The rise and impact of True Crime and its fictional counterpart in entertainment.
You are lounging on your couch cuddled up in a warm blanket. In your arms, you carry a large bucket of popcorn, eyes fixed on a TV screen. You wince a little as a violent sequence plays across, but you are still captivated. You watch every little detail, trying to solve the crime yourself. You are watching some of the most gruesome and unspeakable crimes, yet it is so mesmerizing.
Now, it is so easy to find True Crime documentaries, podcasts, detective shows, and criminal agency shows on all sorts of media platforms. Especially with the quarantine, many people have found an interest in True Crime and the more fictional crime genre.
Isha Kansal (11) spent quarantine binge watching all 15 seasons of Criminal Minds. “I started watching Criminal Minds because I thought it would be interesting to watch a different genre. Usually, I stick with sitcoms and cartoon TV shows, [so] crime shows are totally different. For me, personally it was just wanting to watch something that’s different than what I usually watch or read about… and wanting to expand [my horizon] and just an overall curiosity… [My friends and I are] curious about the way law works, especially with modern times… So I think it’s just wanting to explore different pathways or different genres is what usually drives people to be interested in this.” Kansal shares her thoughts on why she thinks crime shows are popular.
Besides just a genre to cure boredom and provide entertainment, True Crime can also be really educational. Charitha Gangi (11) is more interested in True Crime and tends to watch more videos in the realm of nonfiction crime, like Buzzfeed Unsolved and Hailey Reese. “It’s kind of interesting to me, because somebody that you could have known for your entire life could have been undergoing similar psychological issues. And it’s just something that’s kind of taboo… a lot of people don’t necessarily talk about that type of stuff. So I just feel like [the True Crime genre is] breaking mental health [boundaries] as well the stereotypes… it’s just kind of makes me more aware of the society we live in… So even though it’s subjective to every individual person, it shows that there are people who struggle, and we should be more aware of that.” says Gangi.
Gangi recently did a True Crime project for her AP English class which she greatly enjoyed. The True Crime Live! assignment was created by student teacher Ms. Benedetti, who is a self proclaimed True Crime enthusiast.
“People watch the shows for so many different reasons and with fictional crime, there’s such a range of what kind it takes. There’s humor. There’s fantasy kind of crime shows. There’s sci-fi crime shows. There’s more realistic and darker ones.” Ms. Benedetti says. The diverse range that these crime shows cover help increase its popularity as it appeals to a broader audience.
The crime genre is full of a variety of TV shows from Criminal Minds to Bones to Sherlock and they just keep becoming popular. One can sit around and watch hours upon hours of crime shows binging through seasons upon season, shows upon shows. Generally, these shows are gory and touch upon tough subjects, like death and murder, which may make some question whether an interest in crime stories are healthy.
“I definitely feel like it depends on the person. I know some people who are very uncomfortable with the topic, or just the subject or genre in general. I feel like I have a pretty good resistance or I feel like I can handle it. Because some of the stuff is disturbing… But I don’t think it’s necessarily unhealthy. Like, just because you read through crime or listening to crime isn’t gonna make you want to go kill someone. I definitely feel like it’s subjective. And people should be aware of like, how much they can take, because not all true crime is bad. Like, not all true crime is murder, gore, and stuff like that. Some are just psychological and they are really interesting to read. It just depends on the person.” Gangi says, addressing the question.
As a student in the AP English course, Gangi recently read In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. Like many other students, she has found an increased interest in True Crime due to reading the book. The nonfiction novel is one that Mrs. Smith, one of the 11th grade AP English teachers, teaches yearly. Mrs. Smith not only enjoys True Crime books like In Cold Blood, but also loves reading mystery novels in her free time.
“I think they are healthy. I think that a part of the psychology of reading about a murder mystery is that aspect of it being solved. And then so with true crime, both books and movies, you have that, for the most part, Unsolved Mysteries aside, you have that knowledge that there’s going to be a happy ending. That the bad guy is going to be caught… And so there’s a sense of security that comes with that. While we all know that bad things happen in the world, it’s nice to know when justice is served.”
While there are definitely benefits to watching crime shows, there can also be detriments.
Mrs. Smith acknowledges that watching all the detective shows and other criminal agency shows can lead to misinformation. “It’s easy to have a misperception of the amount of resources that would be utilized in order to solve crimes… you certainly know there are teams that work towards solving especially high profile crimes. But I think that the easiest misperception is not that bad people don’t do bad things to other people, but that with the solving of the crimes, and it is not necessarily really going to work that way.” says Mrs. Smith.
Some may feel that watching all these shows and reading all these books about heinous crimes can desensitize people to crime. However, True Crime aficionado Ms. Benedetti disagrees.
“I can’t say I have been desensitized. Unfortunately, the one thing I can say is that I’m aware that these things do happen in the world. So, I suppose there is a sense of desensitization there in that it would be nice to be oblivious to all the horrible things, a person can do to one another, or eight people can do to one another. But even in the smallest changes from crime to crime, whether it is violent or not I can’t say that there’s a numbness to it just because it still baffles me how one person could go to that extent and true crime is a way to, you know, pick people’s brains and get closer to that knowledge, but it’s hard to say. One can never understand it unless they do it.” says Ms. Benedetti.
The interest in crime shows and stories have been rising since the 1960’s, when Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood first came out, and it seems it will keep growing.