True crime is a genre that will be around as long as evil and mystery exist. The genre sparks great interest due to its roots in reality; the strange allure of the violent and unsolved has generated countless podcasts, films, documentaries, and television and streaming shows. This growing interest in true crime has led some individuals to begin researching unsolved mysteries themselves, crimes both old and new, and produce content via Apple Podcasts, TikTok, and a number of other streaming platforms.

However, this fixation on the pain of others has led some people to question: Is it moral to profit off of death? And should someone possess certain qualifications to so openly discuss criminal psychology, law, and motive?

What Is True Cime?

Podcasts such as My Favorite Murder, Crime Junkie, True Crime Garage, and Morbid discuss the recorded violence that humans have enacted onto each other. Murder, kidnapping, stalking and harassment, criminal psychology, and a litany more topics: none of these are off the table for use in the true crime genre.

According to the Pew Research Center, true crime podcasts are more popular among women than men. While 44% of women report listening to this genre of podcasts, only half that percentage of men report the same. Women are typically the primary audience because they are statistically more likely to be victims of the crimes portrayed in this genre. The nonfiction element of true crime provides a lens through which women can see what makes them more susceptible to becoming a victim.

Research conducted by Parrot Analytics found that true crime dominated the documentary genre both in the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 periods of study. True crime also saw an increase of 60% between these two time periods, indicating not only a profound preference between true crime and other genres, but also a heightened popularity for the genre over time.

Backlash for True Crime

Despite true crime’s growth in popularity, the genre has received backlash from people who do not believe such a platform should exist.

Titi, co-host of Woke or Whateva Podcast, shared her thoughts on My Favorite Murder and true crime podcasts in general:

“People are not equipped to talk about murder. Anyone can open a TikTok page and just talk about true crime. There has to be journalistic norms that are being followed when broadcasting death.”

What Are the Effects of Consuming True Crime Content?

Regardless of one’s opinion about true crime, medical professionals acknowledge that the genre does have an effect on the brain. According to the Cleveland Clinic, consuming too much true crime can cause adverse mental effects, such as anxiety, depression, and paranoia.

People are also naturally inquisitive, and the mystery and suspense associated with the true crime genre naturally draw people’s attention.

The Carlee Russell Story

The recent disappearance and return of Carlee Russell have added fuel to the fire within the true crime community—but many are frustrated and upset with the media’s fixation on the story and the extensive number of bogus theories that circulated during Russell’s disappearance.

Russell disappeared from an Alabama highway on July 13  after she stopped to help a toddler that was wandering along the interstate. The 25-year-old woman was missing for two days before she returned to her home. The police initially had little information to release to the public following Russell’s return home, and many people began generating their own theories on Russell’s whereabouts.

TikTok user Spiritual Construction shared his thoughts on the case:

“I am happy that she’s alive and she’s safe…In my opinion…with all the media reports…no trafficker is staying in the same area for two days. They would have been past state lines.”

His concerns mirror the confusion that many other people have regarding Russell’s case.

Other people find it disrespectful to speculate, especially as incorrect information may circulate as a result. Conscious Lee, another TikTok creator, felt that social media influencers were monetizing off of Russell’s case by posing outlandish hypotheses:

“What type of mediocre influencer uses somebody’s tragedy of being found alive to manufacture a whole bunch of horrible content about conspiracy theories?”

The Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis has reported that the police are unable to verify that an abductor was involved in Russell’s disappearance, and this oddity has spurred the many theories surrounding her disappearance.

Considerations for True Crime

It is evident that the true crime genre will continue to generate interest, and the addition of social media platforms such as TikTok have made it much easier for individuals to produce their own theories, content, and discussions. While people’s natural curiosity will draw them toward new and developing true crime cases, it is important to remember that these criminal events affect real people—and circulating false and harmful theories will only serve bring more pain to those involved.

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