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?

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

  1. 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?

  2. 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.

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