On a train from Paris back to Le Havre. I had just come from a wonderful weekend with a friend and was ready to sit for a peaceful train ride and listen to some podcasts. Of course, not just any podcasts, but true crime podcasts. By the end of the train ride I had probably listened to the gruesome details of about four to five separate murders as the train pulled in at 10:30pm. As soon as the train stopped, I practically ran home, calling my dad to make sure that if something happened to me on this ten-minute walk, he could alert the authorities of my whereabouts. I was completely petrified until I made it up the stairs to my flat and locked the door behind me.
Now you are probably wondering, “why would you do this to yourself?” Why would I keep listening to a podcast called “Crime Junkies” that goes into explicit details of atrocious crimes, mostly with female victims, knowing that I would have to eventually walk home alone late at night? Let me tell you why, it’s right there in the name- I am a junkie. I can’t pinpoint when it all started but for a very long time, I have been completely captivated by accounts of real-life crimes. I remember one summer spent binge-watching “Law and Order: SVU” and then getting on the subway to go to work and thinking that every man on the train was going to jump up and attack me. It’s absolutely terrifying, and yet I cannot stop.
The “Crime Junkies” podcast was introduced to me at the end of the summer before last and is just another of this addiction’s manifestation. If I’m really being honest I don’t even like the podcast all that much. I find the two hosts sort of annoying and even a little boring at times, but I’m not listening to this for the hosts. They do an extensive amount of research to give an overview of a crime with all the detail I need to be entertained. Stories like these have always interested me as all the details are laid in front of you and then pieced together to solve a case. A murder of a complete stranger on the street, the murder of someone lured online by a stalker, or even the most unexpected murder of an entire family by the husband/father. It’s all so frightening because you could be killed just for walking down the street, or worse, killed by someone you trusted and loved for years. That fear I feel when hearing these stories is something I love and hate at the same time.
I came across an article called, “Why Do Women Love True Crime?” in the New York Times which talks about the link between women being the major victims in these crimes but also being the largest community entertained by them. I found this fascinating and disturbing, as in some way it argued that women absorb this content to learn ways to avoid being victims of the same crime in the future. I could not believe it – was I really consuming all of this media with the mindset that I would be more prepared to somehow confront a perpetrator? That I am in some way training myself? I think it’s time that this sort of obsession with true crime is addressed in its entirety.
This ‘addiction’ is problematic for so many reasons. First of all, it exploits the brutal crimes and pain of loved ones for a form of entertainment. All of the descriptions and details are real things that happened to people- the recount of true events that ruined lives. It’s upsetting that this is an industry that can capitalize on the worst experience of someone’s life. Not only that, but people often cross the line when it comes to personal details. For example, the hosts of “Crime Junkies” will often complain about a detail of a case that we will never know because it has not been released to the public. But is this really any of our business in the first place? Why should a third party like us have access to these personal details of a crime, when the police and family have chosen against it? All of this leads me to believe that this industry can cause secondary harm to the loved ones of the victims.
Second, true crime is just straight up scary. For any young person, it is horrifying to be constantly reminded of how disturbing the world is. It is also disheartening to always assume the worst of people. “Crime Junkies” even encourages this behavior again and again by reminding listeners to never trust anyone, even your spouse. I just find this aspect of true crime depressing. Of course, it is really important to live life with caution, but how far does that have to go before you are pessimistic about the world and hate all men? I personally don’t think it’s okay to live life in fear of something that you may never even come across.
Based on all of this, I am slowly going to step away from true crime. With a deep-rooted addiction this will take some time but after a lot of reflection, I think it’s important. Of course, there will always be famous crime stories like Casey Anthony or serial killers like Ted Bundy that I will probably always come back to, but I think it’s important to not make this an everyday obsession. I think that this entire industry deserves some greater reflection by society, but I doubt this will happen in the near future. For now, I am stepping away from “Crime Junkies” and will be occasionally listening to the “Last Podcast on the Left” where three crude comedians discuss more famous true crime stories with respect (when necessary) and also a lot of jokes to liven it up. Plus, it’s interesting to learn about famous cults like Jonestown or murders like that of Tupac and Biggie. Of course, this isn’t quitting true crime cold turkey, but it’s definitely thinking a little more about the repercussions of consuming this culture and lessening my own ‘addiction.’