Why are people fascinated with crime books and crime shows?

Miss Lise,

Yesterday, between bouts of my annual laundry sorting fest (path to back door excavated!), I stumbled across a facebook post by a friend which turned deeply personal and really got me thinking. In it, a few people shared personal tragedies that had befallen them — and they were, indeed, heartbreaking events — and one spoke of how, once you have experienced personal tragedy of your own, you will never see it as “entertainment” again. This person referenced all the popular crime shows on TV ( I added in all the crime fiction books in my head) and, rather rightly, sounded a bit angry or, perhaps, disgusted by the fascination America has with crime-based popular culture.

I can understand completely why someone would feel this way. The thing is — it never occurred to me that this is why people read crime fiction books or watch crime shows. It’s odd. I always just assumed that people watch for the same reason I do — because all that news coming at me about real-life tragedy and crime is pretty scary and I need to watch crimes unfolding that are actually going to be solved, and justice applied, and reasons provided for why it happened. These books and shows are an antidote to the randomness of real life for me. But I am curious to know what you, and others, think about why crime shows are so popular these days, and crime fiction as well.

Free copy of “Bad Moon on the Rise” bestowed on the person who offers the most perceptice reference to “In Cold Blood” during this discussion!

-Katy

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2 Responses

  1. Katy, I think you’re probably right: there is great satisfaction in seeing a crime solved. It gives the viewer a sense of control in a world where we have so little.

    But I wanted to comment on the person who can’t see tragedy as entertainment after experiencing it herself. I actually heard the referenced interview on NPR. She talked about the “Murder Mystery” events in which participants get together in a party atmosphere to solve a fake murder. She’d lost a relative to murder and was appalled by this. To make her point, she said “Would you go to a “Rape Party”? Wow. This really made me rethink the way we treat murder as entertainment at times. Thanks for this thought provoking post.

  2. Katy,
    When I read this I had an immediate, and rather visceral, memory of 9/11. After those horrible days, which seemed to last for months, I could not read any crime stories. I am back in the fold now, it’s been 8 years, but the experience did affect me. I still write mysteries but I want more than a gruesome murder now. I have always been a bit of a lightweight in the gore department, but I also don’t like the sort of Agatha Christie stories that seem to downplay the horror of violent death. Where does that leave me? Somewhere in the middle I guess.
    In my opinion there are way too many crime shows on television. It’s ridiculous. If someone from outer space tried to learn about our culture from network television they would think the murder rate was huge! It seems to be an easy way to make a television show without thinking too much about it. Some of the shows are great, many are derivative. And let’s face it, exploit our morbid curiosity in murder.

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