The True Crime Phenomenon

Maryellen Kane

Photo courtesy of Local 12

In recent years, True Crime in all of its forms has become a major sensation. Millions of books, TV shows, Docuseries, and even Podcasts are dedicated to deep diving into the depravity of various real criminal scenarios and attempting to ‘solve’ them. Most recently, the internet was taken over by the scandals that follow the prestigious Murdaugh family of South Carolina, following the trial of Alex Murdaugh for the murder of his wife Maggie and son Paul. As the world becomes more and more enthralled by following true crime across all forms of media, the question remains: Why are people so obsessed with true crime?

Photo courtesy of NBC News

First—a brief insight into the Murdaugh family and the recent boom in media coverage surrounding them. The Murdaughs, Alex, his wife Maggie, and their sons Buster and Paul are part of a historically powerful and influential family in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. Alex Murdaugh comes from a generations-long line of lawyers, and he himself was a lawyer before scandal befell his entire family. The downfall of the prominent Murdaugh family was brought to light in June of 2021 when Alex’s wife Maggie and son Paul were murdered in their home. But, this was not the first scandal the family was involved in. Prior to the murder of Maggie and Paul, the Murdaugh family was also linked to the death of 19-year-old Mallory Beach in a boating accident and the death of the family’s long-time housekeeper Gloria Satterfield. By the time Alex Murdaugh was indicted for the murder of his wife and son in July of 2022, he had also been involved in an investigation into numerous fraud charges (NBC News). In January of this year, Alex’s double murder trial began, which sparked even more media coverage and internet sensation. A Netflix docuseries entitled “Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal” further piqued the interest of millions of True Crime-obsessed people across the world. 

The takeover of the Murdaugh case among many others that have previously gripped people’s attention has sparked questions about why True Crime has proven to be so entertaining. The attraction can simply be blamed on human curiosity. People want to know how someone could possibly do something so deplorable. Women, in particular, are shown to be especially drawn to True Crime content. This might stem from the fear of being a victim of a heinous crime themselves, and the instinct to try to avoid ever being in a situation like what they watch on TV. Though it can be helpful to be prepared in the event that something terrible does happen, it can also be taken too far. If the fear of being a victim of an actual crime becomes too much of a hindrance on day-to-day life, it is recommended that the amount of True Crime consumed be reduced (Cleveland Clinic). 

The nationwide coverage of the Murdaugh trial and the detailed documentation of their life had many people questioning the ethics behind so many people’s obsession with True Crime in all of its forms. Though it can have its adverse effects, it has been found that the draw to watch oftentimes gruesome True Crime content is a part of human curiosity. Whether it be for pure entertainment or a means of preparing for the worst, True Crime continues to be a growing source of entertainment for thousands of people across the country and the world at large.