“Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile”, “Evil Genius” and “Making a Murderer” are just three titles out of a long list of famous true-crime based works that have garnered worldwide popularity in the last few years. It is a recent trend that continues to spread as more real stories get picked up for production. You would think themes such as gruesome murders and gore would turn off a massive audience rather than attract it. The question, therefore, is why is true crime so popular? What is so captivating about True Crime that we just cannot get enough of?
Interest in unsolved crimes, grisly massacres, and cruel murders is not recent. Statistics show that shows and books depicting real-life crimes in precise, grim details have always had better ratings and performances than other works. However, it does not compare to the interest it gained recently. “Making a Murderer”, previously mentioned, for example, was watched by 19.3 million people in the US alone, just 35 days after its debut. This soaring popularity is due to a number of reasons.
One of the main reasons is curiosity.
As human beings, we are more inclined to search for things that do not seem to make sense, in order to understand them a little better. True crime lets us dive into the darker aspects of our nature, but within a safe distance as psychologist Dr. Meg Arrol explains. Watching hours of footage of Ted Bundy’s interviews with the police and confessions of notorious serial killers as they explain their motives gives us that peek into our wicked side but without experiencing it ourselves.
Challenge is the second reason, closely related to curiosity.
People like Jeffrey Dahmer and Charles Manson are terrifyingly mysterious. That makes us focused on deciphering what could have gone terribly wrong in their brains to resort to gruesome, merciless murders. The intricacies of unsolved crimes and serial killings are simply intriguing. It is also what pushes people to sit through entire productions dedicated to true crime for a chance of comprehension.
A third reason that compliments the first two is fear.
Statistics have shown that fear of crime overlaps crime itself. Thus, we conclude that fear does not deter us from watching those shows. It is rather a primary factor of why we tune in to them in the first place. Scott Bon, a criminology professor explained the attraction to true crime by saying: “It [true crime] allows us to experience fear and horror in a controlled environment where the threat is exciting but not real.” It is the recognition of safety that prompts us to watch and forces us to continue watching, even when horrifying scenes are playing.
True crime has massively infiltrated popular culture because of the large audience it accumulated in recent years. The primary factors that prevent us from turning the other way when another real-crime show is out are not conclusive, but sheer curiosity, challenge and fear are notable examples.