Are True Crime Stans Harmful?

The morbid obsession with serial killers should be a thing of the past.


Trinity Kays

In recent years Netflix has put out several documentaries about not only Ted Bundy but numerous other notorious serial killers, serving to fuel the morbid fascination of fanatics .

I’m no stranger to the addictive nature of shows like Criminal Minds and Law and Order. On many occasions I’ve caught myself mindlessly watching crime shows while I do menial tasks, letting myself be absorbed by the fictional unspeakable acts portrayed on screen–many of which are rooted in reality.

After a while, I came to realize that I had almost become desensitized to the horror of what was really happening in these shows. I knew that I needed to change when I was gifted a serial killer coloring book. I was disgusted to think that my infatuation with the drama-filled crime shows had begun to spiral into an obsession with true crime or, more specifically, real serial killers. 

Though I never idolized these monsters I was captivated with their cases and many times I would even treat these killers like they were fictional, completely disregarding the fact that they took the lives of so many real people with real lives and real families. 

On social media, I would follow pages associated with crime shows, and before I knew it the algorithm began to recommend videos of people fantasizing about being the prey of real serial killers. I would see them belittle the victims and portray them as no more than an unintelligent side character to the serial killers’ starring roles. My feed was soon full of people telling me I too should glorify these repulsive murders. I was genuinely horrified. 


The callous well-oiled machine that is Hollywood is acutely aware of this idolization and has capitalized off of it. Movies like Extremely Wicked; Shockingly Evil and Vile, and My Friend Dahmer aim to make the crimes of murderers like Ted Bundy, and Jeffrey Dahmer more palatable for mainstream audiences by putting attractive faces on screen.

Instead of focusing on the atrocities committed they sanitize them and focus on the more dramatic or theatrical aspects in order to make them more digestible for viewers.

Eric D. Snider, a critic at the Crooked Marquee, wrote a review of Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. “The film does nothing to show what made Bundy tick, glamorizing him instead,” he said.

This “glamourization” has led many to associate these vicious atrocities with the played-down versions portrayed in the media, allowing them to morally accept what these murderers did. This has resulted in avid crime enthusiasts absorbing this content through rose-colored glasses. 

Capitalizing off of Tragedy 

Hollywood isn’t alone in fueling the morbid curiosity of fanatics.

Podcasts are one of the most notable ways people get their daily serial killer fix. Plugging in earbuds and drowning the world out with some of the most gruesome parts of our society. Casually listening to in-depth details of how mercilessly real people lost their lives.

However, that’s not to say that I’m completely against these types of podcasts.

Personally, I believe the harm comes with the insensitive nature in which some are presented. I don’t believe I’m unreasonable when I say that getting drunk and laughing with friends while discussing murders is careless at best. 

It’s amusing to listen to the tale while entranced with the cosmetics. But that’s the problem.”

The complete and total disregard for human life that manifests itself in many of these podcasts is detestable and tasteless. Especially when there are many acceptable ways to present true crime.

Serial is a podcast that discusses the murder of a high school student, Hae Min Lee. While it doesn’t tackle serial killers it still presents a murder in a way that is both intriguing and respectful to the victim and everyone involved, a trait that many podcasts lack. 

At Dunbar listening to Serial is even a unit in the English two classes.

Unfortunately, podcasts aren’t the only offender. Social media is plagued with not only idolizers but also media that shows little to no remorse for the victims.

A common trend on Tik Tok is to discuss true crime while doing a mundane task, like doing your makeup. I won’t lie when I say I do enjoy this content. It’s amusing to listen to the tale while entranced with the cosmetics. But that’s the problem.

It’s not just a “tale” it’s the story of someone’s murder, it’s the story of how one human took the life of another. It’s easy to forget that when focused on the composition of fun colors being skillfully applied.  

With this obsession, people also look for merchandise to showcase their infatuation, and when the demand is as high as it has been recently, the supply mirrors that.

Most of these products fall into one or two categories. One is the blanket serial killer obsession, the fixation on their crimes and cases.

Two is the romanticization of serial killers. Neither of these is respectable. Plastering the face of a serial killer on any merchandise is an insult to the people whose lives they uprooted and devastated.

Taken Too Far 

Some people who are enthralled with true crime even take it further than wearing murderers on their hoodies.

Some take the law into their own hands and actively investigate crime scenes, interview victims, and speak to the perpetrators. 

This is not only dangerous and callous but it could also compromise a case. There are so many potential risks yet enthusiasts seem to think their morbid fascination warrants them a say in the proceedings or outcome of criminal cases. 

Harmful or Harmless

The indubitable fact is that true crime fixations can be maleficent, however, I believe that there is a healthy way to consume both true crime and fictional crime.

Remembering that there are real people behind every true crime case and treating them as such is a start. Not indulging in the commercialized serial killer merch that serves only to glorify murders is another.

With crime shows keep in mind that many of the cases are rooted in reality and don’t let yourself grow compassionless even if the people on screen are just acting. 

And if you are one of the people out there who stans serial killers ask yourself if you were face to face with their victims would you still be willing to glorify their murderer the way you currently do?