A&E: How criminal is true crime?

A student opens their laptop to watch “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.” As true crime documentaries fill up their recently watched, they start to question whether watching these gruesome stories for entertainment is as harmless as they first believed.

True crime has captivated the world, gaining many fans with different interests in the genre. The SCHS community discussed what it is about true crime that captured their attention and whether the genre as a whole is morally correct.

Freshman Paige Souza explained that she got hooked on true crime due to her curiosity surrounding serial killers. She is especially interested in the motives that drive people to commit serious crimes.

“The things that they do are so disgusting and inhumane that it’s interesting,” Souza said. “That sounds so bad, but it’s fascinating to me. Why would you do that to someone?”

Souza believes that multiple social media users romanticize crime cases rather than spreading awareness about the victims. She pointed out that heavy production surrounding real and tragic events can negatively affect families mourning a tragic loss.

“Sometimes they (television companies) give every detail, and it’s like, just let them (the families) rest. They’ve already had to go through enough,” Souza said. “Just let them be.”

Others, like librarian Seana Shelby, have different perspectives on how much true crime media should reveal about a victims’ case.

“Sometimes there are people like me who have anxiety, and somehow seeing what the possibilities are kind of like knowing that that’s something that could happen makes you feel more prepared,” Shelby said.

Having watched a variety of true crime media, Shelby noticed some documentaries have more sensitivity toward certain victims compared to others. She explained how female victims are commonly disrespected through photographs.

“Some documentaries or docu series are disrespectful to victims and sensationalized crime with their visuals,” Shelby said. “For example, if they are discussing a woman who has been raped or killed, they often use a graphic of a woman partially clothed in a dehumanizing position.”

Shelby also noticed that, recently, true crime as a genre has given less attention to the killers of the crime and more toward other aspects of the case.

“I think it did feel like the killers themselves were more kind of the superstars of the story,” Shelby said. “Now it feels like there’s more of a focus on the psychology of the person of what the crime is rather than just kind of a squatter fest like an ‘80s kind of horror film.”

Some viewers focus less on the criminal or how the victim suffered and more on other aspects of true crime. Senior Joshua Christopher Kalaveras is one of those who has more interest in the crime scene and law process.

“It’s more of a stick out to gain and do problem solving, learning new skills based off of wherever it’s coming from,” Kalaveras said.

Kalaveras explained that consent is necessary for films to respect the victims. He believes that producers who do not gain the families’ permission to make media about victims’ perpetrators are not only morally wrong but also deserve legal consequences.

“They didn’t consent to it, which can also lead to a lawsuit because there are consequences without consent,” Kalaveras said.

True crime continues to be a sensitive topic for some viewers and a number of people argue about the ethics of it. Many at SCHS believe that, when portrayed respectfully, true crime is an interesting genre whether it be to study the psychology, the nature of the crime or another reason.

“I feel like it depends how it’s portrayed because if it’s being portrayed really glamorized, then it’s obviously not good because why are you glamorizing a serial killer, but also it’s a good way to spread awareness. It makes people realize things.” Souza said.