True Crime Obsession

What is it with criminal activity that keeps Americans wanting to watch more? Why are people binge-watching shows dealing with deaths, rapes, and false accusations?

True crime is hot right now: between HBOs The Jinx, Netflixs new hot series Making a Murderer, and the Serial podcast, people are becoming obsessed with unbelievable true crime stories.

Because people love all of these new ways to become criminal investigators at home, new series are being created. The very much-anticipated TV series on the O.J. Simpson murder trial will begin in February.

Jill Serjeant, a journalist for the New York Times, stated that The People vs. O.J. Simpson limited series has become one of the most buzzed-about TV shows weeks before its February 2 launch, even though it is not expected to throw any new light on the case.

Making A Murderer is already so enjoyable that on December 23, the official Making a Murderer Twitter account (@MakingAMurderer) had fewer than 4,000 followers. By Jan. 1 that number had climbed to more than 26,000 and by Monday it was beyond 77,000. The official Making a Murderer Facebook page is nearing 200,000 likes.

This all started with shows like Law and Order, NCIS, Criminal Minds, and other dramatized television series in which crime was portrayed by actors.  These shows captured the attention of viewers and made them want to keep watching. In addition, these shows also inspired many documentaries based on true crime.

So why is watching criminal activity so interesting and even enjoyable? One theory is that people see and hear about crime every day on the news, and these shows give us ideas of the minds of these criminals. More and more news stories of police brutality have also brought the issue of excessive or reasonable force to the forefront in society.

True crime shows also allow the people watching to see the events taking place but shelters them from the horror actually being experienced. This allows a show to be enjoyable and to come across as less threatening to an individual.

Amber Hunt, a New York Times bestselling author, believes that “on some base level, most people know they’re one bad decision away from making a choice that could destroy their lives and the lives of many others.”  She feels that true crime stories show that no matter how bad a situation is, we can’t let a dark situation turn us down the path that these shows depict.

Others watch true crime for totally different reasons.  Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D., is a Professor of Forensic Psychology at DeSales University. She stated, “People gawk at terrible things to reassure themselves that they are safe, and true crimes on TV are offered as a puzzle that people want to solve.”  She feels that watching the crimes unfold and seeing them solved offers a sense of closure.

For anyone who is thinking about joining the true crime bandwagon, heres the breakdown of just a few of the popular shows/podcasts:


The Jinx– IMDB described it as a six chapter series, in which a highly stylized true crime story about Robert Durst, one-time heir to the multibillion dollar Durst Origination real estate empire, is suspected in the disappearance of his first wife and the murders of two other people dating back to 1983.


Making a Murderer-  Netflix describes it as an unprecedented real-life thriller about Steven Avery, a DNA exoneree who, while in the midst of exposing corruption in local law enforcement, finds himself the prime suspect in a grisly new crime. This series takes viewers inside a high-stakes criminal case where reputation is everything and things are never as they appear.


Serial- The summary of Season 1, which you can listen to the podcast at states, It’s Baltimore, 1999. Hae Min Lee, a popular high-school senior, disappears after school one day. Six weeks later detectives arrest her classmate and ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, for her murder. He says he’s innocent – though he can’t exactly remember what he was doing on that January afternoon. But someone can. A classmate at Woodlawn High School says she knows where Adnan was. The trouble is, shes nowhere to be found.
No matter the reason – simple curiosity, pure entertainment, or even the enjoyment of seeing justice served – it seems that nothing can stop America’s’ obsessions with true crime.