Netflix is slowly becoming the reigning expert on releasing the perfect true crime documentary. Each new show popular and ranging from interviews with serial killers to acclaimed portrayals by today’s most popular actors; the streaming service has seemed to create the perfect recipe for bringing out the inner detective in all of us.
Something that the corporate minds of Netflix didn’t anticipate was how quickly a docuseries could become distorted and that their vision does more harm than good.
1. It Glamorizes Serial Killers
Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes came out in January, and reactions were very split.
— 💋 N♥i♥k♥k♥i♥💋 (@nikkishaxh) January 29, 2019
— LesTom1 (@Les170869) March 3, 2019
While many people were interested to get a deeper look into the mind of the notorious serial killer, a disturbing amount of internet trolls emerged at the same time. They exclaimed how hot Bundy was and received hundreds of mixed reactions on Twitter.
Some felt that people were looking for attention, others felt they were supported because Zac Efron is portraying him in the upcoming film Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. It became so out of hand, Netflix had to step in.
I've seen a lot of talk about Ted Bundy’s alleged hotness and would like to gently remind everyone that there are literally THOUSANDS of hot men on the service — almost all of whom are not convicted serial murderers
— Netflix US (@netflix) January 28, 2019
As easy as it is to blame internet trolls, it isn’t the first time a true crime docuseries has gained this kind of attention. Back in 2013, Ross Lynch played young Jeffrey Dahmer. Articles at the time focused less on the movie itself, but more on how relatable and attractive young Lynch was for the film.
It was easier to dissociate the actors from the films, rather than talk about the impact of the work they are doing. We don’t like to acknowledge the uglier parts of history, and when we do, it can be hard to look at them as closely as we should. Instead, murder is glorified through high budget films, media attention, and hot Hollywood actors.
2. It Can Be Triggering
Crime shows and movies often cover topics that are emotionally triggering to many people. Whether it be a victim of sexual assault, a friend of someone who was mugged, or an individual who lost a family member to gang violence; crime shows have a duty to be sensitive and honest in their depictions. The true crime genre can exploit victims of these vicious crime and use horrid details to lure viewers in. Even people who have no associations to the horrors of criminal activity are drawn to these shows and can be just as impacted. Actor Mandy Patinkin from Criminal Minds quit the show after just two seasons. He said he felt distressed over that the show’s need to, “kill and rape all these women every night, every day, week after week.”
3. Feeding Into The Hysteria
Most people who watch crime shows are average in the way that they view the show. They watch these shows with interest, talk about them with their friends, and remember how cruel the world can be.
However, there are other ways of looking at these shows that are problematic.
Some people see an episode of Criminal Minds and automatically fear that the crimes portrayed will happen to them. They eventually will find themselves unable to watch these shows because the fear is so real.
Others fall into the other, equally dangerous category. They believe that crime is so far removed from their lives because of television. They could never be a victim, so there is no need to worry or consider the possibility.
These extreme ways of viewing crime create a culture hysteria that leads people to be misinformed.
4. The Justice System Isn’t Portrayed Accurately
If you have ever watched a Law & Order episode before, you know the classic opening line:
“In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate but equally important groups: The police, who investigate crime, and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories”.
The “stories” introduced aren’t always real. In fact, there is a lot they portray inaccurately.
Public defenders are represented as a joke, crimes are always resolved within a timely manner, and justice seems to be served at least 95% of the time. These inaccuracies aren’t just annoying to people who are in the legal system, but it creates a false sense of understanding among most people. These shows can be taken so seriously, and seem so realistic, that we take them as absolute and follow accordingly.
5. We Are Missing the Point
Crime shows have their flaws, most aspects of pop culture does. But this doesn’t mean they are all bad. True crime shows are are meant to educate. Documentaries and all the like are put together to highlight a part of culture that we often like to pretend only exists within the walls of Law & Order and John Grisham novels. We shouldn’t turn our backs on these shows or find them less entertaining because of all their problems. Instead, we should hold ourselves to a higher level of accountability when it comes to talking about and representing crime.