If you’ve ever scrolled through Netflix while trying to find a show to binge watch, you’ve most likely come across a true crime documentary or two. These stories are usually focused on marital crime, serial killers or kidnappings. These true crime stories provide fodder for not only documentaries or shows on popular streaming websites, but have also been the foundation for many books, podcasts and even internet sleuths trying to solve the crimes.
True crime has gripped the public for centuries. In the 19th century, people would buy tickets to public hangings, according to The Ringer. However, in the past decade, interest in the details of these heinous acts has increased dramatically.
The current boom is most easily traced to the 15-month stretch in 2014-15 that saw the debuts of HBO’s “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst” and Netflix’s “Making a Murderer,” according to The Ringer. The pandemic also played a major role in the increase in true crime’s ratings. Between March 23 and April 5 2020, NBC’s “Dateline” saw a 9% jump in viewers while Investigation Discovery (ID) channel, which broadcasts true-crime content nonstop, says its ratings in the week of April 6, 2020 were the network’s highest in six weeks, according to Time. Along with this increase in true crime television, podcasts have become just as popular in the genre of true crime.
According to one survey, true crime was the third-most-popular podcast genre in 2020 — outpacing sports and even politics in an election year, according to The Ringer. The podcast, “My Favorite Murder,” hosted by self proclaimed “murderinos,” Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff, is a true crime and murder podcast that has risen to fame in the last few years. Through their use of comedy and light-heartedness, Hardstark and Kilgariff each pick a murder and tell the story of it during each week’s episode. Their audience is primarily young women, which seems to be a common trend in true crime as a genre.
According to data, over half of U.S. respondents are at least somewhat interested in true crime, suggesting that there is a hefty interest base. This genre also skews heavily female, according to a gender assessment from Civic Science.
There is something to be said for catering entertainment to what the public is interested in, but there are personal boundaries that still need to be in place. Watching or listening to true crime before bed every night if it makes it difficult for you to go to sleep because it makes you afraid may not be the best way of taking care of yourself. These stories do incite some paranoia, but it must be acknowledged that they may also lead to greater awareness and help empower young women about the dangers they can face.