Our Growing Obsession with True Crime Documentaries

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After binge watching the likes of Making a Murderer, The Ted Bundy Tapes: Confessions of a Killer and The Disappearance of Madeline McCann , I consider myself a bit of an expert on all of their cases. I could reel off to you many of the conspiracy theories (which is another fascination I have) surrounding them and the most frustrating thing is, for most of these true crime documentaries, we will never know the full story.

Netflix has opened us up to a world of horrifying truths, gory details and shady characters that we become fascinated with. We watch in alarm as disturbing events such as someone snatching a child or someone being convicted of a crime on little evidence unfolds and a dark reality plays out before us.

I know I’m not alone in my fascination of morbid events, crimes that we observe from the safety of our bedroom thinking how awful this is and how lucky we are to not be involved. Maybe we’re all interested because it seems so far removed from our daily lives when in reality, it could happen to any of us.

I want to start with the Madeline McCann story. The tragic disappearance of Madeline McCann in 2007 was all over the news for months – and rightly so. The British people were touched by such a sad turn of events happening to a normal family on holiday in Portugal. It’s every mother’s worst nightmare to lose their child and although the McCanns made a mistake, I genuinely believe they were not involved with the disappearance of their daughter.

There are many conspiracy theories surrounding Madeline’s disappearance and I believe this is where the fascination lies. Ultimately, we want to know what happened to her and people have drawn their own conclusions on the timeline after she disappeared.

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At first, it was interesting to read all these and I was shocked by some of the suggestions made which were supposedly backed up with facts. I soon got sucked into a black hole on the internet of theories and nasty comments about the McCanns. I didn’t know what to believe anymore but I was still intrigued by the case.

There are parts of the Madeline case that don’t add up and this fuels the fascination for many. It’s the same for other documentaries too. When there’s conflicting evidence, we question the motives of those involved and whether we’re getting the full truth. Why did the abductor only take one child when there was two others in the room? Why didn’t the other children wake up? Why did the parents give Madeline medicine to help her sleep? Did the McCanns friend see Madeline’s abductor and why didn’t she call out?

Questions are raised over many parts of the disappearance and there are just some things we will never know. The constant media coverage has us hooked on crime stories and every piece of evidence is scrutinised and sensationalised. There were so many things I thought were true about the Madeline McCann case due to reading newspapers and watching reports that when I watched the Netflix documentary, I was surprised and angry to learn that most of it wasn’t true.

I know you can’t believe everything you read in the media but the lies that have been spread about the McCanns and their supposed involvement in the disappearance of their daughter are disgusting. Unfortunately, the media are responsible for fuelling our fascination with true crime on this one.

Next, I want to talk about Making a Murderer. This is still an ongoing case in America, which I only heard about due to the popularity of its documentary on Netflix. The case concerns Steven Avery who was wrongly convicted of attempted murder and sexual assault in 1985. He was sent to prison for 18 years before a jury found him not guilty on both counts. Once out of prison, he sued Manitowoc County Court for false imprisonment hoping for damages of $36 million. However, a few years later Stephen and his nephew, Brendan, were convicted of murdering journalist and photographer, Teresa Halbach. Stephen and Brendan are still in prison whilst their lawyers fight tirelessly to clear them of the murder charge.

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It’s a frustrating case especially as Brendan, Avery’s Nephew, has probably got nothing to do with the murder of Teresa Halbuck. He was the victim of a false confession and had police officers prompting and leading him to admit to things that he didn’t do. This corrupt nature is another factor we’re fascinated in when it comes to true crime.

We can’t stop watching when someone is falsely convicted, when we’ve seen all the evidence and it doesn’t point to the person in handcuffs. We rally behind them and try to understand the legal systems behind the case which seem to contain multiple hoops and barriers, preventing the accused from being free.

In Season 2 of Making a Murderer, Avery appoints top lawyer; Kathleen Zellner to take on his case. Zellner is a superhero. She re-analyses every piece of evidences and dis-proves many of the original theories held by the police. This bad ass character who doesn’t care what other people think of her and will stop at nothing to bring Avery the justice he needs, is a massive hook for all true crime lovers.

Zellner is also very active on Twitter and keeps her followers up to date with the progress of the case. This keeps the interest in the Avery case long after the documentary has finished.

Lastly, the Ted Bundy documentary is my mostly recently watched true crime addition. I haven’t watched all of the episodes yet but I’m fascinated by how someone who was well liked, charismatic and had a bright future, decided to kill many young women. What was his motivation?

Motivations behind killings are one of the most fascinating questions that we’ll never really know the answer to. What motivates someone to stab a stranger or rape them? Although it’s a horrifying thought, we’re fascinated by these acts and the people behind them. Serial killers are also figures we question the motives of. They appear in so many TV programmes and books, that it can be hard to separate the stereotype from the real thing.

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Unsolved crimes will always be surrounded by conspiracies and we will always seek to find a resolution. I think true crime documentaries are only going to grow in popularity. Just look at the Ted Bundy cases – Zac Efron stars as Bundy in a film adaptation of the serial killers’ life. It’s one I’m keen to watch but is this just glorifying serial killings? I have mixed feelings about the film but I guess I won’t really know how to feel about it until I’ve watched it.

What should be next on my watch list?

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