Chances are you have a favorite true crime podcast that you listen to. From chilling murders to hit histories and even life-and-death scams, true crime is a booming media genre that has begun to creep into the mainstream. works of fiction.
Perhaps few fictional TV shows seem more suited to a true-crime revival than Dexter, Showtime’s crime drama centered around its famous anti-hero (Michael C. Hall) as he maintains a double life as a blood analyst and a serial killer. Besides Dexter himself, there’s also a gallery of serial killers and nefarious criminals that the show showcases could easily have legends built around them. If they really do exist, many of them probably have popular podcasts or maybe weird fancams dedicated to them.
Dexter: New Blood they seem to have understood this when they introduced the character Molly Park (Jamie Chung) into the already tense town of Iron Lake, looking for a new true crime story to report and exploit. However, when audiences get to know what her podcast “Merry F*cking Kill” is like, it doesn’t seem as popular as it seems.
“Merry F*cking Kill” is mentioned throughout her intro episode, “H is for heroes” is the most popular true-crime podcast around. From what audiences have seen of the podcast, she creates 30- to 45-minute episodes centered around a notorious serial killer. She covered the basics, such as Charles Manson, but she also mentioned a specific Killer that many fans are familiar with: Arthur Mitchell (John Lithgow), also known as the Trinity Killer. Harrison (Jack Alcott) felt compelled to listen to the episode, even though (or maybe because) it revolved around the man who killed his mother Rita (Julie Benz in the original series). As soon as Park opens the episode by explicitly calling out to her listeners, he should turn it off.
This is not inherently the wrong thing to do, especially with podcasts used by people to commit serious and horrifying crimes. However, the rest of the podcast, in which Park discusses Mitchell’s MO in a cryptic, Valley Girl-like style, both shows how exploitative the genre really is, and also separates from the rest of the genre. What makes real crime so prevalent?
There’s a lot that can be said about how the real crime genre honors the actions of murderers while failing to appropriately memorialize their victims. Hannah Verdier of The Guardian says in her article “The murder question: are crime podcasts really exploitative?” that many podcasters claim that “justice” [take] a chair after the listener continues to be addicted to cold cases, pictorial description and amateur technical virtuosity. “The discussion of the trauma of victims’ families is also used to criticize the genre as it continues to explode. In a way, the reality is that Dexter: New Blood Pulling back the curtain on this exploit is commendable. Park describes Killing Rita as insensitively as possible, going into the details of her death that caused Harrison to stop listening to the podcast. She honors Kill, doesn’t treat Rita like a human to a family, just defines her by how brutally she was Killed.
In the April 2020 article “The human cost of watching true crime series,” TIME’s Melissa Chan interviews Kelli Boling, a researcher who studies audiences who consume real crime media. She asserts that the core appeal of true crime, whatever its form, is that audiences want a good story. “The real crime is everywhere,” Boling said. “When you watch the nightly news, you are watching the real crime. What makes this genre special is that it turns those events into a narrative, a really powerful story.”
The point is that “Merry F*cking Kill” has established itself as a podcast that doesn’t mind telling stories. In the world of New blood, Park simply recounts the actions of his subjects in a crude manner. This will be fine if the audience believes that “Merry F*cking Kill” is comparable to a schlock such as “My Favorite Kill”, but we have to accept that it is on par with “Serial”. Park actually investigates her subjects while presenting her findings as if she were reading a gossip magazine or a Wikipedia article. It’s enough to leave audiences likely to wonder if screenwriters understand the appeal of the true crime genre in general.
This underlying ignorance stands in stark contrast to another true crime drama that audiences have watched this year. There are only murders in the building, Hulu’s dark comedy series about three enthusiasts who watch the real-life Kill mystery, introduces audiences to the podcast “It’s All Not Okay in Oklahoma.” Hosted by Cinda Canning (Tina Fey), the podcast follows a suspicious murder presented as a cohesive story that ties the show’s main characters together. “All Is Not OK in Oklahoma” does what “Merry F*cking Kill” seems unable to do—understand that the true crime subtype’s popularity lies in its presentation of the central mystery. Canning’s description of the fictional mystery is narrated in a similar way to many other true-crime podcasts, taking its listeners along as she uncovers more information. While Canning’s podcast is fictional and in itself an exaggerated parody of true crime, it seems like it would fit in with the podcast that “Merry F*cking Kill” is trying to but fail to emulate. .
“Merry F*cking Kill” is an interesting look at how Hollywood views counterattack against the genuine criminal generation. On the one hand, the fictional podcast focuses on criticisms of seduction and re-trauma. However, its presentation in New blood is not what many people think of when they think of “true crime podcasts”. Although it is only a small detail of a much larger plot, it does reveal an unclear understanding of the phenomenon it is trying to criticize. It’s unlikely that further fictional explorations of true crime subtypes will stop anytime soon, but let’s hope they’re more aware of its real appeal than it is. Dexter: New Blood To be.
Let’s see who Dexter Morgan will take down this time.
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