A victim of a stabbing thinks our true crime obsession is creepy

I am repelled by most fictional and true crime shows. They’re all about wallowing in the bullet holes, the steaming guts, and the allure of nasty, sociopathic people doing nasty, violent things. We’re given more-or-less “good guys” but they’re mostly window dressing for the crimes. I offer as supporting evidence the typical TV or movie teaser. It’s all victims (usually women) screaming, weapons fired, death struggles and artistic blood splatters. The news shows usually don’t show the women screaming, but they provide the same murder porn in the form of spoken word productions instead of dramas.

I have tried without success to work out the answer to the “Media violence: threat or menace?” debate. It always stumps me how few people doubt that immersion in a foreign language is a great way to teach the language, yet many, many people insist that 24/7 immersion in graphic violence has no psychological effect whatever. The question has become as polarized as politics, and an awful lot of money is made by supporting the latter view.

I do know that my son worked as a PA on one of the true crime shows and day after day of gruesome effects and re-created murders messed up his sleep and left him deeply depressed for a couple of months afterward. Make of it what you will.


Well the other angle on why it’s exploded recently is a shift to, or maybe just an opportunity to forefront, the denser end of it.

This is a pretty stock, and in my opinion light weight, criticism of the genre. It’s mostly based on a really superficial read, and it’s in many ways badly outdated. Often judging things based on the state of things circa 1990.

A lot of the bigger works in true crime these days are far more concerned with unpacking social factors, psychological drives and pathological behaviors, and the sort of historiography of the cases in question. Rather than salacious details, or the mystery angle.

The writer makes 2 major mistakes. First is equating tabloid crime reporting with true crime as a genre. Not many people into true crime are reading the NY Post’s daily missive about how immigrants and Blacks are coming for your condo. True crime doesn’t even neccisarily cover violent crime. Cults, scams, political corruption are all major parts of it.

And I’d hardly call the many works that have covered how Atlanta’s racist policing and policies allowed the Atlanta Child Murders to happen, continue, and left the potential for some of them to still be unsolved out there conservative scaremongering. Nor the very good accounts of how police in Yorkshire insisting that every woman who was a) single, b) went to a bar, c) had a job must be a sex worker allowed Peter Sutcliffe to do what he did. Unpackings of the 80’s Satanic Panic sure as shit aren’t.

The other major mistake is taking the trashy cable TV “Women Who Kill” (actual show) end of it as the entire genre. Which I think I’ve already covered.

This makes it doubly weird that she chooses to call out My Favorite Murder, who have covered all of these subjects. As well as, more than once, the many disappearances of Indigenous women in the US, and Canada. While calling out the lack of coverage.

They were actually at the forefront of calling out Netflix over the shit, damaging material they produced about Ted Bundy a few years ago. Criticizing that approach to Ted Bundy is kinda the entire thing with Ted Bundy for a big chunk of the True Crime scene at this point.

A major part of what the internet, and really it was podcasting that drove the current boom, giving you an outlet on this means. Is more of, and more access to that sort of material. Where as in the past you had to slog through a lot trash, and a lot of outright falsehood before you stumbled on anything good. I think the recent boom is as much down to is being easier to coalesce around the better works.


There is a redemptive element to some classic whodunnit crime fiction. Wouldn’t it be nice if there always was a Sherlock Holmes or Lord Peter Wimsey who can make sense of it all, rescue the innocent, and determine the truth? And, to temper justice with mercy, even if it means going outside the law? Conan Doyle was heavily into spiritualism. Dorothy L. Sayers wrote heavyweight books on Christianity. There may be others.

I can’t take horror, cruelty, and violence, myself.


They’re publishing an article essentially chastising the public for having an unhealthy interest in the gory details of tabloid stories?

It’s obviously not self-awareness week.


I think that there is a logic behind this. People (like some other intelligent animals) are interested to find out why one of their own kind was injured/killed. If they manage to figure out the cause they might be able to avoid the same fate. So curiosity raises their own survival rate.

But our fairly intelligent brain does also accept fictional examples about people getting killed. The other animals likely lack communication skill to tell accomplish this. The ancient people likely told stories about both true and also fictional violent events to teach their children to survive. So we have several thousands of years of experience about learning by fiction.

So our brains likely have an obsessive urge to be interested about violence. Some might be feeling enough disgust or that they are just scared about violence and they don’t like to see any kind of violence. You can try to fight with your own brain but natural urges usually win.

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I think there’s a strong element of the trickster god, coyote type story to our love of that kind of crime fiction, something I pontificate about drunkenly to anyone who’ll listen (or at least sit still).


Lucifer was a final reductio ad absurdum for the genre, with the police work clearly included only because in order for the show to get on network TV casual channel surfers would have to think it was about cops solving crimes


I did like that it was also used to amusingly mirror whatever personal issue Lucifer was going through that week. I hate procedurals and copaganda in general, but that show was far enough removed from any kind of reality that it was entertaining (see also Randell Garret’s Lord Darcy mysteries)

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My wife follows stories but she’s not into trying to solve them or stalking Facebook or anything like that. I think she’s just fascinated by the back stories.

She keeps updating me on one she’s following and I want to still get lucky so I act interested (she knows that).

Apparently some guy hired someone to kill him so his family could get the life insurance because he did a bunch of illegal things and was going to jail or bankrupt or something but the murder failed and they started investigating him for the possible attempted murder of his own son but now it turns out the son may have murdered someone, I think, maybe his mom. Did you not hear me when I said I don’t pay attention so maybe I don’t have all the facts.

For her, I think it’s about the soap opera like stories and the total unbelievable nature of some these crimes that makes it interesting because no way could it be real.

Other stories just make her sad and she learns about the victim and then gets sadder. I gotta get her another cat.

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Couples that murder together tend to stay together, at least until the arrest.


Those who slay together stay together.
And if fortunate, even lay together.



One of the interesting things about these police interrogations is there’s always a Sherlock Holmes. When they’re at their best the cat and mouse game of a good police interrogation far surpasses any work of fiction for nuance and psychological depth. The psychological games a good interrogator plays, and how successful those games are, is just fascinating. To me at least.

Me too, can’t possibly make it through an episode of Game of Thrones for example for precisely that reason. But interestingly I find these interrogations so fascinating, even when the case itself was violent. Maybe it’s the comeuppance that the perpetrator is in the process of receiving. But ultimately I think it’s all about the psychology with a level of nuance and subtlety that just doesn’t exist in fiction, especially TV and movies.

Interesting point. There’s another appeal to watching police interrogations that I find pretty interesting. As Scott Sharpe from the hilarious YouTube series “True Crime Loser” put it: watching an interrogation you realize “I’m fucked, but I’m not nearly as fucked as that guy is”. There’s a certain comfort in that, ha.

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