The Enduring, Pernicious Whiteness of True Crime
August 23, 2020 11:17 PM   Subscribe

After all, as Walter Lowe told me, you can’t sell a product for which there is no audience. To have more books, features, and podcasts by and about nonwhite people, there must be a demand for them. (There is.) In order for there to be sufficient, recognized demand, he said, nonwhite victims must be seen as people. That part, maddeningly, is not a given. 4000 heavily linked words from Elon Green for The Appeal.
posted by cgc373 (2 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
This article circles around a valid and interesting point and goes off in a lot of weird directions. (Also kind of curious fwiw that it cites Serial as the defining work for making True Crime popular again when all the major characters in that story are non-white.)

I agree that the definition of True Crime is an interesting one think about. A huge percentage of nonfiction involves crime, so what's the difference between a true story that's about crime, and a True Crime story? I don't find this article's engagement with that question to be very compelling. But I think it's possible that treating the story as an individual mystery about uncovering truth and serving justice *instead* of part of part of a larger social challenge might be part of the definition of True Crime. One death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic. Serial season one, which covers a single murder, is True Crime; Serial season three, which covers the overall workings of the Cleveland justice system, isn't.

I've been listening to a lot of Ear Hustle lately. There's a lot of true stories of crime in there too, but it's not True Crime. Then I ran out of episodes and had checked out iTunes's most recommended podcasts. A lot of them are True Crime. They're really hard to take. They're almost always presented as these mysteries in which the social order has been upended, but will be restored triumphantly, like in a Shakespearean tragedy. The true crime in Ear Hustle (where the victims and perpetrators are mostly nonwhite) never ends with a restoration of order. It's just really depressing stories about people born into shitty lives doing shitty things and then when justice is served it doesn't fix anything, just makes their lives even shittier. The happiest possible ending is when after a long prison sentence somebody does turn their life around, abandons their criminal ways, then is paroled to go get a job with minimal education and a criminal record. Maybe True Crime is about a world into which disorder invades and then is banished; while true crime is about an inherently disordered and dysfunctional world.
posted by phoenixy at 3:06 AM on August 24, 2020 [21 favorites]

It's bugged me for a while, how "True Crime" stuff does. I wanna just leave a link to the GQ story about the murder of Timothy Coggins here, which was linked in the post. I couldn't agree more that we should pay more attention to victims who aren't white women. I also couldn't agree more that POC journalists should have access to the whole spectrum of stories. Thank you for this post.
posted by lauranesson at 12:50 AM on August 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

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