Welcome to Table Notes. In these posts, I share the latest “Believe to See” podcasts, along with links to extra resources, and maybe an observation or two. Enjoy!
This Table Note is for Episode 61: “Unsolved True Crime.” On this show, we ask whether the true crime genre exploits people’s pain, or shares important stories. It turns out, the answer is complicated. Anselm author Sarah Pottenger stopped by the table to help:
The full episode:
Highlight: Sarah explains the proper attitude we should have when approaching true crime stories:
Sarah mentioned an episode of the podcast “My Favorite Murder” that tells the survival story of Mary Vincent. Here’s a link to that episode.
I talked about Undisclosed, a podcast about the Adnan Syed case from the perspective of three lawyers. Here’s a link to the show page, and here’s an article about some of the evidence which Undisclosed found, but Serial missed.
I’ve started noticing more fictional works that borrow true crime tropes. The most obvious example from this past decade is probably “Gone Girl.” Because I’m generally at least five years behind the latest trends, I recently finished reading “Gone Girl” for the first time. One of the things that struck me was its assumption that the trajectories of real crimes can be dictated by the public’s saturation in true crime narratives.
The true crime narratives come to the forefront in a podcast called “This Sounds Serious.” The podcast is scripted, and in a mockumentary style that parodies true crime podcasts: a reporter discovers an interesting crime, and investigates it on her own. Along the way, the show hits all the tropes we’d expect from a proper true crime show. The result is funny and clever, and the mystery is genuinely intriguing. The show also does something that real true crime often can’t do: it provides an ending.
I think that’s why there’s an emerging market for “scripted true crime.” It’s the same reason there are scripted “documentaries” where monster hunters actually find Bigfoot, or megalodon, or mermaids. There’s an appetite for this “real” content, but reality often doesn’t provide us the story we want. That’s where fiction comes in handy….
Personally, I’m a fan of scripted true crime, and have a weird admiration for those fake monster documentaries. Being able to script a real-looking documentary takes skill. And I can feel free to get lost in the mystery without worrying that I’m prying into the pain of real people.
If anybody has recommendations for more “scripted true crime,” I’m here for it.