The Real Reason We Can’t Stop Watching True Crime
A roundtable with four of crime media’s most notable hosts
America’s love affair with crime as entertainment is at an all-time high. As a genre, true crime isn’t new; its fandom goes as far back as the 1550s, when British authors distributed printed leaflets detailing a sordid variety of crimes — the ickier the better. But today there are more ways than ever to consume crime entertainment: through podcasts, Netflix shows, documentaries, and, of course, Law & Order: SVU reruns.
In the saturated market, women-run programming is becoming a standout. While men perpetrate the most violent crimes, data shows that women consume the most media about them. According to Brandwatch, significantly more women than men listen to true crime podcasts. Many of the thousands of crime podcasts available today — like Wine and Crime, Moms and Murder, and Crime Junkie — are produced and hosted by women.
As a 41-year-old, largely sane feminist professional, I admit to having a thing for true crime that has stuck with me since childhood. I cover crime as a freelance journalist, and I spend my free time researching cases, poring over murder subreddits, and lurking in crime discussion groups on Facebook. For me, crime media is a relaxing escape — one that assuages the near-chronic anxiety and dread I can feel as a woman. I know I’m not alone. A 2010 study found that women use “tales of rape, murder, and serial killers” to help them cope with misogyny and violence in the broader culture.
But is our fixation on all things homicide healthy? I spoke with four women working in true crime media: Laura Richards, a criminal behavioral analyst and co-host of the Real Crime Profile podcast; Connie Walker, a CBC News investigative reporter and host of the podcast Missing and Murdered: Finding Cleo; Dee (last name withheld at her request), co-host of the podcast What Did You Do?; and Erin Lee Carr, documentary director of Mommy Dead and Dearest and Thought Crimes.
What follows is an edited conversation with all four women.