05 October 2021 631 Views

How our true crime obsession took over the world

by James Murphy


It’s no secret that we have always had an obsession with the macabre, the gory, the risky, and the terrifying. The darkest impulses of human nature have always been a source of fascination and a guaranteed way to pull in the crowds.

However, these obsessions seem to have taken on a new form in recent years and expanded to a scale never seen before. Our obsession with true crime is abundantly clear. Many of the top TV shows, films, and books now deal exclusively with the subject.

People have managed to make multi-million-dollar careers by recording podcasts about true crime. Many of the most-viewed Wikipedia pages of all time are those that give the details of true crime cases. As a genre, true crime is increasingly setting the cultural agenda. But how did we get here? Let’s take a closer look at how true crime took over the world.

True crime: a lasting love story
Our obsession with true crime goes back a long way. The short stories of Edgar Allen Poe, especially The Mystery of Marie RogĂȘt, are considered to be a precursor to the genre, with these works of fiction setting out how all “real” true crime stories would be presented thereafter.
Victorian-era serials detailing (often inaccurately) the vicious exploits of Jack the Ripper were the earliest bestsellers in the genre, one that really took off in the early 20th century, following high profile murder cases such as the Black Dahlia case.
By the time Truman Capote released In Cold Blood in 1965 – a novel considered by many to be the first “true” true crime book of the modern era, the genre was already firmly established within the cultural repertoire, at least in the Anglosphere.

A streaming revolution

While no one is denying that true crime has been popular for a long time, there is something very distinct about the past five years or so. This has been the age of the mega true crime media product, in which a television program or film about a real crime has quite literally taken over the entire world.
Our cultural true crime saturation is, by and large, the product of the streaming revolution.

One can arguably pinpoint the turning point as being the release of the smash-hit Netflix series Making a Murderer in 2015.
The show quickly became one of the most talked-about (if not the most talked-about) TV shows of the decade, with the first series alone having a lasting impact on national politics in the US and even the Supreme Court.

Following the success of Making a Murderer, the rest of the streaming world followed through. Netflix alone released dozens if not hundreds of true crime shows in the years following, including Tiger King, I Am a Killer, Unsolved Mysteries, The Keepers, and Narcos, to name a few. The floodgates were officially opened.

Merchandising empires
The extent to which true crime has taken over the world is perhaps best evidenced by the merchandising empires that the genre has produced. One medium that has truly thrived as a result of the true-crime love affair is the podcast.
As the popularity of podcasts grew exponentially in the latter half of the last decade, it became immediately clear the extent to which true crime was driving traffic. Nowadays, top true crime podcasts such as Serial (a spin-off of This American Life) and Crimetown have tens of millions of listeners and sprawling merchandise empires, featuring clothes, accessories, phone cases, bobbleheads, and more.
It doesn’t stop there. Just look at one of the most popular true-crime shows ever released – Narcos, a 2015 show about Pablo Escobar. As well as t-shirts, posters, stickers, home decor, and pop songs based on the show, there is even a hit online casino game.

The official Narcos online slot game, available at many of the platforms listed on this guide to NJ casinos online, is one of the most popular real-money online games around right now. This is a testament to just how widespread the true-crime obsession really is. We just can’t get enough.

True crime is now seriously big business – arguably the biggest business in the entire entertainment industry. It’s unclear whether this is a chicken or an egg situation. Did streaming technology fuel our obsession with true crime, or did our obsession with true crime help fuel the success of streaming platforms? One thing that is certain is that the genre is not going anywhere anytime soon.


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