Pop culture has seen a massive boom in interest as it pertains to true crime. Virtually every form of media — podcasts, books, television series — has had content creators stepping in to fulfill this new demand. Why is it that we’re all so drawn to these (oftentimes gruesome) stories?
A quick look around a local bookstore — or a surf through the TV guide — will demonstrate that the public’s interest in true crime is on the rise. Barnes and Noble currently has thousands of options online for readers looking to dig into the genre. Online forums like Reddit are teeming with average people hunting for a peek into the minds of some of the world’s most prolific criminals. While everybody has the Facebook aunt or the awkward Tinder match that questions their sanity when an interest in true crime is mentioned, much of the public is drawn to the mystery of it all.
Why are so many of us captured by the illicit nature of these stories? Ian Rankin, a well-known true crime author, says that humans are fascinated by evil. He asserts that we are curious about things that seem so far beyond appropriate and normal behavior that we get lost in conjecture. Would (or could) we ever do something like what we read about? How could the people who did commit these acts hit their breaking point? Extremities in human behavior have always been of great interest to the average Joe. Isn’t that why world record books continue to be pumped out year after year?
The hike in true crime interest also runs parallel with the rise of pop psychology. People who may never have given a second thought to human behavior have been exposed to all sorts of psychological ideas through even the most basic news and media outlets. Humans love a good riddle. We love to think, we love to struggle, and we love to solve. Puzzling out just why someone like Ted Bundy targeted the girls he did has morphed into the great American pastime. Most people eating their avocado toast in the morning would never dream of holding somebody hostage in their basement. It’s beyond us; and it’s work to try to work through the finer nuances of it all.
The tragedy of true crime — the grizzly murders, the wild robberies, the unfathomable tortures — appeals to what is probably the most American interest of all: calamity. News outlets intentionally over-blow stories to hold an ever-snoozing public’s interest; those on their daily commute to work rubberneck in hopes of getting a peek at a car accident. Even children’s television shows have grown increasingly gruesome in hopes of holding onto viewership. For those of us hunting for our next big adrenaline fix, our next big thing to worry about, true crime is an avenue to satisfaction.