Like many others, my wife is pretty into true crime podcasts, tv shows and books. She even considers herself to be part of a cult called the Murderinos and she’s got the merchandise to prove it. I’ve never had a fascination with the macabre, but I’ve certainly had a lot of second hand exposure to the genre from living in the same house.
One thing I admit I had not given much thought to, with regard to these stories, is how the families of the victims may feel. Lilly Dancyger, whose cousin Sabina was murdered, vents her frustration with people making entertainment out of these tragedies.
Nobody has tried to make entertainment out of Sabina’s story, but if they did, I would burn their podcast studio to the ground. I would call them every night at 3 a.m, and then again at 5, and when they started turning their phone off I would show up and ring the doorbell. I would dig up their most embarrassing secrets and use them as blackmail. I would do whatever I had to do to get them to give up on the project. It would be intolerable to me—physically intolerable like the way a body can’t tolerate rotten oysters—for someone to splash Sabina’s last moments and the horror of her death onto a TV screen, or to narrate it between advertisements for Casper mattresses.
Elsewhere in the article, Dancyger adopts a more conciliatory tone, but she still poses some pretty tough questions.
I don’t begrudge true crime fans their shows. I’m not here to tell you you’re a bad person if you enjoy these stories. But I wish that the audiences and creators of these shows would give a little extra thought to how the dead woman (because it’s almost always a woman) at the heart of the story is treated in the telling. Is she treated like a human being who had more life left to live, with people who loved her, who will never be the same because of her loss? Or is she reduced to a gory crime scene photo and a plot point in a story about a man who doesn’t deserve anyone’s fascination?