Our Fascination With "True Crime" Entertainment
Lifetime has expanded into the “True Crime” sub-genre with “Ripped from the Headlines.” Does our intrigue into crime stories bring us closer to “Dancing with the Devil?” Humans can’t help it. They gravitate towards murder and revel in the supernatural. More than just the gore, we are interested in solving the mystery – answering the question, ‘why?’. It is no wonder that human monsters’ inconceivable actions such as Jack the Ripper or serial killer Ed Gein inspire such ghoulish tales.
The psychologist Michael Apter, in The Dangerous Edge, explains that humans are attracted to danger. This attraction can be both intriguing and deadly. Furthermore, this inherent desire to “dance with the Devil” has forced humankind to develop cautionary tales about potential threats and our abilities to overcome the Evil that lives next door.
Yes, we crave danger. Seth Godin is known to have said, “if it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.” And if you don’t believe me, look at our language. Several English phrases support our flirtation with danger; “adrenaline junkie,” “deathwish,” or the standard “good girls always fall for bad boys,” to name a few.
But is true-crime scary? Is a serial killer’s life horrifying? Does the possibility that these events are real – keep us up at night?
Most would agree, a true-crime movie’s primary appeal is the terrifying reality that monsters are in our midst. Renowned author Stephen King said it best, “Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.”
And when monsters win, someone loses – even if it is just a good night’s sleep.
Whether a tale about Aokigahara, Japan’s suicide forest, or a creepy but compassionate cult leader, headlines are often the source for true-crime drama. They are successful because these stories prey on our deepest fears and worst nightmares, subconsciously emphasizing the things we cannot control. Consciously, they send a shiver up our spines.
To paraphrase, “it’s scary because it’s true.”
And in February 2021, Lifetime joins the race for screams. The Network, which features programming geared toward women and women in lead roles, will air five original movies inspired by recent true-crime events. This programming slate joins streaming giants: Netflix, Amazon Studios, and Shudder’s expansion into the true-crime genre.
Many of these scheduled original movies draw their themes from bestselling books and newsworthy events. These include New York Times’ bestselling crime writer Ann Rule (Circle of Deception, A House On Fire), V. C. Andrews (Flowers in the Attic, Ruby). The 2020 TV drama ‘Stolen By My Mother: The Kamiyah Mobley Story’ inspired Girl in the Basement. Lifetime, celebrating its 400th original film during its Ripped from the Headlines extravaganza, partners with female-focused production companies such as Milojo Productions, A+E Studios, and Reel One Entertainment to create true-crime content.
More than just a macabre fascination for horror, it may be possible that exposure to true-crime drama heals. One school of thought amongst trauma counselors contends that the psychological reason we are attracted to watching true-crime shows is to “re-experience traumatic situations in safe environments.” The access to online streaming services expands our ability to explore these fears harmlessly. This type of exposure therapy provides our brains necessary closure and a clear understanding of an overwhelming situation.
So, while it may be scary because it is true, that truth could wind up providing for many a reprieve from past trauma.
“Ripped From The Headlines” Trailer