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5 Reasons We Love Crime Dramas


The detective genre, specifically crime-related dramas, delivers a high-dosage adrenaline and emotional rush in a complex setting, all in the time it takes for you to watch half a basketball game.
The critically acclaimed True Detective series is the most recent example of a high-octane show with star power and a captivating storyline that’s perfectly packaged for a night of “binge watching.”

But why are we so drawn into these stories that we lose sleep or skip engagements just to catch up on the most recent episodes? Here are five reasons why upstanding citizens like you take such pleasure in illicit criminal activity (on TV).

1) We Are Vulnerable

It's not always a hedonistic killer that commits the most heinous crime. Sometimes the criminal is an average joe who made a rash decision that snowballed into terrible consequences. Crime fiction reminds us that unfortunate circumstances and their fateful results arise from realistic scenarios. We want to be prepared so that we don’t become the victims of real-life crimes.

2) We Want To Know If Things Are Really As They Seem

Crime fiction (starting with Edgar Allen Poe and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) became popular around the same time as tightened law enforcement and advances in modern science. While Victorian crimes rates were on the rise, police forces were being formed, and Sherlock Holmes was hot on the trail. In crime fiction, we look beneath a simple series of events—someone died, someone is accused, the puzzle is solved—to analyze the motives for a committed crime. At the same time, the modern microscope (invented in the-1800’s) allowed scientists to investigate the smaller functions—cells, bacteria and connected networks—that make up what we see with the naked eye. Detective stories go hand-in-hand with scientific curiosity, trying to analyze details not as they seem to be, but as they are.

3) Our Lives, Like Crime Dramas, Are Mostly Gray Areas

Film noir is about the only part of the crime drama that’s black and white. Crime dramas are about duplicity. They address the character flaws of the hero and the villain, and that makes them relatable to us as imperfect human beings.

4) We’re Lawbreakers, Too...

Criminals and gangsters function outside the spectrum of accepted social behavior. This doesn’t mean we want to follow in their footsteps, but anyone can admit to a time or place that called for a little deceit to stay out of trouble. So even if we don’t break any serious laws, we can watch fictional characters do it.

5) But We Still Like The Feel-Good Factor

It’s the twisted sister of a happy ending, but a crime drama is, after all, a story. In life we may not get the answers or results we crave. In fiction, we can. Even a show like Dexter has a silver lining because the protagonist turns his propensity for destructive violence into a way to punish other serial killers. We think of him as a reformed bad guy, one who still has major flaws but is now fighting for the good side.

Crime (And Solving It) Is Ubiquitous

What makes people tick changes from place to place, but the detective genre is universal. We like to watch people get away with it, but then we’re relieved when they get caught. For the sake of our own safety, we like crime fiction to remind us that crime doesn't pay.



Lauren Singer is a freelance writer and crime-drama fanatic from Memphis, TN. She is guilty as charged of watching a whole season of "The Wire" in two days.