What’s this musing about: The cult of the serial killer.
When I interviewed one of my favorite authors, Mike Dash, he said something really profound. He mentioned he does not like true crime books and shows because they often obsess about the killer at the expense of the victims. The victims usually end up being a simple picture and name along with their date of death. Often, you get almost no biography at all.
It was an uncomfortable moment for me because I am definitely one of those people who loves Investigation Discovery (i.e. the Murder Channel) and can watch any one of its shows of varying quality. I also like true crime books which walk you through an entire crime spree. Guilty.
The more I thought about it, though, the more I remembered how conflicted I was already getting with the genre. As a former Army officer, my relationship with death is a bit strange. It’s unfortunately part of the job to deal with the specter and reality of death entirely too often. Once baby history nerd came along, though, it was much harder to watch a family deal with death.
Now I gravitate towards media which puts the focus on the victims or the people hunting them down. For a book, Hallie Rubenhold’s The Five is pretty amazing. It chronicles the lives of the victims of Jack the Ripper. Whenever their story gets to their murder, Rubenhold ends the chapter. It’s very effective, but I am also sure a lot of people would find it strange to cut (pun intended!) out Jack the Ripper.
I also enjoy the show Mindhunter and the book it is based on. Each of them focuses on the people trying to catch the killers and the families who want justice. When a killer gets air time and becomes too personable and charismatic, the show intentionally injects something to remind you this is a horrible person.
I guess it’s time to drop Investigation Discovery from the TV rotation.