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Macabre Media: Are We Too Obsessed With True Crime?

The ethics and mental health concerns of consuming true crime media. Will a rise in ethical consumption diminish the mental health concerns?

Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story 2022 ‧ Drama ‧ 1 season
Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story (2022). Credit: Netflix

Since the dawn of time, humans have been obsessed with life, death, and everything in between. We are morbidly curious creatures by nature. Historically, humans have gathered far and wide to hear and witness law and order prevail as justice gets served.

Today, we consume true crime media such as podcasts or some Netflix original series. But before technology, people would go to court to see trials, and towns would often gather to watch public executions.

However, is this macabre fascination healthy? Is it ethical for people to consume media content built off other people’s traumas? Where do we draw the line?

How can ethical consumption of true crime media alleviate the issues or reputation that the true crime community has made for itself?

The rise of true crime

True crime media has risen in popularity at astronomical rates within the last decade. The numbers had a lot to say about who is consuming true crime content and why. Streaming services and social media like Netflix, TikTok, and YouTube dominate the true crime content field. These platforms offer a variety of topics that fall under the true crime category. With TikTok, creators can tell bite-sized versions of the cases.

Nowadays, it is easier than ever for people to consume true crime media. The numbers go to show that Gen Z and women are the main demographic for true crime content. Women spend an average of 4 hours a week, while Gen Z spend nearly 5 hours per week consuming true crime media, but why?

For many women, including myself, we consume true crime content as a way to cope with the past. It also mentally prepares us for possible criminal acts in the future. It is a way for us to feel a few steps ahead of whatever dangers lurk in the shadows. For some people, true crime is purely for entertainment. It is a way to satiate that morbid curiosity.

Lastly, for some, consuming true crime content is a way for people who have high anxiety to experience anxiety-triggering situations in a safe and controlled environment.

What is ethical true crime media?

True crime is growing in popularity as an entertainment genre. But we must ask ourselves: do we ethically consume true crime in a manner that honors the victims, or do we honor the killer more likely than not?

In many popular true crime shows and movies, such as Dahmer-Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story or Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile, you see infamous serial killers being portrayed by jaw-dropping teenage heartthrobs.

Some argue that shows like Netflix's Dahmer-Monster glamorise serial killers.
Some argue that shows like Netflix’s Dahmer-Monster glamorize serial killers. Credit: Netflix

Casting heartthrobs to play killers adds glory to the criminals while taking attention away from the important aspects of the case. With every newly released true crime series, the floodgates open up a plethora of social media trends praising the killer. This includes TikTok thirst trap edits of serial killers, serial killer Halloween costumes, and sometimes merchandise with the killer’s likeness.

By adding this much media hype to killers, the victims are often treated as nothing more than a small piece of the story. Filmmakers often leave the victims out of the story, and they only receive recognition during the end credits.

Oftentimes, when victims are honored, it is at the end of the film and only shows their name and a photograph. These victims deserve more than a one-minute memorial, and they certainly deserve more attention than the actual criminals are getting. The creation and consumption of unethical true crime media is re-traumatizing to the victims and their family or friends.

Ethical consumption of true crime means that you are consuming content from platforms that have permission to discuss the case, don’t show graphic pieces of evidence, and give back to the community.

Examples of unethical true crime media would be consuming content that is made without the victims or their family’s permission. Such as the Netflix original series Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, starring Evan Peters.

Mental health and true crime media

Having such unlimited and unrestricted access to true crime media and content is not always safe for the human psyche. Unmonitored consumption of true crime can lead to a myriad of issues. Such as an increase in anxiety, desensitization to blood, desensitization to violence, blurring the lines between sex and violence, and it can even lead to high blood pressure.

This is not to say that consuming true crime media in any way is bad. However, consuming uncensored true crime media with crime scene photos, letters, and even videos can be extremely detrimental to the way younger minds function.

Gen Z is the largest and youngest demographic that consumes true crime content. Ethical consumption of true crime media is not only beneficial to those involved with the cases. It can also help preserve and protect the many young minds that watch, listen, and consume true crime content daily.

Written By

Based out of North Texas, Alexa Clary Butler is a 22-year-old writer and student. Alexa is attending Texas Woman’s University and is studying English writing and rhetoric while minoring in sociology. Outside of school, you can catch her slinging lattes at Dutch Bros. or writing. When Alexa is not working or writing, you will find her with her kitty cat or friends, enjoying whatever is new in the world of horror!

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