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The Tongva Times

The Tongva Times

The Tongva Times

True crime docs serve as criminally insensitive entertainment for viewers

KILLER+SHOW+Actor+Evan+Peters+plays+serial+killer+Jeffrey+Dahmer+in+Netflix%E2%80%99s+%E2%80%9CDahmer+%E2%80%93+Monster%3A+The+Jeffrey+Dahmer+Story.%E2%80%9D+Criticism+has+been+drawn+over+the+show%E2%80%99s+insensitivity.++%0AProvided+by+Netflix
KILLER SHOW Actor Evan Peters plays serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer in Netflix’s “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.” Criticism has been drawn over the show’s insensitivity. Provided by Netflix

   When scrolling through popular streaming sites, there is a noticeable growing popularity of real murder cases. Once a niche genre of storytelling, the true crime genre has fascinated audiences and taken pop culture by storm over the past years. However, a genre that delves into the lives and trauma of real people has turned this fascination into an obsession through the creation of harmful narratives and casting aside victims.

   True crime is a broad genre, encompassing numerous forms of media ranging from films, podcasts, books, television shows, and documentaries. The genre focuses on a variety of crimes, but the most popular are often murders. 

   Recent shows, like Netflix’s “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” which topped the site’s streaming charts in under a week of its release encapsulates the dangerous obsession of the genre. The show faced harsh backlash for turning the tragic events of Jeffery Dahmer’s killings into a dramatized retelling that sought to captivate the audience, tastelessly utilizing crude gore and disturbing sexually graphic scenes.

   Many of the scenes, which often feature Jeffrey Dahmer’s victims and their families, were created without the permission or knowledge of the real life people they were depicting.       

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   “… If you’re actually curious about the victims, my family (the Isbells) are pissed about this show,” stated Eric Perry, the cousin of one of Dahmer’s victims, Errol Lindsey, on Twitter. “It’s retraumatizing over and over again, and for what? How many movies/shows/documentaries do we need?” 

   It is seen time and time again, especially with well-known figures, such as Ted Bundy. Shows like “Conversations with a Killer” and “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile” gleefully focus on his character and savor the murders rather than offer any nuance on the case, such as systematic flaws that allowed him to evade justice for so long. 

   Even in shows that do reach out to those affected, the events portrayed can become morphed into the same formula for a dramatized, sensational story all for the sake of viewership and eliciting reactions. FX’s critically acclaimed “Under the Banner of Heaven” involved the family member of the victims, Sharon Wright Weeks, early in the writing process, yet managed to distort her sister into an unrecognizable character. 

   However, the genre is not unsalvageable. Even with all the rotten apples, true crime content like the “In the Dark” podcast serves as a paradigm of the genre, which focuses on how the justice system and the lack of reformation has failed families and victims. Media like this offers a promising road forward to the popular genre, where series can focus on exposing the failures of the legal system while simultaneously honoring the lives of victims respectfully. 

   True crime is capable of good, as seen in Adnan Syed’s case and the “Serial” podcast. The podcast, which covered Syed’s case, exposed inadequacies in the investigation and helped thrust his case into the national spotlight. After 23 years of incarceration for the murder of his girlfriend he has denied committing for two decades, Baltimore prosecutors dropped all charges against him after Syed was cleared from the killing through new DNA testing. 

   Moving forward, the true crime genre must focus on reforming itself to offer proper justice to victims and their families, putting to rest the era of sensationalism and tabloid gossip.

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About the Contributor
Brian Ly
Brian Ly, Production Chief
Brian Ly is the Production Chief for the Tongva Times and is entering his fourth year with the paper. In his personal life, Brian has a keen interest in insects, collectible card games, books, and movies. He even aspires to raise his own "Gregor Samsas" when he finds the right environment. Interestingly, Brian initially joined the newspaper in his freshman year, mistaking it for a history class due to the presence of a textbook. Despite the unexpected start, he remained with the Tongva Times, drawn by the strong sense of community and the chance to interact with diverse individuals, from school athletes to the mayor of San Gabriel.
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