Netflix’s ‘Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal’ continues to glorify true crime

Written By Erin Yudt, Editor Elect

Netflix’s latest true crime documentary series, “Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal,” details the beloved South Carolina Lowcountry’s Murdaugh family dynasty. The Murdaughs were known for their century-old family law firm in Hampton, South Carolina. Before he resigned in 2021 amidst fund-misappropriation accusations, Alex Murdaugh was a powerful civil litigation lawyer well known across the Palmetto State. He was convicted of the 2021 murders of his wife Maggie and son Paul on March 2.

The show is another prime example of society’s love and sensationalism for true crime, being the number one show for several days. Even my 56-year-old mom became obsessed with the series, watching the last week of the trial on television. But why is this case, and all true crime shows, a problem? They profit off of victims and desensitize us to the human aspect of these cases.

It is so easy to get swept up in the dramatics of true crime shows, especially when they involve prominent figures like Murdaugh. We become invested in these characters and situations to escape our own reality. We find ourselves siding with characters and rooting for justice. The more grotesque, scary, and farfetched, the better. Now, I am not saying to not cover these stories, as news is always important and necessary, but shouldn’t there be a point where media outlets stop and say “wait… maybe we shouldn’t be covering every single day of a horrendous double murder trial,” or “maybe we shouldn’t coincidently release a three-part documentary about people who experienced great grief from a man right before his trial finishes.”

There is a distinction that must be made between informational media about criminality and the exploitation of victims of violence for entertainment. By focusing solely on the stories of killers, the true crime industry effectively silences victims and survivors and their lived experiences.

I will say that the Murdaugh series was one of the few shows that highlights the victim’s experiences, but I can’t help but feel that there is an ulterior motive behind it. Netflix has a long history of profiting off of victims and not paying tribute to them, like in “Dahmer- Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.”

True crime bears ethical responsibility to promote social justice and advocacy, as they profit off real stories of murder, kidnapping and crime. It’s crucial to remember that these stories are about real individuals. Do not let these kinds of stories live in vain.