Prison Cell
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

True Crime and You

What makes these kinds of stories so compelling?

This year has seen dozens of new movies and television shows highlighting true crime stories, such as “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” about Charles Manson’s murders and “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” about Ted Bundy. Audiences are diving into stories of crime and murder, but what makes these kinds of stories so compelling?

“We, as humans, love to know about private lives,” said Melanie Holland, assistant professor of criminal justice at Kennesaw State University. “Theorists argue that these shows present the perfect opportunity for people to engage in voyeuristic tendencies and feel like they are informed, seeing a part of life that many will never experience.”

Viewing these true crime stories, which often have solutions, also give the audience faith in the system. According to Holland, seeing people being held accountable is comforting for some and gives them faith that the system works, delivering answers and justice.

But watching these shows can also cause stress and anxiety.

Holland says that it’s important for people to remember that these shows portray crimes that happen to a small percentage of people and to not get too frightened about these things happening to you.

“Deaths from serial killers, one of the most common focuses in true crime media, reflect less than 1% of crimes reported so it’s important to not get overwhelmed with fear.”

Melanie Holland, assistant professor of criminal justice at Kennesaw State University

Holland said it’s unlikely that these types of stories will fade from the media anytime soon. The only change will be the medium where the stories are told, as technology continues to change how audiences consume information.

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