Armchair Sleuths

2 Mins

Are you a fan of true crime podcasts and tv shows?

Adnan Syed has just been released from prison after spending 23 years behind bars convicted of murdering his girlfriend. There’s little doubt that the 2014 podcast Serial, which had 340 million downloads, played a part in the reassessment of his forgotten case. It also spawned an enormous appetite for true crime documentaries and dramas.

In Australia, My Teacher’s Pet podcast, with 60 million downloads, probably played a part in renewing police interest in a long-forgotten crime and recently led to the conviction of Chris Dawson for murdering his wife Lyn, 40 years ago.

In both those cases, there’s little doubt that the podcasts played a role in drawing attention to forgotten victims. But our love of the true crime genre comes with problems too.

Bringing up traumatic events can re-traumatise victims and their families, and it can also lead to an unrealistic idea of how investigations go wrong and how justice is served through the courts. That’s an issue when true crime fans become jurors.

Inventing Anna, Tiger King, The Staircase – the true crime genre continues to bring in big audiences who become armchair sleuths questioning the legitimacy of convictions, witnesses, the police and the justice system.

There is both potential for exploitation and for long-overdue justice. Either way, plenty of us are watching and listening.

Written by Jason Connolly