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Vulture: “The Ethical Dilemma of Highbrow True Crime”

If you, like me, think a lot about true crime — though, granted, for me it’s more a feature of this job than any actual innate interest — then I highly recommend checking out this essay by Alice Bolin, author of Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession, which was published on Vulture yesterday as part of the site’s True Crime week.

A chunk that particularly stood out to me:

That is maybe what irks me the most about true crime with highbrow pretensions. It appeals to the same vices as traditional true crime, and often trades in the same melodrama and selective storytelling, but its consequences can be more extreme. Adnan Syed was granted a new trial after Serial brought attention to his case; Avery was denied his appeal, but people involved in his case have nevertheless been doxxed and threatened. I’ve come to believe that addictiveness and advocacy are rarely compatible. If they were, why would the creators of Making a Murderer have advocated for one white man, when the story of being victimized by a corrupt police force is common to so many people across the U.S., particularly people of color?

It does feel like a shame that so many resources are going to create slick, smart true crime that asks the wrong questions, focusing our energy on individual stories instead of the systemic problems they represent. But in truth, this is is probably a feature, not a bug.

I’m still parsing through my own thoughts — I think it’s safe to say that I don’t completely subscribe to Bolin’s arguments — but it’s nevertheless a juicy thing to think through and internally respond to.

Here’s the link again, if you need it.