Season 1 of Making a Murderer charted the erroneous conviction, release, and second conviction of Steven Avery – framed, we are led to believe, for the murder of Teresa Halbach by his local Sheriff’s department. I don’t trust you if you say you haven’t seen it (maybe I’m jealous of hours better spent) but, for all its questionable morals and leading edits, it was some of the Best Television I’ve ever seen. There’s murder! And crooked cops! There’s tampering with evidence! And denied appeals! And coercive interrogations! And deep dives into the darkest parts of ourselves and the bottomless human capacity for evil! Season 2, then, had a lot to live up to. I won’t spoil it, if you’ve somehow shown the superhuman restraint of not having watched yet. Maybe you were busy with The Staircase; The Jinx; Serial; The Teacher’s Pet; The Keepers. Point being, MaM’s Part 2 is only one example of a much larger wave; a recent obsession with the emerging phenomenon of True Crime.
True Crime has always had its devotees, but various circumstances have conspired to cement it as the genre of the moment. First, the bingeable – and infinitely expandable – twin formats of online series and podcasts are available for free (negligible Netflix subscription fee not withstanding) and on demand. You can watch 8 episodes on a Sunday, if you really want. You can listen to a podcast on your commute; while washing up; walking to the shops. Meanwhile, we’ve loved stories about violence and deceit since we invented, um, speaking; the Greek myths and earlier tales besides seem suitably gruesome cases in point. The first story ever written down, The Epic of Gilgamesh, contains plenty of killing. Shakespeare loved a good murder as much as Ovid, and Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie brought the genre into the 20th century. But the leap from crime and violence in fiction to ‘truth’ seems crucial to this new wave of interest in stories about it. To voluntarily expose yourself to accounts of The Truly Horrible seems counter intuitive – beyond the pleasurable shudder at a ghost story around a camp fire – and yet we consume detailed account after detailed account of hacking; stabbing; mutilating; ambushing and throat slitting, drugging and wrist-tying like they’re going out of fashion. When I say we, I mean women.