What being obsessed with true crime says about you
Why are we as a society drawn to gory real-life crime stories?
As much as I love crime shows like Dexter, and the evergreen CID, my intense fascination for true crime is off the charts. I have binge-watched all the documentaries and shows about world-famous serial killers and criminals (allegedly), from Mindhunter, Wild Wild Country and Making of a Murderer to the Serial podcast — often theorising and predicting what’s about to happen.
Growing up in the age of overexposure on social media has led to a certain degree of sensitisation to violent imagery.
The last few years have seen a burst of true crime shows — and while most fed my morbid interest, some of them left me feeling uneasy.
Laying in bed, I questioned my sanity. If I watch too many, would I turn into the creepy hag who hides in the dark with a knife? Will I snap at the next person who pushes past me on the metro?
Detective, victim, defender and killer — which true crime fan are you?
In her book Savage Appetites, Rachel Monroe investigates why we, as a society, are drawn to crimes through the telling of four true stories of women who have committed them.
She looks at four different archetypes – the detective, victim, defender and killer – through which we associate ourselves when immersing into these narratives.
Some people identify as the ‘victim’, where the perpetrators are usually powerful men.
Some take on the role of detective, wanting to dig through facts and reason why such a crime happened, what led to it, and so on.
There are defenders who work tirelessly to exonerate wrongful convictions and seeking justice, while the killers are seeking their version of justice and have a desire to let out this aggression, so to speak.
The book gave me some solace, I could figure out what gets me so fixated.
I’m not a sociopath, I just love a good mystery.
The crime-solving process is what intrigues me — how pieces of information, broken fragments of various experiences are put together like a puzzle to see if it fits. When one puzzle falls apart, and the detective has to start all over again with a new theory.
From the safety of my bedroom, I can take a journey into the most deviant and unrestrained parts of the human psyche.
Maybe it’s an evolution thing. Learn the mistakes that previous victims made so you can avoid them if you’re ever faced with a knife-wielding murderer, channel the right decisions that survivors made. Maybe watching true crime is a crash course in Darwinism.
The conclusion of my introspection led to a singular thought — ‘how can people not find this interesting’?
It is, by nature, an absurd occurrence that deviates from common human behaviour.
It’s the drama, personal histories, conflict and emotional rollercoaster that you can’t help but want to study.
More so, it’s because these are real.