The Ethics of True Crime Media and Its Implicit Consequence

As media and television has evolved, it has become clear that society has a deep rooted interest in serial killers. Both feelings of fascination and terror arise as the masses observe the crimes and stories behind these infamous figures. With the rise of streaming giants such as Netflix, access to serial killer media has become infinitely easier, and it is through these series or films that audiences are delved into the minds of these notoriously frightening criminals. Despite the critique behind this type of media, many producers argue that their goal is simply to educate people on the atrocities these criminals have committed in an attempt to gain answers. The question however remains, how valuable are these answers and to what extent should they go in pursuit of the truth?

Controversy seems to follow shows like Netflix’s ‘Ted Bundy Tapes’ or Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story as they tend to romanticize these serial killers. In a way, the audience is positioned to feel a sense of empathy or connection with the killers on screen as we get to see them as ordinary people who have lives and families. It is why critics have questioned why it is necessary to air these stories to millions of people. Is it truly necessary to show the backstory and understand what goes on in a killer’s mind? Or is this something that should be left to either psychologists or criminologists to analyze?

One of the reasons for these criticisms is the retraumatization of the victims’ families. As these true crime media shows continue to grow in popularity, the unfortunate reality is that viewer satisfaction comes at the expense of the family’s well being. It allows for the immortalization of figures like Dahmer and Bundy which only makes it harder for the families of the victims to go through their daily lives without the constant reminders of the heinous crimes committed against their loved ones. It is then interesting to consider who is more responsible for the exploitation that is done through this media, the streaming services that promote it? Or the viewers who consume it?

(Visited 124 times, 1 visits today)

9 thoughts on “The Ethics of True Crime Media and Its Implicit Consequence

  1. I can imagine how difficult it would be as a family member of the victim of murder to see a show about their loved one’s killer. While a documentary could go either way in being beneficial or harmful, I definitely feel victims’ families being upset for the romanticism done in films about serial killers is valid. I even have heard some friends speak about how attractive the killers are in some of these films, and I can imagine hearing that as someone who has a personal relationship to the horrors that this character has done would be upsetting.

  2. I have been asking myself this same question for a long time, as to the extent streaming platforms like Netflix choose to position themselves in the production of true crime or detective shows in an appeal to emotion. However, there is no point in fighting something like this because it’s entertainment, it’s what sells. The general audience of these documentaries is less interested in the effects it might pose or to what extent the truth is displayed, or even traumatizing the families of the victims, and more interested in the story itself or the chase of the culprit’s identity.

  3. This is an interesting post because the question of the extent that streaming platforms formalize their truth to true crime documentaries is controversial. The argument of romanticizing these documentaries or positioning them to portray some form of empathy is pathetic, I agree. However, it shouldn’t be a surprise of any kind, because it is simply entertainment. I mean when the Dahmer documentary came out, everyone was just concerned about the visual graphics of the homosexual scenes. There’s no point in fighting something like this because it sells, and the question should be rather directed at the intriguing elements to which these documentaries form interest to the general audience.

  4. I actually dont feel like these shows romanticize anything. While I feel as though the story does seem to garner some sympathy towards the killers, especially in Dahmer (which is more of a TV drama than an accurate historical retelling), I never found myself actively rooting for the character unless it was an attempt to make himself better. Another aspect of the show I understand is the fact that it made the families of his victims relive a very dark part of their past and I cannot imagine the feeling of going through that again. In cases like these, it is important to develop shows in a way that does not remove from what these people did, but if you are going to take it in a more artistic approach, to point out the absurdity in the actions of these killers so as to avoid the idea of romanticizing them.

  5. I have very mixed feelings about this topic. On one hand, I completely agree with the argument that these serial killer documentaries have the potential to hurt the families of the victims of those killers. On the other hand, I think that humanizing serial killers can help people realize some of the real-world factors that can create serial killers. Serial killer documentaries can have legitimate educational value, but I think shows like Dhamer go beyond just educational and add extra drama into the story to boost their ratings. Which is something I cant agree with.

  6. While I definitely see how retraumatization of victims is a huge concern with this movement of true crime tv, movies, and books. But the information held within this media serves as a vital part of free speech. I feel that it is important to keep victims anonymous who chose to be so to avoid further trauma or recognition

  7. I believe that the responsibility ultimately falls on the streaming services. Before, the Netflix’s telling of the Jeffrey Dahmer story was released or even in the works, the victim’s families had continuously asked Netflix to stop its production, yet they proceeded. They also spent thousands of dollars just promoting the series and pushing it to audiences. This appealed to people’s fomo, essentially forcing them to watch if they wanted to be included. It can be said that the release of such shows are to bring awareness, however, the retelling is often based on the serial killers, as opposed to the victims themselves. I think that there should be an overall shift in how these stories are told by having a focus on the victims, leaving no room for the serial killer to be glamorized or sympathized.

  8. Hi Sam, it gets tricky when trying to understand why streaming platforms put serial killer documentaries out. It can be portrayed as the media being fascinated by them but like you said is also traumatizing to the families of the victims. I believe the media is trying to teach us about them and essentially the story of these serial killers but to what extent? It gets traumatizing for others to see and there’s also a feeling of why give these serial killers fame if they did such harmful acts that no one deserved?

  9. Hi Sam! One could argue that the responsibility falls on both the streaming services and the viewers who consume it. While the streaming services have the power to decide which content to promote, it is ultimately up to the individual viewer to make the decision to watch it. However, it is important to consider that streaming services have a significant influence on what content becomes popular and thus, have a responsibility to consider the impact of the media they produce on society as a whole. It is crucial for both parties to consider the potential harm that may arise from consuming or promoting this type of media, and to prioritize the well-being of victims and their families over the entertainment value of true crime content.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *