What Are Some Ethics Of A True Crime?
While I was scrolling through my Instagram feed last week, I watched around three to four reels that glorified some aspect of Ted Bundy’s crimes. I still cannot shake the disgust that I felt during those moments. The internet being what it is, began to promote compilations of Ted Bundy’s thirst traps on Youtube.
Ted Bundy is a murder who sexually assaulted and raped women. To say the least, he was not a good person. No one should see him as a sexy man they want to be with. These reels, which seem to have been initially posted on TikTok, depict imagined scenarios where the person is either one of Ted Bundy’s victims, or mocking some aspect of his trial, or were thirst traps.
Ted Bundy is one of the many serial murders glorified and sexualized. Their increased popularity may be due to the rise of the literary genre of true crime. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, true crime is “books and films about real crimes that involved real people.” Since True crime is a genre, it need not only be represented in books in films. True crime can now be discussed in podcasts or shared on social media as TikToks, Youtube videos, and Instagram reels.
To talk about a crime is one thing; it is another to glorify the criminals who commit them. The popularity of true crime is worrying because there is a high risk of people becoming desensitized to violence. When such things happen, one has to wonder, “is true-crime ethical? Is it okay for us to simp and thirst for murderers?”
Opening Old Wounds
Another thing to consider is the opening of old wounds for the victims and their families. Having an image of your kid, partner, parent, sibling, relative, or friend painted across news outlets and social media is not easy.
Some subreddits discuss the court details and question the fairness of a trial’s proceedings. For example, Serial inspired many people to be online detectives when it asked whether Adnan Syed indeed was Hae Min Lee’s killer. These “fans” -if one can call them that- attempt to solve the case and prove or disprove Adnan’s innocence.
Like the one above, the posts seem to be new to the Serial “fandom” and ask the other more experienced Redditors why they think Adnan is guilty. Some of these experienced Redditors have short and simple explanations. Others give detailed answers with lists of why he cannot be proven innocent or ones that “prove” his innocence.
There is an ongoing back and forth between those pro-Adnan and those against him. Some people call this case “QAdnan,” likening it to the QAnon conspiracy theory. Some people look at it from a legal perspective and break it down into small bites of information so people who are not a part of the legal system can understand.
Now imagine you are related to Hae Min Lee and seeing people rehash in every way possible her murder; how would you feel? It has been 21 years since her murder. Seven (since the release of Serial in 2014 and the HBO docuseries in 2019) were plagued with people discussing her murder in detail online.
However, the problem here is not just the internet detectives but also the various true crime books, podcasts, and docuseries that have been made in support of Hae Min Lee’s killer. The very nature of her death is painful in itself, and having to bear it produced with entertainment purposes or to free the man convicted of killing her must be excruciating. The producers of Serial unnecessarily opened old wounds for her family. That is cruel.
Whether true crime covers serial killers like Ted Bundy or cover cases that seem unfair and corrupt like that of Adnan Sayed, this genre tiptoes and at times crosses the line of ethicality in its representations of these criminals. Why do we accept the romanticization and glorification of killers like Ted Bundy? And should true crime really be the way we overturn cases where a false verdict is assumed?