Whether it’s the case of sweet little JonBenét Ramsay, the suspicious story of Amanda Knox, or the mystery surrounding Casey Anthony, one thing is for sure: the world is hooked on real-life murder and the thrill that comes with it. But, there are always a few lingering questions: is our obsession with this OK? Is it rational or wrong that we’re unable to stop watching? Let’s find out.
So, is our obsession with real-life murder based on science or something darker?
Well, it’s a little bit of both, actually. If you’ve ever read or studied the Gothic story of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” chances are you already have a clue about the reason behind our fascination with murders and serial killers. There are debates to the classic story, but essentially Hyde was the primal side of Jekyll. In order to relieve his stress and frustrations with daily life, he would let his animalistic needs take over through Hyde. Jekyll allowed his darker side to come out and wreak havoc sometimes.
However, that is fiction. In real life, society’s laws dictate that we be good citizens and not harm our peers. For thousands of years, we have been told (just like Dr. Jekyll) that we need to repress our dark and animalistic side. But, the possibility of evil still lurks deep within us and the thought of violent acts excites us. The fact that we can simply watch these inhumane acts through a TV screen just makes it more entertaining. Murder investigations allow us to be immersed in the action from a safe distance, from the comfort of our own homes.
We take pleasure in the sweet misery of others.
As Freud and many other German philosophers once called it, we experience Schadenfreude. This term, coined by psychoanalysts, refers to the hidden pleasure that humans feel when they see their peers experiencing horrible events. True crime stories remind us that our lives are not as bad as we may think. It also lets us peek into the world of cold-blooded killings. Knowing that we are neither the victim nor the killer makes it pure entertainment. Subconsciously, we know that we are just one wrong move away from screwing up our lives forever, so seeing how someone else already did that reassures us that things can only get better for us.
Never before has it been more accessible.
Never before has there been such an abundance of movies, TV series, and documentaries. Anything and everything you could think of has been transformed into a screen adaptation. Perhaps most disturbing, the twisted world of murder and true crime has attracted more viewers than any other type of television. So, there are countless TV shows and online series dedicated to exploring this narrative. This dark and violent world of Mr. Hyde is literally at our fingertips.
We watch as a warning.
Lastly, it could be that our fascination with murder mysteries is due to the fact that we want to gain knowledge of how to survive if something like this would ever happen to us. Without even realizing, we analyze what exactly went wrong for the victim and for the killer as well. We do this in order to prepare for the worst.
The truth is, there is no right or wrong answer why our brains are fascinated with this genre of television. While we are definitely not creating any harm by continuing to watch this sort of stuff, it is safe to say it’s a bit weird that we have an affinity for cold-blooded murders. But, as it turns out, our curious nature loves forbidden things. So, all that is left to say is that it’s better to watch a murder on TV than to actually go through it yourself in real life. Stay safe, folks, and turn on “American Crime Story” or “Law & Order” and let your animalistic side roam freely for a bit!
Feature Image by Netflix / YouTube