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Mystery Solved: The Appeal of True Crime

Mystery Solved: The Appeal of True Crime

Some time ago, I remember texting a friend that I was watching the first episode of Evil Genius. The story follows the death of a bank robber with a collar bomb attached to his neck. While retelling the events of the story, my friend replied, “I don’t know why, but a lot of my girlfriends are into true crime lately”.

That single message made me reflect on the appeal of true crime documentaries.

“True crime” refers to a genre investigating the most extreme and worst of deeds committed against humanity. Unlike fictional horror and thriller shows, true crime doesn’t offer the comfort that these things don’t happen in real life. It’s the purest form of violence.

On Netflix alone, you can spend months binge-watching their abundant list of documentaries about internationally-acclaimed murderers, scammers, and historical atrocities.

Watching The Tinder Swindler

Netflix True Crime Documentary Film: The Tinder Swindler. "Modern Love is a Dangerous Game."
The Tinder Swindler Promotional Material | Netflix

When The Tinder Swindler premiered on Netflix, I was on Twitter. I heard that instead of your typical serial killer story, the story follows an Israeli guy and how he managed to scam around $10 million from women across Europe.

Simon Leviev, the main perpetrator in the case, brought women on luxurious dates. Some of the tricks he used to make them think that he is the heir to the Leviev Diamonds included taking them to 5-star hotels and out-of-the-country trips on a private jet. After proving that he’s rich and capable, he waits until the women get attached before he would borrow money and lie that he can’t use his credit card because his “enemies” want him dead.

He succeeded multiple times in his ploy by using different names, assuming various personalities, and having the support of authorities.

When I finally watched the almost 2-hour documentary, my dad sat next to me. After the first few minutes, he suggested that we should just skip it to the end to know the conclusion.

I immediately refused and realized why true crime fascinates me.

It’s not enough to know the who and the what of the case. I want to know the process and the motives—the when, where, and most especially, the why and how.

Why True Crime fans love the genre

True Crime documentaries on Netflix PH: American Murder, Unsolved Mysteries, Night Stalker, I am a Killer, Abducted in Plain Sight, why did you kill me?, Real Detective, Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel.
True Crime documentaries on Netflix PH | Julia Reign Reyes

A quick crowdsourcing on Twitter told me that I wasn’t alone in this sentiment. When I inquired fans of true crime why they are fascinated by the genre, here are some answers:

“It really interests me because it’s crazy to see how different people’s brains work. I also like to see cases have their story spread to gain more awareness especially in unsolved crimes or missing persons crimes,” said Nicole, 24.

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“It’s really not about the crime but moreso wanting to understand the psyche of the people committing the crime,” said Handa, 30.

“It’s fascinating to see what people are capable of doing, especially when you hear or look into the criminal’s upbringing. It makes you wonder how it could possibly relate to what they end up doing. Basically, I’m interested in why people do what they do,” said Thilsey, 21.

The Appeal of True Crime documentaries

Crime Scene. Police Tape: DO NOT CROSS.
David von Diemar

True crime is a genre for the curious. Interest in this type of show doesn’t necessarily mean that there is an underlying violent motive.

McKenna Princing of the University of Washington – School of Medicine wrote, “Normally, we experience emotions like sadness or anger in real-world situations that are much more serious or negatively impact us. Engaging with those emotions in a safe, contained, and the chosen environment – like on your couch – can be therapeutic for some people.”

Still, despite it being cathartic and therapeutic, we must be careful when consuming this type of show.

The drawback of watching true crime is that it may contribute to feelings of paranoia and anxiety. When it starts affecting your mind negatively, take it as a sign to step back and reassess its nature.

[Editor’s note: Also, people who engage in true crime that involves violence or, specifically, murder, should rethink how they sometimes romanticize the genre. It should be noted that true crime’s purpose is to inform and educate—nothing more. This is a gentle reminder to be cautious when consuming this form of “entertainment” and that “enjoying true crime” should be used in a more informed context. There are real people involved in these cases—real evil people who murdered the innocent, real victims who were brutally treated, and real families who still suffer the consequences and are in grief.]
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