‘I’ll Be Gone in the Dark’ director on why we’re drawn to true crime


Director Liz Garbus said in an interview with Insider that she thinks technology and a need for control might be why we’re so obsessed with true crime stories. In an interview for her new documentary “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” Garbus said that true crime isn’t a new genre, but technology could have changed the way we think about it. “We have our phones constantly wired into our brains. And that doesn’t leave a lot of time for self-reflection,” Garbus said. The director also suggested that for women, and people who are victims of crimes, watching true crime shows can be a way to regain control in their daily lives. “It’s a way to sort of look at something and feel like you can kind of control it — you can close the book, you can turn off the TV, when in real life, you don’t have that power,” she said. Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Director Liz Garbus told Insider that she thinks technology, as well as a growing need for control, might explain our obsession with true crime stories. Garbus is the director of the upcoming HBO docuseries “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” which is based on the true-crime book of the same name by the late Michelle McNamara. The series follows McNamara as she works with law enforcement to help identify and track down the Golden State Killer — a criminal responsible for 13 murders and over 50 rapes in northern California in the ’70s and ’80s. When asked by Insider why she thinks we’ve grown increasingly drawn to true crime stories, Garbus didn’t have one set answer. “I think it’s always been a popular genre, right? I mean, Dostoyevsky wrote ‘Crime and Punishment,'” she said. “I’ve always been interested in crime and punishment and the extremes of human behavior, which, you know, criminality represents.” 

The director said our focus on true crime isn’t “new,” but that streaming services like Netflix have definitely drawn more attention to the genre. And Garbus also touched on a theory that McNamara explored in her book, one which the docuseries explores as well: the appeal of potentially cracking an unsolved crime with a still unidentified suspect. 

Law enforcement in California have developed numerous sketches of the Golden State Killer and shared them with the public.

Rich Pedroncelli/AP

“I think it’s interesting, as Michelle said, the lure of the unsolved crime — the powerful absence of, like, ‘who is this person, not having a face?'” Garbus told Insider. “I think that powerful absence is that hole that a lot of us go down.” “Is it a kind of avoidance of our own demons that we all have? We live in a society, in a world that is so fast-paced, and it doesn’t really give a lot of breaks,” Garbus continued. “We have our phones constantly wired into our brains. And that doesn’t leave a lot of time for self-reflection.” 

“So is this like an outlet for our own demons and fear, that we’re projecting and comforting ourselves, almost, by seeing it through somebody else’s trauma? I don’t know.” The director also suggested that the reason why there are so many female true crime fans could have to do with the way women are routinely the victims of violent crimes. “Especially for women who are often victims of crime, or domestic violence, etc., it’s a way to sort of look at something and feel like you can kind of control it — you can close the book, you can turn off the TV, when in real life, you don’t have that power,” Garbus said. “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” premieres Sunday on HBO. You can watch the trailer below. 



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