Finding comfort in true crime

Photo by Casey Gomez

I will be the first to enthusiastically admit it: I like true crime — no, I love true crime. If someone were to browse my podcast recommendations, they may be surprised to see titles like “My Favorite Murder,” “True Crime Obsessed” and “Forensic Files.” 

For those out there who don’t know, true crime is a genre of media featuring the real-life stories of crimes occurring around the world. True crime takes the form of books, podcasts, movies, documentaries and television shows based on real-life crimes. Often, these stories are paired with comedy. The majority of the true-crime genre audience is comprised of young women, who, incidentally, are most likely to fall victim to the violent crimes covered in true crime media. What about violent crime fascinates those who are most at risk?

For some of us, it is about the science. It’s thrilling to know the details of crime scene investigation, DNA testing and the process through which fingerprints are peeled from doorknobs in order to catch criminals. 

Some audiences love the justice element, finding satisfaction in the conclusions; some like the mystery and willingly participate in what is called “armchair investigations.” Sometimes it is the relief that it is not you; some people find comfort in hearing that bad things are happening to plenty of other people and — statistically — will not happen to them. 

But for me, it is about processing my mental illness and learning to accept the world in which we live without leaving the comfort of my own home. 

I have lived with anxiety my whole life, scared to turn corners, scared to peel back the covers and get out of bed. I have feared falling victim to the violent crimes I hear about on my podcasts since I was old enough to understand that there are bad people in the world. Avoiding the topic only worsens my worry, making me check the lock on my front door two, three or four times before checking all the windows and sliding the kitchen knife into my bedside table drawer. The less I hear about crime, the more I think about it happening to me. 

So I listen to podcasts, I watch documentaries and I obsess over certain cases and victims that remind me of myself. I memorize the details of certain crimes, channeling the anxious energy into understanding how to stop it if it were to happen to me. 

True crime gives me the opportunity to channel my anxiety, and allows me to realistically prepare myself in the event that any one of the crimes I obsess over happens to me. Through my favorite media, I face my fears head on, and sometimes, instead of crying, I get to laugh.