May 6, 2022 | LIFE | By Hannah Van Zandt | Illustration by Kira Schulist
True crime YouTube videos are a highly coveted form of YouTube entertainment for many people, including myself. I, however, did not realize what the connotations of watching these videos were until I watched several YouTube videos of people who did mukbangs and put on their makeup while explaining cases that made me question the morality behind them. I further questioned the morality of this content after watching a YouTube video from Ada On Demand about the problems that come with watching them. Many viewers tend to lack self-awareness when it comes to watching this type of content, and there are split opinions on them.
On one hand, these YouTubers play a big role in getting victims’ stories heard. Kendall Rae, one of the most famous true crime YouTubers with a channel of over three million subscribers, is an excellent example of this. In the description of her YouTube channel, she always has two forms available for viewers. One is for case suggestions and another is open to the friends and family of the victims whose cases they would like her to cover. By doing this, she is helping families with cases that have not received enough media coverage get their stories heard.
In these videos Rae provides a space for friends and family to tell their side of the story of what happened. By making this video series, she has been able to encourage her large audience to sign petitions and donate to the families of victims. Additionally, she donates money from her YouTube ads to organizations such as Thorn, an organization working to combat human trafficking. She also collaborates with artists to raise money for them. Kendall Rae’s videos keep everything respectful and stays true to its content, giving platforms to those who need it. This does not mean she doesn’t make a huge profit by posting these videos.
The biggest criticism of these true crime videos falls on YouTubers Bailey Sarian and Stephanie Soo. Both YouTubers have gained popularity for their unique video structures. Bailey Sarian has a segment on her channel titled “murder, mystery, and makeup Monday,” where she applies makeup while explaining cases, though she tends to cover older cases so as not to hit a nerve with the audience.
Stephanie Soo, on the other hand, does mukbangs while also explaining famous cases and conspiracy theories. These videos are highly controversial given the fact that this type of content takes away from the horrors of the crimes she describes. The argument in support of these videos is that they are calming; it feels like facetiming a friend. It is a form of content that is seen to be more palatable to viewers. It is made to be taken more lightly.
Nonetheless, it does not seem fair that these stories must be catered to consumers just because the graphicness of the death makes the viewer too uncomfortable. A person’s murder should not be altered so it’s more digestible for anyone’s taste when these are real stories. Suffering should not be monetized, nor should it be watered down just for entertainment.
Because there is no rule on YouTube if you need the consent from the families of victims to post these types of videos, it’s hard to find the line between being respectful and disrespectful. What we as consumers can do is to be more active and be self-aware about what it is that we are watching. We need to do our part by keeping stories out there and signing petitions so that families receive the justice they deserve. This type of content should no longer be used for entertainment but should be used for people to actually understand the gravity of the situation and to help the families of victims. There is a lot that we can do instead of just treating these videos as background noise or a hobby.