Enjoying True Crime Is Not a Crime

Rowen Holder, Staff Writer

If you open a streaming platform like Netflix, you are bound to find an endless assortment of true crime movies and shows. The fascination with the genre has increased in the past several years, but its popularity began in the 1980s. In recent times, Netflix reports a 63% growth in the industry between January 2018 and March 2021; true crime is the biggest documentary subgenre, but also the fastest-growing.  

While this is all very interesting, the genre has a harsh stigma surrounding it. Many people believe that viewers of such television series and podcasts are “murder-obsessed” or odd for enjoying such dark tales. Yet, there is a psychological explanation.

According to A.J. Marsden (assistant professor of human services and psychology at Beacon College), true crime is fascinating “Because it offers us a glimpse into the deviant parts of the human psyche.” Marsden thinks viewers want to try to “understand the motivation behind such gruesome, bizarre, senseless acts of violence.” She added,  “We want to understand because we are afraid.” 

Humans are naturally attracted to the unknown and unexplainable, and true crime stories are no exception. There are benefits to exploring the genre. Amanda Vicary (an associate professor of psychology at Illinois Wesleyan University) explains, “By learning about murders …people are also learning about ways to prevent becoming a victim themselves.” With such a wide exposure to such crimes, people are becoming more aware of the world around them and acting more cautious. Statistics show that women are the main consumers of the genre; it makes sense, especially since they are more likely to become a victim. 

Enjoying true crime is a perfectly good pastime, as long as you don’t overdo it. Every “true crime-obsessed” person has different tolerance levels to the content they are viewing. Sometimes you just have to hit pause on a podcast or skip a heartbreaking 911 call recording. This is the right thing to do. Your stress levels can spike when you read or watch true crime content; it can also lead to paranoia, nightmares and inhibit you from taking risks, even small ones. Marsden states, “If you find the material increasingly upsetting, or if your obsession starts to disrupt your everyday life, it’s time to reevaluate.” When viewers get to a point where they are afraid to walk through every dark parking lot, meet their Uber driver, or experience extreme fear in social situations, it is time to take a break. True crime content is meant to educate and keep you safe from making decisions that could put you at risk, not put you into a panic. 

Ashley Flowers and Brit Prawat host the Crime Junkie podcast featured on Spotify, they end every episode by saying, “Be weird, be rude & stay alive.” These are words to live by.