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Pop Culture

Psychologist breaks down the real reason we love true crime, and it's blowing people's minds

What is it about this pop culture juggernaut that has us hooked?

truen crime, mel robbins
GIPHY, @melrobbins/TikTok

One in three Americans consume true crime content

Unlike the murder victims it centers around, there seems to be no end in sight for true crime, and the cult-like following it inspires. One in three Americans consume true crime content—be it in the form of a podcast, movies, television series, books, even online forums and videos—at least once a week. Thirteen percent of those folks would even say it’s their favorite genre.

But just what is it about this pop culture juggernaut that has us hooked? Danger and suspense? Mystery? Our fascination with the dark side of humanity?

Perhaps. But according to one psychologist, there’s another insidious reason lurking in the shadows of our subconscious.

While appearing on a recent episode of “The Mel Robbins Podcast,” Dr. Thema Bryant told viewers:

“If your idea of relaxing before you go to sleep is watching three episodes of ‘Law & Order,’ I would encourage you to think about, ‘Why is trauma relaxing to me?’”

Driving the point home, Bryant follows up with, “That’s what it is. It’s harm, crime violation, attacks, and that’s what’s going to soothe me into my bedtime.”

Bryant explained that her clients who engage in this activity often say they enjoy it because it feels “normal and familiar.”

In other words, some of us might be crime aficionados because of unresolved trauma.

@melrobbins If your idea of “relaxing” before bed is watching a few episodes of Law & Order (or any other #truecrime show), listen up. This was just ONE of the many incredible mic drop moments 🎤 and knowledge bombs 💣 that @Dr Thema Bryant drops on the #melrobbinspodcast. Listen now!! 👉 “6 Signs You’re Disconnected From Your Power and How to Get It Back: Life-Changing Advice From the Remarkable Dr. Thema Bryant” 🔗 in bio #melrobbins #podcast #trauma #traumatok #healing #bingewatching ♬ original sound - Mel Robbins

“Some of us grew up in high stress, so people mistake peace for boring,” she said. “And it’s like, to come home to yourself, you have to lean into the discomfort, because it’s gonna feel unfamiliar.”

Bryant’s perspective was a bit of a mic drop moment online, with several true-crime fans coming to some shocking self realizations.

“[And] this was the moment I realized . . . I haven’t watched [‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’] since I went to therapy and started healing,” another person wrote. one person wrote on TikTok.

“Gut drop…Off to journal,” wrote another.

Over on Youtube, folks had a similar reaction.

via GIPHY

“Ouch! Hit home! Never ever thought about that. Wow!” exclaimed one viewer.

Still, others weren’t so sold on the theory, and attested that there was much more nuance to their intrigue.

One person argued “The trauma isn’t relaxing to me- it’s the justice the characters/real people often get that I never did in my own life.”

Or maybe, a few suggested, people listen to true crime simply for its distinct monotonous timbre.

“I really thought it's because of the boring solemn tone of the show, the soothing voice of the narrator,” one person quipped.

There might be other components at play as well. According to YouGov.com, over half of all American true crime consumers say it not only gives them a better understanding of the justice system, but it makes them more empathetic as well—which goes against the common sentiment that the genre desensitizes people to violence and makes them overly fearful or paranoid.

via GIPHY

As any good detective knows, all motivations are worth considering. I think we can all agree that it’s always interesting to contemplate why we do the things we do. Whether that’s committing a crime, or using one to go to sleep.

Identity

Celebrate International Women's Day with these stunning photos of female leaders changing the world

The portraits, taken by acclaimed photographer Nigel Barker, are part of CARE's "She Leads the World" campaign.

Images provided by CARE

Kadiatu (left), Zainab (right)

True

Women are breaking down barriers every day. They are transforming the world into a more equitable place with every scientific discovery, athletic feat, social justice reform, artistic endeavor, leadership role, and community outreach project.

And while these breakthroughs are happening all the time, International Women’s Day (Mar 8) is when we can all take time to acknowledge the collective progress, and celebrate how “She Leads the World.

This year, CARE, a leading global humanitarian organization dedicated to empowering women and girls, is celebrating International Women’s Day through the power of portraiture. CARE partnered with high-profile photographer Nigel Barker, best known for his work on “America’s Next Top Model,” to capture breathtaking images of seven remarkable women who have prevailed over countless obstacles to become leaders within their communities.

“Mabinty, Isatu, Adama, and Kadiatu represent so many women around the world overcoming incredible obstacles to lead their communities,” said Michelle Nunn, President and CEO of CARE USA.

Barker’s bold portraits, as part of CARE’s “She Leads The World” campaign, not only elevate each woman’s story, but also shine a spotlight on how CARE programs helped them get to where they are today.

About the women:

Mabinty

international womens day, care.org

Mabinty is a businesswoman and a member of a CARE savings circle along with a group of other women. She buys and sells groundnuts, rice, and fuel. She and her husband have created such a successful enterprise that Mabinty volunteers her time as a teacher in the local school. She was the first woman to teach there, prompting a second woman to do so. Her fellow teachers and students look up to Mabinty as the leader and educator she is.

Kadiatu

international womens day, care.org

Kadiatu supports herself through a small business selling food. She also volunteers at a health clinic in the neighboring village where she is a nursing student. She tests for malaria, works with infants, and joins her fellow staff in dancing and singing with the women who visit the clinic. She aspires to become a full-time nurse so she can treat and cure people. Today, she leads by example and with ambition.

Isatu

international womens day, care.org

When Isatu was three months pregnant, her husband left her, seeking his fortune in the gold mines. Now Isatu makes her own way, buying and selling food to support her four children. It is a struggle, but Isatu is determined to be a part of her community and a provider for her kids. A single mother of four is nothing if not a leader.

Zainab

international womens day, care.org

Zainab is the Nurse in Charge at the Maternal Child Health Outpost in her community. She is the only nurse in the surrounding area, and so she is responsible for the pre-natal health of the community’s mothers-to-be and for the safe delivery of their babies. In a country with one of the world’s worst maternal death rates, Zainab has not lost a single mother. The community rallies around Zainab and the work she does. She describes the women who visit the clinic as sisters. That feeling is clearly mutual.

Adama

international womens day, care.org

Adama is something few women are - a kehkeh driver. A kehkeh is a three-wheeled motorcycle taxi, known elsewhere as a tuktuk. Working in the Kissy neighborhood of Freetown, Adama is the primary breadwinner for her family, including her son. She keeps her riders safe in other ways, too, by selling condoms. With HIV threatening to increase its spread, this is a vital service to the community.

Ya Yaebo

international womens day, care.org

“Ya” is a term of respect for older, accomplished women. Ya Yaebo has earned that title as head of her local farmers group. But there is much more than that. She started as a Village Savings and Loan Association member and began putting money into her business. There is the groundnut farm, her team buys and sells rice, and own their own oil processing machine. They even supply seeds to the Ministry of Agriculture. She has used her success to the benefit of people in need in her community and is a vocal advocate for educating girls, not having gone beyond grade seven herself.

On Monday, March 4, CARE will host an exhibition of photography in New York City featuring these portraits, kicking off the multi-day “She Leads the World Campaign.

Learn more, view the portraits, and join CARE’s International Women's Day "She Leads the World" celebration at CARE.org/sheleads.


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Let's settle this silly-but-surprisingly-heated debate once and for all.

Elya/Wikimedia Commons

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Photo (left) by Megan Ruth on Unsplash, Photo (right) by lucas wesney on Unsplash

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