In the 1990s, there was a show called COPS, in which viewers could see crime from the ride along perspective. Episodes would be filled with police chases, drug-carrying suspects, and violent confrontations. Other shows like To Catch a Predator and Intervention were created shortly after. These shows consisted of sexual predators getting caught in the act and following drug addicts. Today, crimesploitation can be consumed in a variety of forms, including YouTube, TikTok, and podcasts. There are creators on TikTok who do their make-up while telling a true crime story. Some of these videos have received millions of views and likes on social media. What is it about this topic that people find so intriguing? What is the relevance between telling a story about crime and putting on make-up? Topics range from drugs and alcohol to homicide and sexual predators. Some of the platforms thrive purely on crime as a source of entertainment rather than educational purposes. This can be contrasted to the academic method of criminology. The crime-reality entertainment genre is immensely popular but can also be exploitive. However, this cannot be said about all platforms who use crime as entertainment. There is a wide range of ways to view crime as entertainment that each fall on a spectrum of exploitive content to educational purposes.
Crime Junkie is a podcast that covers true crime stories created by Ashley Flowers. Episodes come out weekly and it is popular for following a simple storyline and conversation-like dialogue between two friends. They call their followers “Crime Junkies” and even have a website that has the episodes and merch. What makes Crime Junkies unique is the way they provide advice to their listeners, such as a “If I Go Missing” form on their website. This is for circumstances where the victim goes missing and family, friends, and law enforcement won’t have problems getting into their phone. This document provides the passwords to social media accounts, apps, and devices that may be used to track the missing person. This form is only for safety precautions in the event that a person goes missing and would be kept by someone they trust. Another feature that distinguishes Crime Junkie is that they provide information on how to donate in some of the cases they discuss. If a family contacts them to have their story recounted on this crime podcast, for example, they will inform their fans about the family’s donation page or other ways they may help. They’ll also mention who to contact if they have any information about the case they’re discussing at the end of the episode. For instance, they will tell their followers the number or the agency to contact. Their purpose is to spread the word about cases in the hopes of reaching someone with valuable information that can aid in the investigation of a crime. Finally, they raise awareness in cases involving minorities, such as members of the LGBTQ community, people of color, and others. Not all podcasts and social media platforms use true crime to tell stories are like Crime Junkies.
There are creators on TikTok that will use the audio of a true-crime story and put it over a video where they are doing something completely different. For example, doing makeup, baking, or creating something related to their area of expertise. Some of the comments on these TikToks will be referring to the audio about the crime story rather than the actual content in the video. People may be using these stories since true crime is such a popular topic that it attracts followers and draws attention to their specialty. Another reason could be that they enjoy both their hobby and true crime. Nonetheless, because these social media platforms are new, they raise a lot of questions that have yet to be explored. Is there a crimesploitation “yardstick” that can be used to judge whether true crime entertainment sources are ethical?