How Only Murders in the Building Perpetuates Myths About “True Crime”
August 12, 2023
Only Murders in the Building returned this week with the launch of season three on Hulu. Here’s an excerpt from a great piece by Adedoyin “Ade” Adeniji on the pitfalls of the show:
“There are plenty of reasons to wonder why Americans are so obsessed with true crime. Theories about this obsession abound on the internet. Some people suggest it’s due to a fear of our own safety and desire to protect ourselves. Others posit true crime is simply entertaining—a guilty pleasure of some sort. Whatever the case may be, Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building, which took home three Emmys [in 2022] in non-major categories, attempts to portray this obsession in a light-hearted comedy.
“At the start of the series, we meet Charles (Steve Martin), Oliver (Martin Short) and Mabel (Selena Gomez), residents of Upper East Side’s Arconia, an unlikely trio that bond over their shared true crime fixation. The night a fellow resident, Tim Kono, is murdered, they decide to make their own true-crime podcast solving the mystery of their neighbor’s death. We spend season one following the trio across New York as they investigate Kono’s murder.
“Only Murders in the Building features all that makes a great TV show—complex characters and outstanding storytelling. Yet, the most insidious message of the show is masked behind the comedic brilliance of the performances by Gomez, Martin, and Short — an obsession with true crime makes us, citizens, arm-chair cops eager to figure out who-dun-it, violating boundaries and ethical lines, endangering ourselves and others, and confirming biases. …
“Only Murders in the Building perfectly captures how today’s podcasters struggle to veer away from crime media’s exploitative roots. We see scenes of the more sullen Mabel and Charles attempting to correct Oliver’s excitement at getting ‘good content’ for their podcast despite the subject matter being a horrific murder case. However, try as they may to reign Oliver in, intentions notwithstanding, crime media is still a product of a capitalistic penal system that exists for profit.”