If you were to hop on either Spotify or Apple podcasts and look at the charts displaying the most listened to podcasts you would see that on both charts within the top ten there is a common theme: true crime. Whether it be the ever popular Crime Junkie, or Morbid: A True Crime Podcast, Sinister Societies, Over My Dead Body, or the classic Dateline, there is an overwhelming number of true crime podcasts that appear at the top of the charts. This feels a bit alarming and makes you wonder: why do people enjoy listening to true crime stories? Is it because they want to try and prevent it from happening to them? Are they glad it wasn’t them? Or is the world full of sadists? First it is important to note that these true crimes often center on kidnappings and murder, they don’t usually talk about small crime like getting a traffic ticket. So, how can people listen to brutal kidnappings and murders over and over and go about their normal lives and what effect does that have on the rest of us?
People can tap into the true crime world basically anywhere, they can turn on Dateline, go on Netflix and watch the documentary Abducted in Plain Sight, or heck if ninety minutes isn’t enough for you Unsolved Mysteries has twelve fortyish minute episodes you could watch. Let’s not forget the ever accessible podcasts I mentioned previously you can listen to them anywhere doing practically anything, that is their allure of course. There is clearly an overload of true crime content, people can consume an obscene amount of it and suddenly they think they’re experts. Let’s look at the recent Petito case in which a young woman went missing after a trip with her fiance and later was found deceased. These true crime junkies as they call themselves had a true crime story being played out right in front of their eyes, so naturally many of them felt compelled to comment about it or give their idea about what happened. In some cases the use of social media and “true crime junkies” has been helpful, like in the Luka Magnotta case as documented in the Netflix series Don’t F**k With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer, however Gabby Petito’s case was not an internet based killer it was based in real life. So here is where we have a conundrum, it isn’t exactly helpful to the trained authorities trying to solve a case when a bunch of “true crime junkies” all over the country are trying to tell you their version of the crime. Furthermore, it is not helpful to the families of the missing or deceased to constantly be bombarded with theories about what happened to their loved one.
As true crime stories become more and more pervasive into the media and our everyday lives we can see that not only are they not all that helpful, but they also can be doing damage. Where true crime is becoming an issue is in who they choose to portray. The stories that are often picked up by the news get more attention from authorities and often can find an ending, whereas there are stories that are not being told and families not getting closure. The stories that are often not picked up are often people of color’s stories of missing family members and loved ones. If you go on social media you’ll see people advocating for their family members to be found, especially in the indigenous community which has begun a movement to stop MMIW, missing and murdered indigenous women because they are being kidnapped and killed at an alarmingly high rate, yet we don’t see new coverage about it. NBC ran a story in August that merely linked some websites to help the cause, but didn’t raise much awareness or tell their stories. It is increasingly clear that the news and media pick and choose who they give coverage to. Major news outlets need to start giving people of color’s stories the same coverage that they give to white people’s.
Overall it seems that the true crime community is one that does more harm than good, while it isn’t harmful to listen to or watch these types of stories it’s when it begins affecting real life and real people where it becomes a problem. I’m not saying you have to completely stop watching American Crime Story, but next time you do think about whose story is being told and whose story isn’t.