Books/articles on the obsession with true crime
September 27, 2018 4:11 AM   Subscribe

Asking for a friend: Are there any long form articles or books written about *the obsession with* true crime? Not the crimes or things like ethical abuses (*cough Serial cough*) but the actual current popularity and theories about it?

I suggested the Onion podcast A Very Fatal Murder (which I knew about via MeFi!) but I know mefites will have other suggestions too.
posted by daisyk to Society & Culture (13 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
I googled "Why are we obsessed with true crime" and got a ton of light, superficial reads, but I haven't hit anything yet that's a bit longer and deeper.
I was surprised that it's women, more than men, that seek out these stories.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 5:03 AM on September 27, 2018


There are a couple of books that are about the historical development of our interest in "true crime" (both from a British perspective) - The Invention of Murder and A Very British Murder. I've linked to reviews for both books so you can get an idea of their subject matter. The former only discusses the 19th century, and the latter has a greater focus on fiction and doesn't really get into the most modern manifestations. They do touch on the 'why' regarding people's interest, but are more about the development of it (the 'how').
posted by Vortisaur at 5:18 AM on September 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


The Invention of Murder by Judith Flanders is about the Victorian obsession with true crime and the parallels between now and then are pretty clear (technological change, societal disruption, people like a good murder).
posted by betweenthebars at 5:18 AM on September 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


Also, because this question interests me I tried popping 'true crime' as a search term into google scholar. That came up with two books that have google previews which seem to be focussed on answering this question from a contemporary perspective:
Crime, Fear and the Law in True Crime Stories and
The Rise of True Crime: 20th-Century Murder and American Popular Culture
posted by Vortisaur at 5:28 AM on September 27, 2018


Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession by Alice Bolan is about an angle of this (true crime and fiction with young, female victims).
posted by carrienation at 6:10 AM on September 27, 2018 [4 favorites]


I've read before that more women than men seem to enjoy true crime stories, and in particular identify with the victim. Article along this lines here
posted by JonB at 6:15 AM on September 27, 2018


Buzzfeed did a solid piece centered around the podcast My Favorite Murder, but that touched on broader "why is true crime so popular right now?" themes.

That article also linked to this scholarly article called "Captured by True Crime: Why Are Women Drawn to Tales of Rape, Murder, and Serial Killers?" that looks like it might have some of what you're looking for.
posted by helloimjennsco at 7:46 AM on September 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


Here you go!
posted by cakelite at 9:12 AM on September 27, 2018


FWIW my pet theory is just that the generation that currently sort of defines the culture and what's popular has also aged into the demographic that happens to be really into true crime. When I was a kid true crime was extremely popular- Ann Rule books, 20/20 mysteries, movies of the week, and it was totally Stuff Parents Were Into. We are now that age! True crime obsession isn't a new phenomenon, millennials (of which I am one) just tend to think that whatever they are interested must be this new craze that has never been done before. See also: skincare.
posted by cakelite at 9:18 AM on September 27, 2018


I don't know if it's against the rules to say this, but I am writing a book about this exact subject, to be published next summer! This is not a promotional post because it's not available for pre-order yet. (And sorry, mods, if this is inappropriate.)
posted by attentionplease at 10:31 AM on September 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


Loosely related, but fairly interesting: 'The Thief Taker Hangings' by Aaron Skirball is a true story about the origins of crime journalism (and modern literature) 3 centuries ago. So there's lots of crime, criminals, and the beginnings of tabloid reporting.
posted by ovvl at 11:30 AM on September 27, 2018


I just came across "The Conflicted Life of a True Crime Fan" via The Rec Centre:

"In recent years, I have met dozens of true crime fans. Over time, it has become apparent that often, we are more alike than different: mostly women, mostly white, usually citizens, and largely middle class. My fellow true crime fans are often straight and feminine. Many also espouse centrist or left-leaning politics. And we all share a seemingly endless appetite for murder.

The more true crime fans I meet, the more I see myself reflected. And the more troubled I become."
posted by ITheCosmos at 3:51 PM on September 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


It doesn't surprise me that the primary audience is women. Watching true crime makes me feel that Mariska Hargitay or cops or the FBI or cold case detectives or even the cast of RENO 911 has my back.
posted by bendy at 9:01 PM on October 2, 2018


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