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Why People Fixate on True Crime Shows

Tens of millions of people devour true-crime shows on TV, cable, streaming services, radio, podcasts, and in books. This is deeply personal for author Lisa Nikolidakis and her 2022 book No One Crosses the Wolf. She was 27 in 2003, when her father murdered his girlfriend, her teenage daughter, and committed suicide. She experienced the inevitable trauma and "inherited his crime scene of a house." For 17 years she plodded along writing the book about her shock, confusion, and her emotional wounds.

In recent years she "escaped" from her "darkness" by watching endless streaming TV shows that depicted "bizarre murders, cults, kidnappings, rapes, conspiracies. Bodies dismembered and disappeared and defiled, eccentric townsfolk and investigators each with their own secrets.

The upside for this strange choice was that good usually wins, and there are heroes who pay a price. She writes:

I found comfort in following detectives and prosecutors who care. That’s it, really. Someone cared. In real life, we know this often isn’t the case. But fictional characters pursuing The Big Bad are so invested, they pay for it in their personal lives: failed marriages, mental breakdowns, angry children, demotion. They care at their own peril.

She admits: "I can’t stop asking why? When our world news is often so dark, why on earth do we seek out more?" Some of the common reasons:

Voyeurism is a cheap ticket to a thrill-ride – the allure of our own dark sides. There is also the “could I get away with it” curiosity. Would we make better criminals than the ones who are caught? The criminals fascinate us, and we get to peak in their doors from the safety of our triple bolted ones. The world may be dangerous, but there is comfort in our streaming safety. We remain safe.

Evil as entertainment remains deeply problematic, and it raises for me images of families attending public hangings. We look back at that as macabre spectacle, but I am not so sure that what we are doing now is all that different.

Possible Preaching Angles:

The popularity of true crime shows indicates the needs of human nature: 1) Vicarious sin - People delight in imagining themselves breaking the law and getting away with it. 2) Justice; Penalty for sin – People want to see justice done in an increasingly capricious world where criminals go free; 3) Protection and Comfort – We want to feel safe and protected even while entertaining ourselves with the danger of the world.

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