Netflix is a popular streaming platform that has grown from 300,000 subscribers when it was founded in 1997 to roughly 203.7 million today. As Netflix grows, there have been an increasing number of documentaries, tv shows and films with morbid themes like suicide, true crime and serial killers. Could this be due to consumer demand, or is it stemming from Netflix’s obsession and fascination with these morbid genres themselves?
Do streamers have a fascination with True crime genres? If so, are we desensitised to it?
As the amount of true crime tv shows and documentaries increase on streaming services like Netflix, it raises questions as to whether the increase is due to a fascination with these darker genres. It’s well recognised that streaming services respond to customer demands, suggesting this is highly likely. Services like Netflix utilise research on streamer demands as this is what allows the platform to increase its base and become more profitable.
Accordingly, why are we, as individuals, interested in true crime? Evidence suggests that crimes involving serial killers presented in documentaries and tv shows display such extreme brutality and seem so unnatural in their behaviours that people are drawn to them out of intense curiosity. British psychologist Emma Kenny believes that as individuals, ‘we have a natural tendency to be voyeurs and be attracted to darker things’. Evidently, there is a fascination with this darker theme, despite many possibly viewing it as a subject we shouldn’t enjoy watching, even though we do.
Are the reasons we watch it for the thrill of the story, mystery and suspense, or are we trying to understand things we cannot comprehend? When watching these documentaries, I find myself trying to understand the situation and mind of the individual due to an innate curiosity to comprehend and process how, and why, the crime happened. Kennyraises the point ‘that when watching these programmes, you need to know why you are, as you don’t want to desensitize yourself because of these shows.’ Further, research shows that escalating violence on-screen can make us more tolerant of it in real life. This can raise the question of whether we have already reached the point of being desensitised towards these events.
Media’s influence and glamorization towards serial killers, crime and other dark topics:
The media – whether it is social media, TV, or the news – has always had a robust influence in shaping societal perspectives. With today’s technology, however, we can also conduct our own research and educate ourselves using the internet, books and even the news. Despite this, the effects of the media continue to have a significant impact on our lives and perspectives. Although the media can bring a diverse range of insights, it can also be problematic: giving true crime the attention and recognition it wants. It is quite commonly thought that serial killers crave fame and recognition – thus, having the media follow their cases avidly can fuel and bolster a killers self-esteem. In some cases, killers even contact the media to get attention, like how the infamous serial killer Ted Bundy did when his case was put on trial.
In December 2019, Netflix released a documentary called Don’t F**k with Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer. The documentary showed a manhunt to arrest Luke Magnotta, a serial killer who recorded and posted his killings online. In particular, it followed two individuals and their research on social media to track him down and help the authorities. Spoiler: At the end of the documentary, the two individuals begin to question whether they were pawns in Magnotta’s killings giving him the attention and fame he desperately wanted. Individuals also questioned whether the viewer themselves were complicit, too, for watching. This led me to question and think carefully as to whether it’s right to watch such documentaries as we give attention to the killers and tend to overlook the victims. Arguably, streaming services are glamorising crimes and killers alike, resulting in overlooking and disregarding victims and their families. Should the key focus of these platforms be the killers or victims? Could this be the reason to which we become so desensitised towards crime and other morbid themes?
With Netflix and other platforms pushing these darker, twisted and morbid themes following true crime, should the question be asked that just because it increases their viewings on the platform, does it mean they have to fuel our appetite? Do they just care about making money? And if we spend so much time on-screen, should they not provide a positive experience? Is it our responsibility to consider how we watch such shows, desensitising ourselves from the actual horror and overlooking these victims? The answers are heavily contestable but one fact remains – crime is being glamorised and we, as streamers, are entirely desensitised.