I’ve been reading True Crime books since high school. I got strange looks from teachers when I read Helter Skelter during our reading time, but I didn’t care. I was kind of gothy at the time anyway so it added to my over all style. But here I am as an adult, my major goth phase over (though my wardrobe is largely black… hey, it’s slimming, don’t judge!), but I’m finding myself binging through True Crime podcasts like there’s no tomorrow. In the past few months there’s been a dramatic uptick in my consumption of True Crime, starting with the r/UnresolvedMysteries subreddit, and leading to podcasts such as Serial, Casefile, Missing Maura Murray, and The Trail Went Cold. But… why? Seriously why??
Please, come with me as I attempt to psychoanalyze myself…. (and maybe others in the process?)
The world is scary right now. It’s so horrifying on such a massive scale I feel kind of overwhelmed. This past week in particular has been pretty terrible with all the Russia/Comey/TrumpyShit controversies happening all over the place. And I can’t really do anything. The stories I’m listening to podcasts about are also horrifying, but not overwhelming in scale. We aren’t dealing with powerful government figures fighting it out on a global stage. We are dealing with individuals with very real stories that could have potentially very real resolutions (most of the cases I’m interested in are unsolved, but even the well known solved ones can teach us things). I’m reminded of the Grateful Doe, whose family finally got resolution thanks in large part to websleuths. Or even the Ariel Castro kidnappings or the Fritzl case, where people were missing for years and found alive. I don’t think I’d ever personally solve a case, but the scale and possibilities seem much more attainable.
If my psychoanalysis is true, I do feel pretty terrible about it. These victims aren’t here for my own self soothing as I cope with a corrupt government collapsing on itself. I’m sure their families wouldn’t appreciate their cases being used in such a way. But True Crime is precarious already in that regard. We don’t “enjoy” these terrible things, but we must get some sort of positive feeling from them or we wouldn’t consume them (unless we’re all a bunch of masochists which hey no ykinmkatok). There’s already something strange going on here psychologically. And when you find out another friend is interested in True Crime, suddenly you feel like you have a confidant regarding your “enjoyment” of the “genre.” Other people’s pain should not be there for our consumption, but here we are… “enjoying” it. (Yes I am using excessive “”quotes”” but these words just feel weird ok).
When people judge people like myself for our participation I completely understand where they are coming from. The families of the victims can go either way with how they interact with the True Crime audience. Some want nothing to do with it, but others use it to signal boost their cases to thousands of people in the hopes of someday having a resolution. There’s a pretty hard and fast rule among the True Crime audience to respect the family’s wishes and give them space if they need it. That doesn’t necessarily stop the cases from being discussed, but ultimately they are the ones most harmed by these cases and if they want to go their own way then that’s the end of it.
Despite the gruesome nature of our “hobby” there is an oddly strict moral code of behavior. Perhaps that, too, is why I’m drawn to these people when I feel overwhelmed. These people are generally good people acting out of empathy. And many of them are willing to spend hours of their time, even money, looking into cases that they often have no personal connection to. Sure, there are occasional weirdos or people looking to make a get rich off someone else’s pain, but I find they are in the minority. Despite the fact that these people have an encyclopedic knowledge of serial killers and missing person cases, they are often some of the kindest (and sensitive!) group of people you could come across.
So here I am, recuperating from one of the worst weeks both personally (overwhelmed at work, old high school friend died, roommate issues) and as an American citizen (trump putin putin trump russia kushner lol wtf is happening at r/the_donald?? the end is near), diving into a new podcast called Crawlspace (by the same guys who did the Missing Maura Murray podcast!) and feeling… something. Something not quite positive, but something more controlled. And there’s a lot of baggage with this feeling, but I’m doing it anyway. Anyway, onto the next episode of Crawlspace…