Exploring the public’s fascination with true crime

As the true crime genre becomes exceptionally popular, its content flourishes on various platforms, such as YouTube and podcasts. Photo Submitted by For God's Sake, Don't Drink The Jones Juice

The public’s fascination with true crime is not a recent phenomenon and is prevalent in entertainment industries following a reinvigoration of the genre’s interest.

There is a recent influx of new content available due to the genre’s adaptability, allowing it to thrive on various media platforms. From streaming platforms like Netflix to countless podcasts, the true crime genre is flourishing in correlation with public interest.

Georgia State psychology professor Sarah Cook does not consume true crime content herself because of how the genre can sensationalize

Though women are the largest demographic of true crime fans, they are also often the victims. While her area of expertise is violence against women, Cook questions the accuracy of the portrayal of some true-crime content. 

“One thing to consider is that in television and film, depictions of crime represent women as victims in a much higher proportion than they are victims of those crimes in real life,” she said. “And the crimes that are represented in film and media against women are most likely not the crimes that women face.”

Many studies try to explain the public’s interest in true crime, and it can stem from a fascination with the macabre or a way to learn how to protect oneself. Cook mentioned that some viewers might study true crime cases as a form of protection to avoid potentially dangerous scenarios.

Sophomore Caroline Griffiths agrees that her interest in true crime fuels her knowledge and makes her more aware of dangerous and suspicious activity.

“To know things is to have power over things in a way,” she said. “I feel like to know what could happen to you, or what other people have done to women because I feel like they are often the victims in the true crime. It makes you feel a little bit in control.”

Like sophomores Blakley Stone and Keelin Unger, others find the mystery and the psychology behind true crime captivating. This sense of curiosity sends fans deep-diving into the genre. 

Stone wants to understand the psychology of people who commit these types of crimes because she considers herself very different from people like that.

“I could not imagine just killing somebody in cold blood or like planning to murder or hurt other people,” she said. “I always wanted to know, ‘Why do people do this? Or what makes people do things like that, especially after struggling with mental health?’”

Stone’s consumption of true crime started at a young age when she watched documentaries like Dateline with her mother. Her long-term interest in true crime does affect how she approaches the world.

“I don’t think [being a true crime fan made] me think of the world as a scarier place. [It’s] already scary,” Stone said. “It’s probably made me more paranoid and aware of my friendships. I make sure to understand social cues more.”

Unger enjoys the community aspect of true crime. There are thousands of people who dedicate time and money to sharing the stories of victims and examining the crimes of the most infamous people around the world.

“There’s a lot of respect in the community for the cases and the people involved,” she said. “The interest is a little morbid because obviously, it involves murder and pretty graphic stuff … and the possibility of solving a case is exciting.”

Unger prefers watching true crime YouTube videos because she likes the visual aspect. Many channels dedicated to the topic gained fame over the years, such as Kendall Rae, Stephanie Harlowe, Eleanor Neale, BuzzFeed Unsolved and John Lordan.

“Sometimes I wonder why I like [true crime] because I have to take breaks because it’ll make me super anxious, but I cannot stop watching it,” Unger said. “I will say that once you start, it’s really hard to stop.”

Another popular way to engage in true crime content is through podcasts, and Parth Parashar has been an active listener since summer 2019. He listens to them very often, especially when he’s working out or driving. He suggests “Crime Junkie,” “Small Town Murder,” “My Favorite Murder” and “Serial” for podcast suggestions.

In Parashar’s opinion, a good podcast contains captivating storytelling and is more conversational. He plans on starting a podcast with his friend because they want to talk about a topic they’re interested in and share it with the world.

Alyssa George and Brooke Gaddy are hosts of the popular podcast “For God’s Sake, Don’t Drink the Jones Juice.”

The podcast comically discusses some of the most famous true crime cases along with lesser-known ones. George researches unsolved cases and survivor stories, focusing on older events. On the other hand, Gaddy has a particular interest in more recent cases, focusing on family annihilators and female serial killers.

The two started the podcast in the summer of 2020, and in only six months, they are in the top 5% of podcasts across all platforms, including Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

George is an avid podcast listener, typically in the true crime genre. She and Gaddy talked about true crime and paranormal stories often, so George asked Gaddy if she was interested in starting their podcast, to which Gaddy agreed.

George says that she’s interested in older cases because forensics was not a perfected science, which is one factor as to why serial killing seemed so prevalent in the 70s through the 90s.

“Some of the most notorious serial killers came around this time, which, nowadays, you don’t hear about that kind of thing,” she said. “I think that’s what fascinates me. It’s like, ‘What was going on in that time to create these monsters?’”

Gaddy is interested in female killers due to psychology and how uncommon these killers are. She wants to understand why those women did what they did and delve into the circumstances that led to their crimes, like their upbringing.

They choose to utilize the podcast format to discuss true crime, among other topics, because of the ease of listening. People can listen to podcasts the same way as music and enjoy while driving or doing chores.

George and Gaddy think listeners enjoy their podcast because they’re empathetic and relatable, and their personalities shine throughout the recording.

“[People should listen] because we’re hilarious,” Gaddy said. “We’re not just like a scripted podcast that just gives you the information. We’ve had people say, ‘It’s like sitting around with girlfriends.’”