I’ve loved true crime since I was a little girl. I can’t imagine I’m the only one who got hooked watching Unsolved Mysteries with Robert Stack. My great-grandma and I used to watch it together. I still think of her any time I hear that theme song.
Now True Crime is everywhere. Documentaries, tv shows, podcasts. I even co-host a true-crime podcast.
Recently I’ve found a reason for guilt over my enjoyment, though. The latest Scream movie pointed out that there’s a darker side to these stories. These are real stories. People died. Families were left shattered. The very last thing I’d ever want to do is belittle someone’s loss. The second to last thing I’d want to do is make a killer into a celebrity.
It’s not like mentally ill people need another excuse to kill innocent people.
Are we just encouraging killers to think of themselves as rock stars? Are we dehumanizing victims for the sake of entertainment?
I’ve spent some time thinking about this. This world’s in a bad enough place right now, I don’t need to make things worse with some insensitive little tale.
And after some consideration, I don’t think True Crime does much harm. Dare I even say it might do some good? If, of course, it’s done right.
The good true crime podcasters don’t glorify the killers
On my podcast, Off The Bone, we don’t glorify killers. We tend to mock them. Most serial killers, by the way, wet the bed way longer than anyone else.
The killer is never the good guy, and the victim is never the punchline. To talk about True Crime in any other way is disrespectful and dangerous.
We say their names
So many True Crime stories are unsolved. That’s part of the fascination, at least for me. We don’t know who the Somerton Man was, so we can’t let his family know what happened to him. Same for the Lady of The Dunes (Though Stephen King’s son might have helped solve that one.)
We’re all going to die someday. And most of us hope to be remembered by our loved ones. We want friends and family to share stories about us. And we don’t want a bunch of question marks hanging over our coffins.
When we talk about unsolved murders, there’s a chance that someone might recognize the victim. That maybe, by saying their names, someone who loves them might hear.
And even if they don’t, we remember them.
I remember Bella in the witch elm.
I remember the Lady of The Dunes.
I remember the Somerton Man.
And I’ll be you do too.
If you have any information regarding this case.
Remember how each episode of Unsolved Mysteries ended?
“If you have any information regarding this case, please call us.”
Well, people did call them. And because of that show, at least 260 cold cases were solved.
Crowdsourcing mysteries gets results. And in the age of the internet, we’re even better at it.
Because of consistent attention, the Keddie Cabin murder case was reopened. And as I mentioned earlier, Owen King might have helped solve the Lady of The Dunes mystery. He recognized an extra from Jaws who just might be her.
True Crime done badly isn’t moral. But True Crime done well might actually solve crimes. And even if you’re not one of those who helps solve a cold case, you still enjoyed a damn good story.
And that’s worth something. I hope that when I go, I leave a good story behind.
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