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The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

True crime media: Professors comment on popularity of genre

Evan Peters recently won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Jeffrey Dahmer. (Photo courtesy of IMDb)
Evan Peters recently won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Jeffrey Dahmer. (Photo courtesy of IMDb)

What is the allure of true crime media? Is it curiosity, boredom or an internal desire to play detective? According to Lafayette professors, there may be more than one answer.

English professor Kathleen Parrish, who teaches a podcast writing class, believes that true crime podcasts give listeners a harmless opportunity to fill in the cracks on unsolved cases and develop their sleuthing skills.

“I also think that what [podcasts are] showing is that the law is accessible, that you don’t have to have a fancy degree or a badge to do these types of investigations. You just need persistence and good communication skills,” Parrish said.

Psychology professor John Shaw believes that it may be the horror of the crime that draws one in.

“We want to have control over things that scare us. And when it’s just a movie, alright, fine. But when it’s real life, that’s even scarier, and we want to understand it,” Shaw said.

Parrish said that women are more likely to watch or listen to true crime media, and she attributed the popularity of true crime media to an internal desire to understand the crime committed and get a deeper look into the investigation.

“I think maybe it’s more relatable for women, where in true crime, a lot of the victims are women,” Parrish said. “And so it’s a way to maybe understand what happened to the victim and face their fears without actually putting themselves into danger.”

“I’m always exploring and trying to find out the ‘why’ because I think there’s a desire to understand human behavior and why people act like they do, especially with these horrific crimes. What would motivate somebody to do something that is absolutely reprehensible?” Parrish continued.

However, depictions of true crime stories, primarily in television and film, have been criticized for graphic interpretations of crimes committed by various figures. 

“This commodification of other people and glorification and sensationalization of other people’s trauma and violence is something that [has] gotten to a fever pitch at this point,” film and media studies professor Nandini Sikand said.

The popular Netflix series “Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” has received backlash from family members of Dahmer’s victims, including claims that the show can be triggering for viewers and glorifies the tragedy of the victims’ deaths. 

When Evan Peters won a Golden Globe award for his portrayal of the titular serial killer in the Netflix series, there was further backlash regarding his acceptance speech, in which he did not pay tribute to the families of Dahmer’s victims. 

“One harm in all of this is the harm that’s done to both the families of the actual victims and then the families and victims in other similar cases,” Shaw said. “I think that’s a very real harm. Does that mean that the shows should be forbidden? I’m not so sure. But we just have to be cognizant of that.”

“I think what makes crime more horrifying is when we learn about who was killed and the life they had and that they were loved and they had a family because then it becomes very relatable, like, ‘That could have been me,’” Parrish added.

The consensus among the professors is that while true crime media can appeal to audiences who want to understand the cases, it can be problematic if the true horrors the victims were subjected to are not fully addressed.

“If you’re just focusing on the criminal, there’s a distance there because for most of us, hopefully, it’s not relatable like this,” Parrish said. “I think there’s a danger if you don’t humanize the victims because then this is kind of like a video game.”

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About the Contributor
Kristen Vincent
Kristen Vincent, Assistant Culture Editor

Kristen Vincent ‘26 is an English Major and a Government and Law Minor. Aside from writing and editing for the newspaper, she is an EXCEL scholar, Writing Associate, LEO, and Secretary of the English Club. When she is not critiquing the latest biopic about a musician with a legendary past, she can be found working on her latest poem or rustling through the bargain bin at your local record store.

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