Crime stories appeal to the public, whether they be books, films, or series. And this is not surprising, because the emergence of secrets and the desire to unravel them is our natural need. However, it’s not just about Colombo and Sherlock Holmes: we can’t stop talking about serial killers and maniacs like Chikatilo and Ted Bundy. Psychologists believe that there is a certain level of disgust we feel when we watch or hear stories of violence – no matter how unpleasant and frightening they are, we crave more. This confirms the popularity of numerous series and documentaries about terrible crimes, which demonstrate the audience’s craving for the “True crime” genre (real crime). But why are dark, violent and twisted stories so popular all over the world? The answer likely lies in the physical and psychological impact of such shows, and researchers identify at least four reasons why it’s incredibly hard to take your eyes off the screen.
«Тру-крайм» (true crime) — жанр литературы и кино, в котором автор анализирует реальные преступления и действия, связанные с ним.
To gain the love of their subjects, the rulers of Ancient Rome tried to bribe them. In the course was the distribution of money and food, along with expensive circus performances and gladiator fights. This method of holding power was invented by the Roman politician Gaius Sempronius Gracchus in 123 BC. e, and the expression “bread and circuses” gained historical immortality (however, like the very method of retaining power).
That is how we are arranged.
Spanish bullfighting, for example, is still popular, as are other violent sports. Burmese boxing (battle with bare hands and headbutts), Filipino martial arts (eskrima, arnis and kali), Thai boxing, wrestling, fights without rules, in a word, you can list for a long time. Not only do we love to hurt each other, we love to watch it from the sidelines.
В политическом контексте выражение "хлеба и зрелищ" означает получение одобрения за счет отвлечения внимания населения и удовлетворения базовых потребностей.
Fortunately, things are not so bad. In The Best of Us: Why the World Has Less Violence, Canadian neuropsychologist Steven Pinker argues that despite countless wars and terrorist attacks, humanity has become kinder. This, however, does not mean that violence will ever disappear from our lives. This is simply impossible, because violence and cruelty are our biological necessity. Yes, aggression encourages us to oppress, maim and kill each other, but how we show it determines society (which, whatever one may say, develops and becomes better).
As the process of changing mores is long and complex, attitudes towards violence also change. So, gladiator fights today are replacing computer games (for example, Resident Evil and Dead Island 2), films (Saw and Ship to Busan) and TV shows (The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones), the cruelty of which many call excessive. But no matter how outraged the opponents of violence, it cannot be eradicated, just like our tendency to watch it.
This is confirmed by the growing popularity of the true crime genre – real stories about maniacs and serial killers gather millions of viewers from television screens. So, in 2016, 126 original films and series were released on Netflix alone, and their number is constantly growing. Among the most interesting in recent years, Mindhunter (2017) and Dammer (2022) based on real events stand out.
Больше по теме: Откуда берется человеческая жестокость?
Adrenaline rush and pleasure
Watching true crime documentaries and TV shows is like watching a car accident – it’s hard to watch, but also hard to look away. One of the reasons, according to researchers, is the adrenaline rush that we get from playing sports and climbing Everest, as well as from watching a crime thriller.
Like a roller coaster, true crime shows allow us to experience simulated fear that does not pose a real threat to us, causing so-called beneficial stress (eustress). This is because the effect of the adrenaline rush puts us into a state of biological tension, useful in small doses, write the authors of a 2014 study published in the World Journal of Medical Sciences.
Thus, listening to podcasts about real crimes or watching detectives looking for a killer in the next series, we feel like part of the process, and the accompanying adrenaline rush is a pleasure, because nothing threatens us in reality.
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Mind and imagination
Crime stories are somewhat reminiscent of a puzzle – having solved it, we feel satisfaction. And to spark curiosity, many films, games, podcasts, books and TV shows (underline as appropriate) are often presented in the format of detective stories in which the viewer solves the case along with the characters. These shows stimulate us, leaving behind a feeling of satisfaction, as if we really participated in the restoration of justice.
In addition to stimulating the mind, crime shows develop the imagination, reminiscent of the struggle between good and evil. For this reason series in the true crime genre can be called “fairy tales for adults”, because they follow the plot in which the evil hanging over the society, sooner or later wins over the good. And such stories are liked by everyone, regardless of age.
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The right attitude
Like other works, True Crime shows are designed to be enjoyable. Evolution has sharpened human survival instincts to the point where it seems natural and even enjoyable. From early childhood, we learn to deal with fear in a safe environment, enjoying the process. Playing hide-and-seek, for example, is like a safe interaction between predator and prey (no one gets eaten at the end, but we get an adrenaline rush).
Crime thrillers and horror movies tap into this primal mechanism by activating basic survival instincts. We enjoy the fact that we are “a hair’s breadth” from danger, although we watch the events while sitting on the couch eating popcorn. As they say, “bread and circuses.”
The attraction of the “dark side”
Modern society opposes violence and cruelty. But we cannot overcome human nature – when another person, just like everyone else, does something terrible, we want to understand why. How is it that all members of the human race are hypothetically capable of murder? It’s amazing. And, to some extent, sobering.
Это интересно: Какие фильмы приносят людям наибольшую пользу?
When we watch crime on screen, we are fascinated by morality and ethics as we watch someone else cross established boundaries. And this, you see, is very interesting. As a result, the viewer is fascinated by the human ability to do evil, releasing his “dark side” outward. It’s unpleasant and frightening, but a little scare never hurt anyone. Moreover, crime shows can be helpful because they show what to do when in danger.
True Crime may have a learning component. We feel we are more prepared for these kinds of situations. So when you’re in danger, you’ll feel prepared and know what to do and what not to do, explains Coltan Scrivner, a researcher at the Recreational Fear Lab.
So if you watch crime shows in your free time, go ahead. Love for the genre, for the reasons described above, probably means that your moral and ethical compass agrees with the opinion of most people. After all, we can all enjoy a little deviation from the norm from time to time.
And yet – to date there is no evidence that violent video games make us violent. The same goes for horror movies and crime shows – you won’t turn into a maniac without empathy after watching Mindhunter. However, horror films, like crime shows, may not be watched by everyone. We talked about who and for what reasons should refrain from watching here, do not miss it!