'True Crime' Documentaries - why we're obsessed with corruption


Why are we so consistently drawn to and intrigued by the wrongdoings of the past? Are we all secretly striving to be detectives in our own time or is there more to this evolving obsession with depravity?

Week after week it seems like Netflix have invested more and more into 'true crime' documentaries, almost always making their way into the top 10. Audiences have been dazzled by the allusive nature of shows like Unsolved Mysteries, The Ripper, Making A Murderer, Mindhunter and so many more. Recently I Am A Killer, the series about death row inmates who reaccount their crimes with astonishing detail, has made it to number 3.

But why is it that we can't seem to get enough of it? Here are 3 possible rationals that could begin to explain this phenomenon of consumer engagement.

1. We're empowered by humanity's dark side

Similarly to how Donald Trump has been able to plague our news broadcasts almost every day for the past four years, bad news makes good news. And that's no different to how we enjoy casual entertainment. In watching sinister stories about other people we're able to explore parts of our own personality that we can't usually embrace.

That's not to say that we enjoy watching Donald Trump because we enjoy seeing him act out our inner desires, far from it. As long as we're distanced from them, seeing other people's depravity or failures onscreen enables audiences to become judge, jury and executioner.

Say what you want, but we've enjoyed trying to understand Trump and his motivations then swiftly casting him down for them. That's exactly why we love true crime too. We can be the detective and we can pass our sentences upon them. Their corruption empowers audiences to be better, reminding us of just how bad humanity can be.

2. It's TRUE crime made comfortable

What do we love about a good thriller? It's the twists and turns as a story progresses that make us try and predict what will happen next or understand how we could've missed the clues. The best thing about true crime is that we get all of that delivered to our living rooms and it actually happened.

That realism makes it all the more impactful.

It links closely to the first reason really. We're afforded an insight into the darkest sides of humanity whilst being able to enjoy some twists and turns along the way. It's the closest you can get to the excitement of solving a real murder mystery from the comfort of your own home.

3. We genuinely learn

Following a murderous narrative gives audiences genuine knowledge surrounding some of the most senseless crimes in human history.

Take Netflix's The Ripper for example. I was no officianado in the Yorkshire Ripper's horrendous murders that took place in the mid 1970s. But having watched the Netflix True Crime show, I was afforded a genuine look into that part of British history that happened not so long ago. It was shocking even to those who were around during that time.

True crime documentaries have the extraordinary ability to instil relevance into real crimes that happened years ago. They touch on nerves within their audience and create a discourse amongst them. That keeps these crimes alive in the consciousness of society, ensuring it can't ever happen again.


But those are just a few in a variety of possible reasons that we enjoy sitting down for a binge of something truly shocking. What do you love about true crime? Perhaps you're averse to such programmes or perhaps they're all too good to be true? Let Any Good? know what shows you'll be watching over the coming weeks.