You’d think, after forty years, that the Robert Hansen story would finally become crystal clear. But truth is elusive; it has many facets. The road to truth sometimes depends on nuance. And, let’s be honest, the true-crime genre is populated, as one producer notes, by “navel-gazing [stories]… with shock factor detail.” Not the best environment for the nuance that truth demands.
With this background, it is a distinct pleasure to announce a new Investigation Discovery (ID) podcast that traffics in nuance rather than shock value. It premiers January 9th on all podcasting platforms, including Google, Spotify and Apple podcasts.
I’m There, On Air
I am part of this story, but I am far from alone. Cindy Paulson, the (then) young woman who lived to tell the story of Robert Hansen, is here in her characteristically full-throated fashion. So is Christy Hayes, another woman who escaped Hansen’s clutches and lived to tell the tale. Their accounts provide harrowing — and empathetic — glimpses of a reality few of us can imagine.
We told the story of his victims and their lives, and his survivors and their lives before and after.ID Series Producer
The tone of the ID podcast is definitely female-forward. It starts behind the scenes with the production team. And then, out front, is Dr. Michelle Ward. In two instances that I’m aware of, she travelled hundreds of air miles to her subjects (Paulson and Hayes), conducting face-to-face interviews with an emphasis on putting these two (still-traumatized) women at ease. The result is palpable. I know from personal experience that Ward is a great, and sympathetic, listener.
I emphasize this point because, honestly, the true-crime genre has a problem. As writer Lilly Dancyger describes it — she the relative a woman who was raped and murdered — many true crime dramas confront “families sitting at home, shuddering with rage and horror as their greatest trauma is repackaged into a titillating narrative for you to consume with dinner.”
Anything that tilts away from that formula is praiseworthy. Yes, there is always an obstacle to making that shift: the victims, too often women, are also too often dead. And if they’re not dead, PTSD is stalking them. This ID podcast is, in its own small way, a corrective. Let it also be said that, in contrast to visual productions, a podcast has the advantage of being less constrained by time. Obsessive detail is a feature, not a bug.
For the Women
There is another reality worth mentioning. The largest audience for the true-crime genre is women. These women have made the genre a huge ratings hit. The crime podcast Serial notes that their first series was downloaded more than 211 million times. Netflix’s Making a Murder was at the top of their 2018 list of most binged TV shows. [Source]
This finding is unsurprising because, as noted by psychologist Chivonna Childs of the Cleveland Clinic, women are also disproportionately likely to be victims of violent crime. “We want to watch true crime in part to learn how to avoid being a victim,” Childs notes. “It can teach us to be prepared in case we’re ever in that situation.”
There is a big “but” attached to this obsession, however, as in:
Shows that focus on murder and rape can really take you to a bad place. They can help you become more vigilant and aware, but you don’t want to become overly reactive to the point where you’re not leaving your house, you’re not socializing, you’re not functioning.Dr. Chivonna Childs, Cleveland Clinic
A Humble Suggestion
So, if you hate true-crime stories, I humbly suggest that you personally invest in doing a better job of protecting women from violent crime. No more hand-waving. No more hand-wringing either. I’m done talking about nuance. And, yes, I’m talking about us, males of the species. Maybe, just maybe, tuning into this podcast will be your start.
Copyright Leland E. Hale (2024). All rights reserved.
Purchase Butcher, Baker