I read this book last year, but my mind keeps finding its way back to it. In it, Rachel Monroe examines one of true crime’s biggest fan bases: women. She tries to parse all the different reasons women are drawn to stories of crime, both real and fictionalized, and the implications of that fascination. Monroe uses 4 “archetypes” to figure out this question, looking at women as the Detectives, Victims, Protectors and Killers. While I didn’t connect with each of those sections equally (I preferred the first and last sections to the middle), the way Monroe takes on this topic, as both a fan herself but as one who realizes the grittier problems of the genre, is really captivating. I also really loved hearing the author herself talk about this book in a visit to a local bookstore. It really solidified the critique in my mind.
So weeks later when it came to my reading A False Report and watching its Netflix adaptation Unbelievable, I was able to come to that story with a different lens. The problems with popular true crime are many: focusing on “perfect victims” aka Good-Girl White Women™️ instead of the statistically accurate young black men or the high proportions of trans women or native women; romanticizing killers/rapists etc as misunderstood geniuses etc; the list goes on. In counteracting those problems, I think the Netflix adaptation did a better job. While both highlighted the “imperfect” victim, the book focused so much of its time on the rapist that my skin would crawl any time the (male) authors tried to inject his thought process into the narrative. The show handled this in a more humane way, by not allowing the perpetrator more screen time than necessary, and stripping him bare in an unsettling but effective way.
So after all this, do I know why I or other women are attracted to crime content? Not definitively. But I do know how to be a more mindful consumer of it.