By: Anna Cox
True crime is one of the most successful genres of entertainment in recent years. It managed to shift from low-budget Lifetime retellings to the most in demand actors and producers making Netflix originals based on the stories. The angles of these stories differ with the perspective of the families, outsiders, and even sometimes the perpetrator, but the overall goal remains the same: create a high-intensity, complex story with the added benefit and intrigue of the words “based on a true story” in the trailer. Unfortunately, the demand for higher grossing storylines and positive engagement on social media convinces studios to continue greenlighting true-crime content. But, that’s the problem, I hate true crime content, and I would like to think that I’m not alone.
I’ll admit that it can be interesting to hear about sometimes, but the issue arises when people disconnect from the real murder and see it as a fictional story instead. This has become so common on platforms like Youtube and TikTok. Youtube “true crime gurus” almost always have a niche when it comes to their content, but what they all have in common is their tone-deaf placement and choice of sponsorships. The most popular sponsorship that true crime Youtubers sign onto is ‘Hunt a Killer’, the murder mystery kit. This reinforces a thought process that true crime is fun to hear about and these stories become caricatures of themselves . What’s worse is that the TikTok true crime content creators are the worst offenders. They publicize theories about the case that have no standing evidence. People on social media are saying that one of the surviving roommates is “suspicious” because she chose to hide from the killer instead of calling the police right away. If anyone were to search her name on TikTok, almost all of the videos would show either the girl being blamed for the murder, or people fraught about her receiving the blame. Social media’s true-crime fans are disrespectful, but they aren’t like that for no reason. The way this genre treats real cases has given people comfort to be a terrible online presence.
Many true crime movies, tv shows, and books do not look at the crime in a respectful manner. They instead focus on the killers and their lives. This is not inherently a bad thing. The channel JCS – Psychology on Youtube delves more into the psychology of the criminals and doesn’t try to make you sympathize with them. Most true-crime entertainment Unlike most true-crime entertainment, which makes a point to talk about the murder in gruesome detail, show photos of the crime scene, and focus heavily on the life of the criminal as a way to explain why they did what they did (all while casting actors that are considered heartthrobs i.e. Zac Efron as Ted Bundy and Evan Peters as Jeffrey Dahmer). This retelling of a murderer’s backstory brings people to feel bad for them which is extremely disrespectful to the families traumatized by the crimes . The influx of backstories being shared has even led to the making of fan accounts for notorious killers. And don’t think that not focusing on a killer is better because unsolved crime documentaries are just as demeaning.
In 2021, Netflix produced a documentary called Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel, which dove into theories as to how Elisa Lam ended up dead in the hotel water tank. While the documentary treats her like a nut-case, they claim she was murdered while completely ignoring the fact that her own family said she had Bipolar Disorder. They believe she was suffering from a manic episode and that her death was accidental, but the Netflix documentary doesn’t acknowledge a lick of this. They instead profit off of the exploitation of the tragic death of a young woman.
True crime entertainment is the bane of my existence and the people who vocalize their love of it are sickening and need to reevaluate their morals.