Why do we enjoy crime stories?

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Ever since I was little I knew there was a great deal of popularity among crime stories. When I was little, my sister and I enjoyed watching a show called Monk where a homicide detective who works with the San Francisco Police Department solves cases, his obsessive attention to detail and cleanliness making him an interesting and often funny main character. Later, I became obsessed with Sherlock, where Benedict Cumberbatch plays Sherlock, a highly intelligent yet eccentric consultant who is accompanied by his partner Dr. John Watson in solving cases in London. Many of my friends enjoy shows like Law and Order, Pretty Little Liars, or more recently on Netflix, The Ted Bundy Tapes. It’s even considered fun to sit in the dark late at night and watch a movie that’s intended to make you scared by showing you the possibilities of situations involving true crime. The depiction of crime in the media today is fascinating and addicting.
Because it is so popular and I myself enjoyed it, I never stopped to question why shows, movies, books, and other media portraying crime, murder, and other horrible acts that we hope never happen to us or anyone we know are so popular despite their obvious gruesome and evil portrayals. Personally, I do a lot more reading than TV watching, and books are certainly one area where I have indulged in my fair share of crime and murder. I will even admit that a whole shelf on my bookcase is dedicated to these types of books, from One Of Us Is Lying, which follows a group of teenagers suspected for murdering a classmate, to The Naturals series, which does the opposite and follows a group of skilled teenagers hired by the FBI to work together to try and catch the most advanced criminals. While some of the books are highly unlikely or even impossible, some are realistic or are even based on true events. Either way, they keep you on the edge of your seat in anticipation, and make it hard to put the book down (even, or maybe especially, when you still have studying to do).
On a basic level, any form of show, movie, or book is used for enjoyment and escape. Getting to step out of our own lives and into another, where we make none of the decisions and simply sit back and enjoy, is often relaxing and refreshing considering we spend almost all of our time, especially as high schoolers, making decisions, working our brains, and moving from one place to another with our brains always turned on. In crime shows we do just that: step out of our own lives and into the story of another, where we have nothing to worry about and only have to watch. I think one of the biggest reasons crime stories appeal to us is because we get to experience, in some form, an event that we likely will not actually experience in real life. The thrill of the horrors can come to us from a screen or pages, putting us in the situations mentally, but not in reality. This creates an exciting experience where we can watch or read about the criminal as they stealthily plan their crimes without having to be on the receiving end of their actions. Speaking of thrill, the jolt of adrenaline we get from watching or reading any form of action or suspense is exciting and addictive.
Another reason crime novels and shows are appealing is that, though we are observers sitting on a couch and not running around the city sprinting after a murderer, we get to play detective. People love puzzles, and TV shows and books often drive the plot so that you gain more and more information about the situation as you go, and therefore you can try and put the pieces together before the end of the episode or book where it is revealed to the viewer what really happened. Being engaged ensures we continue to watch or read, and not get bored with the content. Plus, what is better than solving the puzzle presented, the murder or crime, and getting it right before it is revealed to us? Even when we do not guess right, learning what really did happen is intriguing and fascinating – I know I wish I could be as clever as Sherlock. So though the idea of obsession or enjoyment of true crime may upon first thought may make you feel uneasy or give you pause, the truth is crime stories enrich our lives. So though I still have attended classes Mondays through Fridays for eight hours a day for another year and a half, you can bet I will be spending some down time engaging in another world where crime is the thick of the plot.

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