I know it’s not just me that the above headline applies to – many of you are the same and a seemingly endless stream of my students, past and present, are as well.
As a race, globally, we have always had an extraordinary fascination with ‘crime’. Nothing ‘satisfies’ us more than a night in front of the box, drink and snacks at the ready and a good murder to hold our attention for a couple of hours. As an added bonus, it’s even more captivating if the depiction is based on true, real-life events. Some of the recent biggest viewing figures for television were for dramas depicting the stories of Peter Manuel, Denis Nielsen and Jeremy Bamber.
Over the last decade or so, the true crime category has erupted beyond belief. There are ‘YouTube channels’, ‘podcasts’, ‘blogs’ (ahem..🙄) and even dedicated TV channels all feeding our insatiable appetite for ‘crime’. Why, though, do we love to devour stories of this nature?
One theory is that the darkness of the subject is to blame. It appears that it is innate to want to understand the darker side of our fellow humans. In much the same way as we are born prejudicial (and must actively fight against it), so we cannot help ourselves being intrigued, fascinated, obsessed even about issues that are, however you look at them, often horrific.
Another slant on this is that we see ourselves as being central to the story that is playing out before us. We are often ‘the lead character’. What would we do in that situation? How would we have reacted, behaved, dealt with it? The chances are we have seen ourselves offering advice, preposterously, to the people we are watching.
‘Don’t be daft, don’t go in there’……’Get him’, are just some familiar lines doubtless heard up and down the country nightly, be it on Sky, Netflix or Prime.
Plus, of course, we get to play the lead detective and can ‘solve’ the issues at hand. Women, statistically, are more drawn to this type of ‘entertainment’ but it is thought that it may actually be as a mechanism for tips as to how to survive and not become a victim themselves. It would also appear that the ‘fear’ of crime is often more commonplace than actual crime itself.
Similarly, there are actually some well documented reasons why we appear drawn to matters which, at least on the face of it, seem to be somewhat macabre or morbid. We know people are prone to slowing down if they see an accident on the motorway (rubbernecking) and there is plenty empirical research to say that plenty people search online for stories about real tragedies, even wanting to see graphic depictions, including death.
This curiosity about fairly stomach-churning events is actually very normal indeed, it being innate to several differing elements of instinctively human behaviour. So you can relax – you are not the weirdo you thought you were – at least not in the sense of what we are currently discussing 🤣
When we hear of something that our minds tell us is ‘awful or horrendous’, instinctively we place ourselves in that person’s shoes. We need to be able to ascertain for ourselves how we would deal with this and what our reaction would be. You hear on the news that someone was murdered at 2am returning from a night out in a location familiar to you. Suddenly, we know the locus of the attack and need to reassure ourselves that that could never have happened to us because we are far more cautious and careful. But to reach that conclusion, we need to put ourselves there in order to fully assess the scenario accurately.
Paradoxically, we are not ‘blaming’ the victim – absolutely not. Quite the reverse – as humans (most of us) show empathy and sympathy but we need to ‘compare reactions’. It is our method of assessment and self-assurance.
For others, of course, the hidden superhero comes to the fore. That would never have happened had they been there as they would have deftly fought off any attack successfully and with aplomb. By telling oneself this, we are again merely illustrating another form of self-assurance. Plus we all have to recognise that the emotions of fear and excitement are incredibly closely linked. The so-called ‘adrenaline junkie’ will testify to that. Part of the ‘thrill’ about being on a rollercoaster is, bizarrely, perversely even, the mind exploring the possibility of ‘danger’ whilst treading carefully between that and reassuring oneself that nothing will really happen. We do know, however, that some people need ‘thrills’ far in excess of a rollercoaster and seek to jump off buildings and undertake what for the rest of us seem outlandish and totally foolish acts.
Much can also be said about our ‘obsession with crime’. Interest for some, for others a far more sinister explanation. We also know this because of the number of copycat crimes over the years.
Hope you enjoyed that reasonably brief foray into human behaviour.
Once again, everyday is indeed a school day 😊