True Crime and Serial Killers- Why Are We Obsessed?

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As much as I like to pretend I’m a special butterfly and no one ‘gets’ me, it’s pretty clear that I am just like thousands (millions?) of other millennial women who are obsessed with True Crime. 

Why are we so fascinated with True Crime?

This article by the BBC mentions toward the end that true crime gives us a reassurance of morality- that there is clearly a right and wrong which gives us some security in an insecure world. I think that this has never been more true than in recent days, where we find ourselves having to argue with people that we love about things that shouldn’t be politicized (racism, sexism, the validity of FACT, etc.) 

True crime makes it easy in a way- it already happened, there’s a clear bad person, justice is done, etc. etc. But I think that it’s easy to forget- justice is a human concept and can’t compensate family and friends for being robbed of potential. And I assert, true crime can also be imprisoning or punishing someone for a crime they didn’t commit- a miscarriage of justice that is disproportionate.

Benefits of Our True Crime Obsession

Though it’s easily argued that making money and for lack of a better word, entertainment off of peoples’ deepest misfortunes is reprehensible, there are some good things that have been coming from this influx of the true-crime genre. 

A lot of these documentaries/series/podcasts etc. call attention to the victim rather than the criminal and give them their agency back. It can also bring light to the unsolved and push to provide answers to the victims’ families.

For example, look at “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” by Michelle McNamara- her drive to find answers helped bring new life into the case of EARS/ONS (The Golden State Killer) which was then solved using DNA, giving the victims and their families the justice they deserve. Another example, check out this article about how the show “Unsolved Mysteries” was able to help solve several unsolved cold cases.

Anthropophobia- What it Means to Me

I can only speak for me, but something that horrifies me is how random things can be. Yes, there’s that old adage “the spouse did it”, and that is true… a lot. But when it comes to serial killers- you can be doing everything right and still fall victim. In quite a few cases, the victim can fit the killer’s ‘type’ and be selected for traits that they cannot help or merely because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time. 

You know that old saying when you shiver and say ‘someone must have walked over my grave”? How sinister- and yet I wonder how many people I’ve walked by who have realms of darkness within them?

 

Fascinated by serial killers

Most especially, stories of serial killers easily scare and fascinate us readers/viewers/etc. with how they can act within a normal functioning and rule-abiding society- all without their aberrant behaviors being noticed. Serial killers are perhaps the closest we can come to this moralist judgement of good versus evil, because there is no way to rationalize away their actions. They are the embodiment of darkness, cowards who can’t show their face in the light. 

But what is important for us is to remember their victims are people who had lives- who thought and dreamed of their own futures. A lot of the podcasts (like my fav, Crime Junkie) try to make sure to illustrate these people as such and to give them voices.

For some true crime book recs, check out a previous post I did HERE.
 

Fictional Serial Killer Book Recommendations

Here are a few fictional recs about serial killers if you are looking for a scare and don’t want to dwell on anything that actually happened. There is so much going on in the world now, that fiction may be a more comforting escape, even in the world of thrillers.

 

Robert Harris

Like all of these recs, I’m sure that you’ve seen the movie. Anthony Hopkins is terrifying as Hannibal Lecter. Or maybe you’ve seen the follow up series Hannibal. If you haven’t read the original story, I urge you to consider it!

Stieg Larsson

Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander team up to investigate a wealthy woman’s disappearance- and find much more than they bargained for. There are two movie editions of this novel, both very good (and very scary!)

Alice Sebold

Susie Salmon is in heaven after falling victim to a heinous crime. As she adjusts to her new life, she keeps an eye on her family and friends as they try to pick up their lives and find her killer.  This is also a fantastic movie, but read the book first.

Jeff Lindsay

Yes, you’ve probably seen at least an episode of Dexter if you’re anything like me. Check out the book that inspired the series of a serial killer who kills bad guys.

Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell

This is a graphic novel based on Jack the Ripper in Victorian London. You may have seen the movie with Johnny Depp- this is what that was based on!

Reading as a Way of Coping?

Perhaps I view reading books like this as a way to cope with my own silly fears. As someone with anxiety, I think pushing myself to read about things that scare me is a way to give myself control over my fears. 

But what do you think? Why are YOU obsessed?

Stay safe, 

Jane

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    2 thoughts on “True Crime and Serial Killers- Why Are We Obsessed?”

      • Yes, I got really obsessed with serial killers when I found out one of the most famous (Ted Bundy) kidnapped and murdered several random women in my area and many of my older coworkers STILL remember it. They were terrified for years to be out by themselves. This led me down a long rabbit hole into serial killers and true crime podcasts.

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