True Crime Content is Unhinged

Zaynab Kouatli, Opinion Editor

If you are someone who uses the internet, chances are you have come across true crime content in one way or another, whether that is a makeup and true crime mashup or a Jeffrey Dahmer fan cam.  

True crime content has absolutely exploded on platforms like YouTube and TikTok. YouTube analytics show in 2019, true crime videos were viewed over 2 billion times and that number is growing with an increase of 30% in just one year.  

As a society, we have always had an interest in true crime, and this includes me. The question of how one human being could kill another intrigues the masses. The rise of true crime content happened because, in the past, you would have to watch a long episode of Dateline (with advertisements) or read a complicated book/article to get this kind of content. However, now, you can kill that curiosity with a 40 minute video on YouTube with the bonus of a makeup tutorial. Or you can get a bite size version of complicated cases on TikTok in under three minutes.  

The way true crime is delivered varies in several ways including Buzzfeed Unsolved, True Crime ASMR, Mukbang and True Crime, Makeup and True Crime and just a straight up synopsis of true crime cases.  

These videos often contain clickbait style thumbnails that include a shocked face of the content creator with murderer/victim in the background, followed by distasteful blood splatters and crime scene tape. If it is a makeup and murder true crime mashup, it is a step more insensitive because the content creator is also thirst trapping in the thumbnail.  

Some of the most popular makeup and true crime creators are Bailey Sarian, Danielle Kirsty and Hailey Elizabeth. All of which receive a fat paycheck because they are monetizing true crime. I find it a little heartless to make your living by exploiting victims of murder for entertainment.  

I understand the appeal of makeup and true crime because it makes the content more palatable as opposed to the average true crime documentary. This content style is not only inappropriate but also so wrong. If you rely on this content style to consume true crime, I also think you are selfish.  

Makeup is used as a barrier so people can more comfortably consume some of the most gruesome cases. True crime should not be made into something comfortable. It is not a scary bedtime story; these are real atrocities that are still impacting the victim’s families today.  

What I find especially disturbing about Sarian’s channel is that while she discusses these cases, she does not shy away from showing her viewers her bubbly personality. When watching her, I have found that she uses funny faces and jokes which almost feel like you are gossiping with a friend and not consuming true crime.  

Due to the nature of her content, I have concluded that makeup and true crime is highly insensitive. I personally do not understand how someone can apply eyeliner and discuss subjects of abuse, rape and murder at the same time. You can create true crime content if you want to but treat it as it is: a dark topic that requires a high amount of research and respect, not an “MUA Storytime.” 

In the past, true crime productions had to at least abide by a set of media and ethical laws. However, with YouTube there are absolutely no regulations on how to report crimes which means they do not need consent from the victims’ families and can make the content as graphic as they want. Not only that, but content creators are getting all their information online leading to the risk of misinformation being spread.  

I also find even without the buffer of makeup, true crime content is still cruel and callous. Take Eleanor Neale for example, she creates true crime synopsis style videos, yet I still have several bones to pick with her content.  

Neale’s most recent video, “Cult-like murder of Joy Morgan,” uploaded to YouTube on Aug. 30, 2022, has a wide range of flaws. The way she delivers her sponsorships in this video is quite pachydermatous in nature. Her video begins with a short monologue about the case and then immediately pans off to a sponsorship.  

  “This will end in the death of one of their most loyal followers… So, today’s video is going to be another solved true crime case,” Neale said. “Today, we are going to talk about the murder of Joy Morgan, but before we get into the case, I just want to thank our sponsor for making this video possible, Nord VPN…” Also, Neale smiles throughout the statement. SMILING? How are you smiling when you are about to talk about a murder case? 

Another flaw in this video is, according to a relative of Joy Morgan, there are several allegedly inaccurate points made. Neale also establishes these cases as if they are a storyline. She goes as far as talking about the victims as if she knew them. Content like this has only retraumatized the victim’s families because of the graphic nature of the content or the outright spread of misinformation. 

While discussing true crime, it is necessary to point out the terribleness of Netflix’s new series, “Dahmer—Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.” For one, there was absolutely no reason for this show to be made in the first place because there are already dozens of television shows, movies and documentaries about this topic.  

Some argue that the show is necessary, as it gives the victims’ perspectives, however, that is not the case. Victims’ families were not even contacted about the making of the show and were inherently retraumatized seeing their stories be exploited.  

Eric Perry, the cousin of Dahmer’s victim, Errol Lindsey, was one who exclaimed dissatisfaction with this show. “I’m not telling anyone what to watch, I know true crime media is huge rn,” Perry wrote. “But if you’re actually curious about the victims, my family is pissed about this show. It’s retraumatizing over and over again, and for what? How many movies/shows/documentaries do we need?” 

Rita Isbell, the sister of Lindsey Isbell, was also greatly disturbed by this new series. Isbell delivered a powerful impact statement at Jeffrey Dahmer’s sentencing in 1992. This was recreated in the series, “Dahmer—Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.” To me this feels as if Netflix is profiting off black trauma for the sake of entertainment. 

 “Do you know how disgusting that is?” Isabell said. “When I saw some of the show, it bothered me, especially when I saw myself — when I saw my name come across the screen and this lady saying verbatim exactly what I said. If I didn’t know any better, I would’ve thought it was me. Her hair was like mine. She had on the same clothes. That’s why it felt like reliving it all over again. It brought back all the emotions I was feeling back then. I was never contacted about the show. I feel like Netflix should’ve asked if we minded or how we felt about making it. They didn’t ask me anything. They just did it. But I’m not money hungry, and that’s what this show is about, Netflix trying to get paid.” 

At the heart of true crime content is profit. I may sound like a hypocrite because I also used to consume true crime content. However, I have realized that true crime content is inappropriate and not healthy to consume. Take a step back and reflect on why you are consuming these kinds of videos and I think you will conclude you are rotting your brain and desensitizing yourself on topics that should not be desensitized.