Why we love crime

We need forgiveness and someone to blame. So the story of crime fills our TVs, theaters, cinemas, computer files, and bookshelves. We are fascinated with stories of crime, real or imagined, because we need them to cleanse the modern world from our souls.

So writes Walter Mosley in an article for Newsweek a few years back.

Crime author Pauline Rowson asked the same question as I did in her own blog — and got this response from a fellow writer and blogger, Brenden Allen

The emotional “curve” of what Aristotle described happens in experiencing tragedy, namely catharsis and “cleansing” of built-up tensions in a kind of release and renewal has to be another appeal and very practical function that is served by involving ourselves in mysteries.  Upon returning to our own world after such emotional “flights”, we are  relieved and refreshed in its relative calm (order) and our resulting feeling of contentment–a kind of satiation or fulfillment expressed in the line “All’s right with the world.”

It’s also about the puzzle, Rawson explains, after asking her readers for feedback — which echoes with what Lisa said in response to yesterday’s Panic Station post.

So we enjoy the puzzle. We get a release from the tension. We’re offered someone to blame and we end up with a neat and tidy resolution to a messy state of affairs. I think I can buy these theories. Though there’s also something about exploring the dark side (other people’s and our own) which is what I think draws us in — these other elements of murder mysteries better explain why we keep watching.

What do you think? What’s one of your guilty TV viewings and do you’ve a theory as to why you can’t help watching it?

* * *

For more on this topic, here’s Talk of the Nation sitting down with Mosley and Law & Order executive producer Rene Balcer.

PS. Panic Station really wants your feedback! http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/N9TDBNWand yes, it’s anonymous!

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Why we love crime

  1. Heidi Barry

    Unfortunately “Jersey Shore” has become by secret tv guilt trip…… I think I love it so much because it makes me feel less ridiculous than this group of kids!!

  2. The NY Times “suggested for you” articles are the sad proof that I read far too many crime articles.

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