By Lann Nguyen, March 21, 2023
When people learn that I’m into true crime, they often have one of two responses, “True crime exploits the victim’s story in favor of the killer” and “That’s so creepy” which are not in line with what I believe in.
I see an interest in true crime as an opportunity to learn about the evils of this world through a controlled environment, as well as turn that knowledge into something good to help victims, their families and future potential victims to not become victims themselves.
I am a crime junkie through and through. Consuming true crime is my favorite pastime, and I’m pursuing investigative journalism as a career so that I can bring to light the stories of people who were taken too soon and unjustly.
It is undeniable that true crime is a very popular form of entertainment in the United States and can be found everywhere on all sorts of platforms: podcasts, documentaries, TV series, books — and that’s just for starters.
Although, like with anything, some are out to monetize and make a profit from the victim’s stories, but that is not why true crime exists. Instead, it is to inform and give us a sense of control over a situation, knowing what to expect and not being blind to the dangers that lurk in this world.
My favorite podcast, “Crime Junkie,” hosted by Ashley Flowers and Brit Prawat, takes a case each episode and tells the story about a victim and the crime and usually tries to help find a missing person.
The show also fundraises to test DNA in cold cases with nameless victims. The hosts urge the listeners to contact the specific police department if they know any pertinent information.
This show has funded successful DNA matches and given a name to the face of victims who have families and friends who have wondered what evil had befallen their loved one, bringing some sense of peace and closure in knowing what happened.
Humans have a deep sense of curiosity. Much like the caveman who discovered how to create fire by rubbing sticks together, true crime invokes that same feeling of primal curiosity.
However, some purveyors of true crime have profited off of victim’s stories, which is insensitive and irresponsible.
Social media is a prime example of influencers who disregard the truth and take creative liberties to get more views. One ghastly trend that is on the rise is people who make videos detailing a horrendous true crime case while casually applying a full face of makeup then asking viewers to like and subscribe to their content.
Using victim’s stories as a marketing ploy to promote yourself and monetize content is reprehensible.
Every streaming service is flooded with true crime content, and with Americans’ desensitization to crime, these shows make it easier to disengage with the real stories behind the Hollywood glorification. This is mostly for entertainment purposes, which is the real crime.
People need to see the inside of a murderer’s mind in order to attain a sense of security, and these shows provide that insight.
We’re curious as to what makes people to do the unimaginable and crave answers in the same way that most of us our afraid of the dark– which is really just a fear of the unknown.
There I was, sitting and looking over crime scene photos from the O.J. Simpson case while listening to an episode of “Crime Junkie,” pondering whether Simpson really did it (he didn’t, my money’s on his son).
That’s when my boyfriend looks over my shoulder, horrified, and asked me why I get enjoyment out of looking at such graphic images.
I thought about it and realized that learning about criminal cases gives me a feeling of safety in the sense of the old saying, “knowledge is power.” By being informed and vigilant, I can stay safe.
In the controlled environment that true crime creates, I can feel the rush of being in a fight-or-flight situation, but I can also take a moment to think about what I would do in a similar situation.
A sense of peace flows through me knowing that I am better prepared for any dangerous scenario because I am equipping myself with the knowledge to “Be Rude, Be Weird, Stay Alive” in reference to “Crime Junkie” life rules.
Women are statistically the majority of true crime fans according to a YouGovAmerica poll. More than half of Americans would consider themselves a fan.
It falls in line with my personal reasoning of gaining insight for a sense of security because as a woman, I have a constant target on my back for no other reason than being a woman.
Looking over my shoulder is something I deal with on a daily basis. I have to be especially observant walking to my car in a creepy parking garage or dark parking lot because there’s a chance I might get robbed, kidnapped, assaulted or murdered more so than a man.
True crime has made a huge impact on my daily decisions from not walking down dark alleys alone or by not putting myself in a dicey spot with any person, particularly men, who might make me uncomfortable or set me up for danger.
I always listen to episodes detailing a victim’s story or watch someone’s story and realize that the victims are people just like me.
These young women are students who have their entire lives ahead of them like me, so I definitely see myself in a lot of the victim’s stories. This makes me empathetic to the victim’s as human beings.
True crime puts a face to the name and details lives that were taken too soon, and this urges me to know more so I can better recognize possible trouble in my life and in the world.
I care about helping others, and I want to be well-informed about the crimes that we know about so that way I can prevent bad things from happening to me and my loved ones.
I will always explore true crime with the victim’s in the forefront of my mind holding on to the hope that their lives were not taken in vain. Surely, learning of these horror stories might equip at least one person in the future to stay safe in a sticky situation.
Feature image by Lauren Wong
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