My partner and I have an ongoing disagreement over my obsession with true crime documentaries and books. I can’t count the amount of times he’s given me a ‘look’ after hearing, once again, the dramatic voiceover of the latest real murder documentary I’m watching. Or a sly: “Oh, are you reading another death book?”.
I get it. It’s morbid. Why would I immerse myself in someone else’s misery? Why don’t I read a nice chick-lit, or even just a good classic?
Since I’ve had my Kindle, I’ve been able to gain access to a huge amount of different genre of book. I’ve found I enjoy memoirs and true accounts most of all, so true crime was an easy transition to make.
I’ve read dozens of true crime and true account books, as well as multiple documentaries. A lot of these are well known crimes like The Soham Murders, Jaycee Lee Dugard and the mystery of the murder of JonBenet Ramsey. Others are less well-known – a serial killer in a tiny American town, or a poor Nigerian girl forced into a marriage with an older man. I find all equally fascinating, but am always aware that I am not ‘enjoying’ reading about horrific acts that have happened to others.
According to author Gary Provost (1991) the essence of true crime is ‘…normal people, who commit abnormal acts’ and readers of the genre constantly question their own potential for such behaviour.
This is something that makes perfect sense to me. Many times have I pondered over someone’s character after reading/watching their horrific act. Did they know they were going to commit that crime? At what point did they lose it? Could I ever, in a million years, get so messed up that I’d feel like stabbing someone? Or kidnapping a child?
Researchers conducted studies to try to determine why women are attracted to true crime. Their conclusion was that women are drawn to true crime books out of their own fears of becoming a victim of violent crime.
According to the researchers, women are drawn to true crime books for these reasons:
- To learn how to prevent becoming a victim
- To learn how to survive being a victim.
- To learn warning signs to watch for.
- To learn escape tips and survival strategies.
In 2012, crime lecturer Judith Yates compared reading true crime books to riding a roller coaster, suggesting that we find both experiences equally titillating and thrilling, albeit slightly scary. She concluded: ‘Crime is real, guttural, and nasty – but perfectly safe when you are curled up in a chair reading’.
It’s the age old misconception of ‘that will never happen to me’. Have I been reading these books and watching these programs, densensitised? Focusing on the hard-hitting story but forgetting about the people, real people who were affected. Someone’s mother, daughter, father, son. If something happened to me or my family, I’m not sure I’d want to be on someone’s reading list for the reader to plow through before moving onto the next exciting murder mystery.
See more at: http://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/index.php/updates/Why-do-people-enjoy-reading-true-crime-books/#sthash.YHpvBZkq.dpuf