Another day, another series of crime scene photos running across my screen.
The last few weeks I have been asking myself where the line between true crime and entertainment is, or if it exists. When I dive into another project exploring a murder case or murderer, I'm hoping to find something I can use to understand the world we live in, but it often seems like I am in the minority. Whether the latest hot case is a viral "Florida Man" or a high profile murderer being "analysed" on HLN, it seems a lot of people are in the true crime fan club for entertainment.
I get that a lot of the readers of Do Some Damage are crime fiction readers and writers - and it may seem funny to draw the line between getting your kicks reading about a criminal tearing through the world, taking what they want, killing anyone who stands in the way, and drowning it all in whiskey and a real life criminal. The difference for me, is in the crime scene photos.
When I wrote about Ted Bundy earlier this year, I didn't do it as a "TedHead", I didn't do it because I found him fascinating or the details of his horrific crimes particularly salacious. I don't have an ounce of sympathy in my heart for Bundy. But what has stuck with me, on a daily basis, since writing that piece has been Bundy's dead eyes staring back at me from Google Image Search. If you search for Ted Bundy, you will see his dead body. You don't get a choice in the matter. I understand why people get a hit of endorphin seeing a man like Bundy dead - for sure, for certain, dead as the women he victimized.
I do not understand why, when researching the Jodi Arias case, I stumbled upon the graphic autopsy photos of her victim, Travis Alexander, without looking for them.
I can take gore. I love horror films. I love watching Tim Roth bleed to death for two hours in Reservoir Dogs. I don't particularly love looking at photos of a man who was nearly beheaded by his on-again-off-again girlfriend after being shot in the head and stabbed nearly thirty times. I definitely don't love when it happens unexpectedly.
I won't lay down some ridiculous philosophical "are we any better than the murderers?!" question - because, of course we are (unless you're also a murderer, then it's probably a more case by case thing). But I do wonder how we blur the line between real tragedy and passing entertainment. I wonder how the more salacious details of a murder case get more attention than the life of the victim and the loss their loved ones feel.
Crime fiction serves a different purpose. Of course, we find it entertaining. Often, the anti-heroes speak to our more primal side - the part of us that wants to look out for our own interests without regard to the law or what others want or need. Crime fiction can serve to humanize the criminals we tend to demonize, or to cast a light on parts of our society we regularly ignore. I don't know if true crime, in it's most common state, serves any such purpose.
I'm certain that uncensored, freely distributed photos of the bodies of real people doesn't.