeth Tait

U Mass Amherst '24

Elizabeth is a sophomore at UMass Amherst double majoring in psychology and sociology. In her free time, she loves reading, watching sunrises at the beach, making music playlists, playing tennis, and traveling. She is also passionate about mental health awareness and is involved with Active Minds on campus.
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