True Crime is a genre that has exploded in popularity over the past few years. TV shows, podcasts, books, films, online forums, and even TikTok channels have been dedicated to exploring true crime stories.
You don’t have to be a criminologist or studying a psychology degree to love true crime – the stories of con artists, criminals, and serial killers have transfixed us all. One recent YouGov poll found that half of Americans engage with and enjoy true crime content. True crime is the second most popular podcast genre for women in the UK. Meanwhile, analysis from Parrot Analytics found that documentaries were the fastest-growing genre for streaming services, mostly because of the popularity of true crime.
Based on search volume data, this article will count down the most searched-for true crime TV shows and movies from the past month (Oct-Nov 2022) and discuss what makes them so intriguing.
Released in July 2022, this docuseries tells the story of how one mother spent two years taking down Hunter Moore, creator of a revenge porn website which posted explicit pictures of its victims.
Sometimes, the ethics of the true crime genre are brought into question. After all, at its core, it is creating entertainment from tragic and traumatic stories. In some cases, this is directly against the wishes of victims and their families, and true crime can often be accused of glorifying the criminal or crime.
What’s interesting about this documentary is that it focuses heavily on the stories of the victims and of the mother, Charlotte Laws, who worked tirelessly to get the website taken down. Praised for its sensitive treatment, The Most Hated Man on the Internet and true crime like it can help us better empathise with others who have been victimised.
In an increasingly digitised world, the topic of revenge porn has gained more attention in recent years. According to one 2020 survey from Refuge, about 1 in 14 adults in the UK have received threats of releasing explicit images. The story of The Most Hated Man On The Internet can also help us to understand more about it, how it is perpetrated, and how better to cope if it were ever to happen to us or someone we know.
4. Our Father
Our Father is another Netflix docuseries that recounts how a fertility doctor based in Indianapolis non-consensually replaced the donor sperm of his patients with his own. The series unfolds like a puzzle to be solved, which immediately piques our natural sense of curiosity. As we learn more about how such a thing could happen, it allows us to better understand society and the world around us – especially the parts we don’t usually get to see. In the case of Our Father, it reveals the long-standing bias against women in the US legal system. In what is perhaps the most shocking detail of this docuseries, it is revealed that the crimes of Donald Cline are not punishable by law.
This Netflix docudrama tells the story of one of the most notorious serial killers in US history, Jeffry Dahmer, who murdered 17 young men and ate parts of their bodies.
Our fascination with gruesome tales has been around for many years, and it’s sometimes described as the psychological trait of ‘morbid curiosity’ – an interest in death and violence. It’s what makes horror so appealing as a genre, and in the case of true crime, it gives us a safe space to delve into dangerous people and traumatic events. In Dahmer-Monster, this is seen in the intimate retelling of Jeffrey Dahmer’s life.
When making choices, many people will weigh up the risk using a cost-benefit ratio. In terms of true crime content, the cost is relatively small because the viewer stays safe, but the benefit of learning about how criminals operate can be much bigger.
The Tinder Swindler is a documentary that focuses on the story of how a conman, who called himself Simon Leviev, scammed several women out of millions of dollars – and how they joined together to track him down.
The telling of this story is a good example of another reason why people are drawn to true crime, in that it allows audiences to get clued up on some of the tactics of criminals. This comes from the evolutionary need for prey to understand the motives of predators so that they know when the predator is on the hunt, so to speak. True crime can teach us skills and warning signs to look out for, or the types of people to avoid. Although, it has been warned that over-consumption of true crime can lead to heightened anxiety and paranoia.
The Tinder Swindler, particularly, can amplify the dangers associated with online dating, such as catfishing and romance scams.
Coming in at number one for the most searched-for true crime series is Inventing Anna, a drama based on the true-life story of con artist Anna Sorokin, who posed as an heiress to scam multiple socialites, banks, and hotels in New York City.
The fascination with stories of con artists and heists comes from the fact that unlike the likes of Dahmer-Monster, these criminals are not overtly violent but rather rely on their continuous ability to outsmart everyone else. The drama of hurtling towards an inevitable conclusion leads to the satisfaction of knowing that the criminal will be caught and have to pay for their crimes. Much of which, incidentally, came from the fee Netflix paid Anna for the rights to her story.
In all, there are many reasons why we are drawn to true crime. Interestingly, women tend to make up the majority of true crime audiences. For example, the US YouGov poll found that 58% of women said they enjoyed watching true crime, compared to 42% of men. Arguably, this is because true crime’s ability to teach us how to cope with or avoid harmful situations generally appeals more to women.
Nevertheless, the popularity of the genre shows no sign of slowing down just yet. Despite its flaws and valid criticisms, it’s undeniable that true crime has much to teach us about society, the risks of technology, institutional bias, and of course, some of the unseen sides of humanity.