True fascinations: what’s up with the true crime obsession?


Elliot Smith

“Its always been my dream to be a homicide detective, so I watch and listen to [True Crime] as a way of kind of like studying for what I want to do in the future.” Said Alexis Ayala.

Criminal behavior can spark great fascination. No matter how gruesome, wide-eyed crime fanatics seek opportunities to get a deeper look into the reality of crime. True crime, a genre of in-depth investigations into real criminal cases, is followed for various reasons. Whether it be to learn preventative measures from victims, studying for a career, or pure curiosity. It appears in the form of podcasts, documentaries, television shows, and books; guiding human curiosity of criminals to overwhelmingly seize the virtual world of forensics.

For junior Alexis Ayala, an interest in true crime has been present for most of her life; it has also curated a career interest.

“It’s always been my dream to be a homicide detective, so I watch and listen to [true crime] as a way of kind of like studying for what I want to do in the future,” Alexis said.

Alexis’ interest in true crime blossomed when she first saw her now-favorite television show, The First 48, a reality show displaying criminal cases that police have 48 hours to solve. Alexis saw the lack of female representation in this field and felt inspired to change that by pursuing a career as a homicide detective.

“I started watching [The First 48] and then I realized that all of the detectives on the show were males and that’s one of the main reasons why I decided I wanted to become a homicide detective, because it is a male-dominated profession,” Alexis said.

Though it may seem that an interest in true crime means emotions are turned off and those interested are numb to criminal behavior, many choose to follow true crime because of their attraction to others lives. The Tab, a UK news site, explains in the article “Experts explain our ‘morbid fascination’ with true crime and serial killers”that humans tend to be interested in high impact occasions of other’s lives. The article’s research also shows that citizens are interested in the process of solving cases, similar to Alexis, as insight into the criminal justice process is rare. 

“I get to look more inside the mind of detectives and their thought processes. And also the criminals too,” Alexis said.

Similar to Alexis and other true crime fans, senior Josie Pringle finds the psychology and preceding events of criminal acts fascinating.

“I’m really interested in the psychology behind why people commit crimes and why they kill people, just because I’m curious about what led up to that moment,” Josie said.

In a Telegraph article “Why are we obsessed with true crime?” psychologist Dr. Meg Arroll states that true crime provides a view into the darker side of life while providing sanctuary for spectators, as they can always leave their media and return to normal lives.

Another question true crime fans ponder is whether offenders are born with the desire to commit crimes or if it comes from their surroundings growing up.

 “I think it adds to the larger question of ‘are killers born that way or are they made?’ like nature versus nurture, which I think is a very interesting concept,” Josie said.

The news corrections organization Corrections 1 article “Nature vs. Nurture: which causes crime?” explains that both environmental and biological aspects play into the causes of criminal acts. While very different, environmental and biological factors intertwine and build the character that contributes to criminal acts. Growing up in a stable home environment cannot stop a person from biological turmoil. And the behavior present in their surroundings can manipulate how they behave, no matter how mentally stable.

Knowledge of criminal behavior is crucial for listeners, as it gives them perspective into how the mind of a criminal works. 

“I think I’ll always be interested in [true crime], and I’ve noticed that since I have started listening to true crime I have become more aware of my surroundings,” Josie said. “If I see something weird, like, the other day I saw a couple fighting in their car, it has become instinctual for me to remember the make and model of the car and look at the time just in case I see something [about that in the future].”

True crime media is on the rise, providing a new perspective into the criminal mind. Although listeners engage for various reasons, they are not alone in their guilty pleasure.