The true crime genre is certainly nothing new, as people have been sucked in by the allure of unsolved mysteries and the psyche of serial killers for decades. Documentaries like the Paradise Lost trilogy and more recently Beware The Slenderman have managed to tap into something that many find irresistible. With this, the line between news and entertainment has become sometimes uncomfortably blurry, but it’s hard to deny the appeal.
Over the past few years, however, it seems as though the fascination with true crime stories has exploded to previously unseen levels. Multiple mediums have managed to tap into this zeitgeist boom, with podcasts like Serial and My Favorite Murder and television shows like Making A Murderer and The Jinx sending previously uninterested people on an insatiable quest for more clues and details into some seriously gory crime. Instead of merely focusing on the death and destruction on fictional television like Game of Thrones, watercooler talk revolves around whether or not Robert Durst is actually a murderer.
Somewhere along the way, uncovering who’s guilty of murder transitioned into a guilty pleasure. According to an article written on Psychology Today’s website by Scott Bonn (a criminology professor at Drew University and author of Why We Love Serial Killers), it is the heady mix of fear and adrenaline that comes with the consumption of this kind of media that drives our collective interest.
“The public’s fascination with them can be seen as a specific manifestation of its more general fixation on violence and calamity. In other words, the actions of a serial killer may be horrible to behold but much of the public simply cannot look away due to the thrill of the spectacle. People also receive a jolt of adrenaline as a reward for witnessing the terrible deeds of a serial killer… The euphoric effect of serial killers on human emotions is similar to that of roller coasters or natural disasters.”