By the editorial staff
You are walking across campus on a busy day. Hordes of students gathered all around, headphones on to keep the world out.
But if you’ve shared a pair of headphones with one of your classmates, you might be in for a surprise: According to a survey of 1,000 U.S. adults by YouGovAmerica, half of Americans watch true crime documentaries.
In light of recent harrowing events, the true crime genre has never been more popular. One of the most streamed podcasts of this genre is “Crime Junkie,” which boasts a 4.8-star rating on Spotify with 63,000 reviews. Even more popular is the “Morbid” podcast, which has a 4.7-star rating out of 80,000 reviews on Spotify.
What is driving tens of thousands of listeners to dive deep into morbid curiosity, and at what cost?
At its worst, true crime can be insensitive, even exploitative. Netflix’s ‘Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story’ shocked the families of Dahmer’s victims, as they claimed that the series benefited from their tragedy and the creators failed to reach the families before its release.
When it comes to the true crime genre, this is a common complaint. Many believe this area of the industry capitalizes on the trauma of victims and often their death. TV producers, actors, streaming services and more make their money off the worst things imaginable.
Others argue that continued consumption of genuine crime media can be detrimental to mental health, as it desensitizes the viewer to graphic images and can even creep into the viewer’s subconscious.
Morbid curiosity often turns sour and degrades into something more economical: being entertained by stories of death and wickedness.
Truthfully, true crime is supposed to make its viewer deeply sad. But the haphazard way it’s eaten makes it less likely you’ll shut down the show thinking about the humanity and lives of those who have had something precious stolen, but rather about what you’re going to eat for your next meal. Or maybe you need to take a shower or check your messages.
True crime combines the morbid and the mundane in an unhealthy way.
However, the genre is not without its advantages. Some say hearing these stories can give the listener useful tools to ensure their own safety, God forbid they are in danger.
One case in particular bears striking witness to this argument. In 1984, then 17-year-old Lisa McVey was kidnapped by Bobby Joe Long, who killed at least 10 women in Tampa, Florida.
Lying in the car seat, she was able to peer under the blindfold to identify the make and model of her captor’s vehicle. So, she has memorized the number of steps she takes in her apartment. Once inside her, she left hair and more DNA behind and complied with her captor’s demands.
On his way to free her, Long stopped at an ATM for the first time. McVey remembered the jingle of his PIN number, which he would later recall to the police.
Due to McVey’s quick thinking, she is the only known survivor of Long and later served as deputy chief of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office in Tampa.
His story, and that of many others, can shine a little hope in the darkest moments. It’s important to remember when consuming real crime media, as with anything else, that moderation is key, as is thinking critically about what you’re consuming.
Learn from the heartbreaking stories of the victims. Don’t romanticize or sensationalize their murders, and allow these stories to deepen your empathy for others.