The ethical battleground of true crime consumption

Armchair Detectives and the true crime quandary

Image by: Ali Safadi
We can’t all be detectives.

From gripping Netflix documentaries to bone-chilling podcasts, the allure of true crime is pervasive.

Beyond the thrill of the chase or the mysteries that unfold; true crime lets us delve into the deepest, darkest corners of human nature while confronting the fears and anxieties we often suppress.

By engaging us through the intellectual challenge of piecing together clues to the emotional journey of understanding the victims and their stories, true crime invites us to explore the depths of criminal behaviour, understand what drives people to commit heinous acts, and examine the motives behind these crimes. It’s a safe space for us to experience fear and anxiety in a controlled way, a means of confronting the unsettling and the unknown from the safety of our living room couches.

The popularity of the true crime genre is at an all-time high. With a constant array of stories available at our fingertips, serial killers and criminal masterminds infiltrate our screens and keep us hooked. It’s a genre that allows us to immerse ourselves in a world of horror, suspense, confusion, and intrigue, providing a never-ending stream of captivating narratives.

I often find myself playing the role of an amateur sleuth, piecing together clues and attempting to unravel the puzzle delivered on a silver platter. The participatory aspect of the genre adds an extra layer of engagement, making it all the more engrossing.

The ethical battleground of true crime consumption The popularity of true crime doesn’t come without the burden of ethical concerns, and has been criticized for exploiting victims for financial gain. When victims and their stories are repackaged as mere entertainment, it raises unsettling questions about the blurred lines between the quest for justice and the capitalization on human tragedy.

Victims and their families often face renewed public scrutiny as they’re thrust back into the spotlight and forced to relive horrendous experiences. The re-traumatization of those already burdened with unimaginable pain causes the line between seeking justice and profiting from someone else’s suffering alarmingly thin.

Sensationalism is another ethical tightrope true crime creators and audiences must consider.

At its core, the distribution of true crime material seeks to illuminate the successes and failures of the justice system. Yet, those in charge of storytelling might be inclined to prioritize shock value over a deeper exploration of these themes.

This veers dangerously close to dehumanization, where victims are mere plot devices, their personal histories reduced to contextual anecdotes.

In some cases, the attention and notoriety given to perpetrators of heinous crimes can inadvertently glamorize their actions and turn them into celebrities of sorts. This phenomenon, sometimes referred to as the “cult of personality,” can be distressing and encourage the wrong kind of attention—even copycat behaviour.

Much like junk food, true crime entertainment gives us a feeling of satisfaction without any substantial nourishment. By offering a compelling look into the darker aspects of human nature, the intricacies of the justice system, and the complex realm of criminal psychology, it keeps us on the edge of our seats.

The allure of true crime is undeniable, but it’s essential to recognize the ethical concerns accompanying this fascination. Creators and consumers must remain conscious of these pitfalls and strive for a more balanced and ethical approach that ensures victims’ stories are told with empathy and respect.


documentary, Podcasts, True crime

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