Written by: Maria Emmons
Jeffery Dahmer, John Wayne Gacey, Ted Bundy, Jack the Ripper; what do they all have in common? They were all infamous serial killers that have taken the world by a storm. The United States , in recent years, has been consumed in true crime. Between documentary series on Netflix, podcasts, courtroom footage to even interviews with killers themselves, Americans need their fix of true crime. However, with this new rise in interest in true crime, it comes with its controversies as well as shows its audience’s the influence that social media has on criminal cases.
On September 21st, 2022, Netflix released its new docuseries, Dahmer–Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. Within the first 5 days of its release, it generated 196.2 hours of viewing. It has remained the #1 show on Netflix ever since its release, almost doubling the viewership of Squid Games. The Dahmer show has come with its debates as well.. Recently, a tweet went viral with over 81.7k retweets with the hashtag #dahmernetflix, saying “Let’s not romanticize Jeffrey Dahmer just because he is played by Evan Peters. Remember the victims. A tread about each victim and who they were.” It is obvious that many people enjoy the show for the sole reason of Peters’, the actor playing Dahmer, appearance. Another controversy arose when it was made known that the victims of Dahmer’s families were not notified of the production of the docuseries. Rita Isbell, sister of Errol Lindsey, a victim of Dahmer, did an interview with Insider and explained that she was never informed about the show and when they recreated her viral courtroom remarks to Dahmer. Isbell went on to explain that she was forced to relieve the traumatic time in her life and to make matters worse, she had to find out like the rest of the world, on Netflix.
A controversial, 1999, case about Adnan Syed, a man who was accused of killing his ex-girlfriend was dismissed. This was due to the public attention it received in recent years from the podcast: Serial. The podcast is hosted by Sarah Koenig, an American journalist. It has around 30 episodes and each episode ranges between 16-65 minutes. Serial was one of the first true crime podcasts that took a look at the controversies and potential innocence of a case that was already put to rest. Due to its publicity, it was able to accomplish its goal of freeing an innocent man from prison. The case was about Adnan Syed and he was accused of killing his ex-girlfriend. Syed maintained his innocence plea throughout his time in prison until, due to the publicity of the case, prosecutors reopened the case and discovered 2 new, far more likely, suspects. When people began to listen to the podcast, they formed opinions about the case and made their feelings and opinions known. Many used social media, which has proven to be a major contributor to true crime and court cases.
In more recent years, Tik Tok has become a platform to inform the public about true crime cases. For example, Erik and Lyle Menendez, a set of brothers, were convicted for the 1989 killing of their parents, Jose and Kitty Menendez. The boys killed their parents and their case was a reference to if they killed their parents in cold blood or self defense due to the supposed molestation of the boys by their father, Jose. Their case has resurfaced after spending 31 years in prison because of Tik Tok. According to The Distractify, Many informative videos have gone viral about the boys as well as videos that are romanticizing them for their appearances. There has been word because of the massive amounts of publicity of reopening the case and giving the boys a new, more fair trial. Many people, it seems, are speculating that the case was not fair for the boys and they demand a new trial. These concerns were highlighted in a docuseries on hulu, The Menedez Murders: Erik Tells All.
Between podcasts, docuseries, social media, and many other methods of sharing true crime cases, people have infinate access to real life murders that allow them to decide if the court system is doing them justice. With the recent publicity of these cases, with controversies like the treatment of victims within docuseries’, the use of podcasts in court cases, publicity through tik tok, and viral tweets, true crime is taking over the United States. These controversies will leave people asking, is social media really going to make a difference in the lives of even America’s most famous killers?