The Ethical Implications of True Crime: The entertainment world is showcasing true crime stories in a way that seeks entertainment, not truth.

True crime is a topic that sparks an interest in a lot of people. Regardless of fields of study, true crime has become a form of entertainment for a large portion of our population. 

But should we be using these stories as entertainment? Should true crime podcasts, television shows and youtubers be using these cases to profit off of them? 

Don’t get me wrong, I grew up listening to these podcasts and watching these true crime shows, but as I get older, I am starting to realize that glorifying these killers and their crimes is extremely disrespectful.

I have heard people say “oh, this is my favorite muder!” or “so and so is my favorite serial killer” more times than I can count, and honestly it is just really weird to say these things about people who have done so much harm to others. And don’t even get me started on the people that talk about having a crush on Ted Bundy. He was a serial killer, get over yourself. 

The fascination and romantic obsession with killers is astonishing to me. A more recent example being the countless women who sent love letters to Chris Watts in prison after he murdered his family, being his pregnant wife and their two daughters under the age of five. I simply cannot fathom glorifying this man or claiming that he did nothing wrong despite his confession and even talking about his daughter’s last words before killing her. It’s sickening, and a prime example of how the documentary that came out of this case did more harm than good. To be fair to the documentary makers, the intention behind the documentary was not to glorify this man, and most podcasts and documentaries do not aim for this type of response, but they still run that risk of having this disgusting outcome. 

Again, I listen to these podcasts and watch these documentaries too. I myself do find true crime interesting, but I also know better than to glorify murderers and to speak ill of their victims.

Imagine being in the situation of the victim and their families, imagine hearing people refer to the trauma you’ve gone through as ‘their favorite case.” I just can’t get over the amount of disrespect these statements have towards victims and their families. 

This is not to say that all true crime podcasts/coverage is bad. It can be done and it can be done well and respectfully. It can be truly beneficial to a case to have the coverage of true crime, however, I feel like we are starting to lose touch with the respectful format and we have been slowly evolving into a more disrespectful form of telling people’s stories. 

I fear we have gone too far from realizing that these people are real; their stories are not just stories, they actually happened, it’s not just a podcast or youtube video and they’re likely either gone or traumatized from the events that happened to them. These instances aren’t something to be gossiped about or glorified. 

There are plenty of alternatives to these true crime money grabs as well. There are a plethora of TV shows and movies that depict similar crimes, or even events based on real instances that make an emphasis to not glorify the crime in itself and tend to show more respect towards crime victims. These shows can be found virtually anywhere. Most streaming services have at least one show or movie that can likely scratch the true crime itch without risking adding more harm to an existing victim. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that the term victim extends to victims’ families too. Just because the victim was lost to their crime does not mean their family is not also suffering from their loss and hearing people talk about their lost loved ones making uncalled for assumptions about the events. 

There are some podcasts and documentaries/docuseries that do an excellent job highlighting the victims of crime and show true compassion for said victims. 

One of my favorite documentaries, The Witness, was actually made by the brother of the crime victim (Kitty Genovese). He was able to take an alternative side that differs from most true crime media.  His alternative showed how his sister’s death left a lasting negative impact on his family, even decades after. In this documentary, he also talked about having to avoid the media for most of his life so they didn’t have to hear the harsh words from the general public. 

This is a reality for many victims’ families who feel the need to avoid the media so they don’t have to hear people talking about their loved ones. It can be cruel to put a family through trauma over and over again. It’s perfectly fine to have an interest in true crime and to listen to/watch these programs, but please be considerate to victims and their families.