Tragic Consumer

  I have started to read a book. I read often and I make a point of fitting reading into my schedule, but I have not read a book like the one I’ve grabbed in a while. It’s called, I’ll Be Gone In The Dark, by Michelle McNamara. The cover has a dark looming house on it with trees that seem highlighted white. Below the title is the haunting phrase, One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer. I remember last fall, before I had any friends (I’m a transfer so making friends is a different landscape) I would watch a lot of True Crime. The True Crime I watched wasn’t any formal television show like Dateline or 48 Hours. They were True Crime videos on YouTube made by women who felt compelled to report heinous atrocities because they wanted justice. It made me think about the women who on the outside, are your normal suburban mom, but on the inside are holed up in their bedroom pouring over details about a murder case. Michelle McNamara is one such woman. I thought two things while watching YouTube Crime and reading McNamara’s book. The first was why would someone dedicate their life to something so depressing and at times fruitless as unsolved murders? And the second, was why in the world was I so entertained by the story? The prologue of McNamara’s book written by Gillian Flynn says people who enter the world of true crime are “actively choosing to be a consumer of someone else’s tragedy”.  However rather than be consumed I feel as if women are just scared for other women. Someone has to flesh out the crime. Why not have it be a thirty something mother of two on YouTube whose posts about investigations never run dry? Perhaps I am a consumer though. During the year off I took in college I remember sitting in my room alone on a Friday night. My parents would be at my brother’s football games while I, avoiding my high school, stayed at home. I would hike my covers up past my nose and watch video after video detailing brutal case after brutal case. Consuming stories, not leaving my room, and ruminating on the tragedies of other people. I stopped watching True Crime because it began to scare me. I have a delayed reaction of fear so while in the moment hearing about a case where a whole family was shot in the woods, doesn’t feel scary. But, when I go to the kitchen to make Earl Grey tea in the middle of the night and realize that our whole kitchen is visibly accessible to anyone who’s in our backyard, I get spooked, and burn my fingers on the way out the door as the mug sloshes around in my hands. At UNC, that fear crept up on me when I was walking back to my dorm from the UL. Ruffin is literally two minutes away (although no one on campus seems to know it exists) and logically, there’s no reason for me to be alarmed, but I am. Anyway, I suppose this piece of writing is the precursor to the book review I may or may not do about this book, and the nature of guilt and desire about digesting True Crime. Perhaps I’ll have the courage to read it all through. Or I may relapse into my True Crime addiction because that’s where I was at one point, and begin to watch coverage of crime until it scares me into avoiding the dark path back to Carmichael. 

Veronica Chandler