Welcome to True Crime Tuesday! This is a monthly series for the first Tuesday of the month where I write about different things true crime and horror related. It obviously has nothing to do with my podcast Sick Sad World.
So if you know me, then you’d know that I love horror and I love true crime. I grew up watching Mystery Hunters, Truth Or Scare, Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Fear. I first read about the Mothman in a (then) new youth magazine called The Magazine Not For Adults. I watched Criminal Minds marathons almost every weekend. I forced horror movie marathons on my friends.
And in my adulthood, my tastes haven’t really changed. I have watched almost every single Netflix true crime special, I listen to several true crime podcasts, and I even have my own.
I love true crime and horror.
While podcasts like My Favorite Murder and documentaries like Making A Murderer have become sensations in the last two or three years, true crime is still not that mainstream. So sometimes I find myself having to explain why I love true crime so much.
Well, I’m usually responding to, “Ugh, how can you watch/listen to stuff like that?”
For many people, the world is dark enough, so why would I want to spend my free time learning about death and the darkest parts of humanity? Why would I willingly think about the worst possible things that could happen to me?
A Love of the Dark
It’s hard to explain the root of my passion without first going back to my childhood. While a lot of children needed nightlights and teddy bears to sleep at night, I always embraced the dark. I know it sounds like something a teenager wearing Tripp pants says, but it’s true!
I didn’t just forego on the nightlight, I often forgot to turn on lights completely. There were many nights my mother woke up in panic thinking there was someone in the house, only to find me coming back from the kitchen in the complete dark.
It wasn’t until I watched The Sixth Sense that I was ever afraid to be alone in the dark. It definitely wasn’t a movie that a six year old should have been watching. But it would soon ignite my interest inexplicably.
After that, I was drawn to the dark and macabre. I was obsessed with ghost stories, cryptozoology, and serial killers. The more gruesome, the better.
By the time I was 13, I’d be stocking up on DVDs (remember those?) from video rental stores (remember those?). I had to catch up on classics like The Omen, and The Exorcist, and The Blair Witch Project.
But the root of my obsession ran a little deeper.
Loving true crime came from a different place than just my indifference to darkness. It came from constantly being on the outside.
As I’ve mentioned in my writing before, I’m disabled. I’m also genderfluid; Indo-Caribbean; bisexual. I grew up in a predominantly white suburb where you could count the number of out queer kids on one hand and the number of East Asian kids on the other—in a school of 2000.
Even before I had the language to describe who I am, I knew I didn’t fit in with the regular kids. There was a disconnect between myself and other girls my age. I couldn’t physically do things that were considered keystones of youth. My interest in women felt shameful and dirty.
I was the dark and creepy thing already.
Andrew Gurza said it best when I asked him why he liked true crime during our “The Dangers of Being Disabled” episode of Sick Sad World.
“I like people who are comfortable talking about things that are a bit icky because for so many of us, disability tends to be an icky subject. And I’m able to talk about it with such ease and such comfort.” Andrew told us.
There are so many parts of my life that others would consider icky, terrifying, or upsetting. So for me, murder and mayhem and demons are just par for the course.
And it calls back to the time of freak shows. It was our bodies that were on display to be exploited and profited off of, while we were dehumanized and objectified. For those of us who are disabled, trans, or even just a person of colour, we still live that very much to this day.
A Look At The World
Even in Toronto, we’ve had a serial killer targeting queer brown men, a trans man getting assaulted for telling someone not to litter, and a self-proclaimed incel driving a van down a crowded sidewalk. These are all a part of true crime. And these are all telling us something about the world.
By following true crime, I’m doing more than just being entertained by murder and violence. I’m watching the patterns of power and violence take place in real time. By looking at patterns in crime, we see patterns play out in real life. We can see how Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people are victimized because their murders and assaults and disappearances go under-investigated. We can see that disabled lives are valued the way abled lives are.
We can see where our justice system fails us over and over again. Like how killers have used professions like police officers (Joseph James DeAngelo or the Golden State Killer was a former police officer), security guards, and other positions of authority to kill without consequence.
It was this angle that made me want to start Sick Sad World in the first place. I would notice these little nuances go unchecked in other podcasts and documentary series. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve yelled at Forensic Files episodes because theories were dismissed solely out of misinformation. Or because they still used degrading terminology for trans people.
When I am researching true crime, I’m researching how we live and die in this world. I’m researching who has the right to live and who has the right to justice.
Something that seems to be a common trait among true crime aficionados is anxiety. I have been struggling with anxiety since my childhood. A combination of psychological abuse, bullying, and just moving through the world as a brown disabled child left me with debilitating anxiety since I was nine years old.
But if you listen to My Favorite Murder or Wine & Crime, therapy and anxiety is a pervading topic that comes up in every episode. Wine & Crime plugs the Talkspace app which is an online therapy resource. The friends who share my passion for true crime? All of them are incredibly anxious people. Like, sometimes-can’t-get-out-of-the-house-because-of-anxiety type of anxious people.
And studies have shown that watching true crime and horror is a way to help deal with that anxiety. We are scared of all the ways the world can hurt us, so we face that reality over and over again. We feel as though we have lived through it and made it out. We feel prepared for the situation should they ever (God forbid) happen to us.
One woman even claimed that My Favorite Murder is the reason she survived her own gruesome attack. Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff give advice like, “Fuck politeness” because of how many women have been victimized because of their fear of coming across as “rude”.
True crime gives us an outlet for the fear that those of us who live in constant danger. The news is filled with hate crimes and murders and a rise in gun violence. That danger is real and ever-present. So we have to do what we can to prepare and make it through.
Maybe that’s why so many of us listen to our favourite true crime podcasts to help us sleep at night. So what helps you?