Murderous morals: the exploitative ethics of true crime

With the release of My Lover, My Killer on Netflix, we take a look at whether the documentation of true crime can be justified or whether it remains morally challenged.

Olivia Carter
27th February 2023
Image credit: Twitter @NewOnNetflixUK

The recent release of My Lover, My Killer season 2 on Netflix takes a look at when love turns deadly; despite its morbid themes, the documentary highlights awareness regarding domestic violence and the taboo that surrounds it. The show raises the conversation of whether the documentation of true crime for entertainment is wholly damaging to viewers and victims alike. 

The first episode documents the tragic murder of Alice Ruggles at the hands of her stalker ex boyfriend Trimaan ‘Harry’ Dhillon; she was a Northumbria University graduate, living in Gateshead at the time of her death - we are provided with shots of Newcastle paired with the tragic tale, making for a haunting first look at the season to come. 

True crime begs the question as to whether victims and families can achieve closure if their story is constantly projected onto people's screens

The constant availability of true crime documentaries on streaming services alike, provides a long debated issue as it begs the question as to whether victims and families can achieve closure if their story is constantly projected onto people’s screens. Netflix, the producers of My Lover, My Killer, have come under fire constantly for their consistent streaming of true crime documentaries. In particular, their handling of the crimes of Jeffrey Dahmer has recently been heavily criticised after the recent release of Dahmer and the newest instalment of the Conversations with… franchise focusing on his crimes, something that seemingly was a blatant money grab for the global company. Due to a lack of notification for the victim’s families, many were left feeling betrayed by the streaming giant. 

A recent example of exploitation within the true crime genre, comes after Channel 5 released a documentary about the currently missing Nicola Bulley. Whilst it included exclusive interviews with Bulley’s partner, friends and family, many viewers felt it was distasteful, particularly due to the limited amount of time between her actual disappearance and the release of the documentary. Personally, I feel this was entirely wrong of the TV giant, as I feel it could in turn create damaging effects in the future, particularly as we are yet to find out what happens - Nicola’s welfare and legacy should be the priority here and somehow it feels like it isn’t.

statistically, domestic violence is a gendered crime, with 94.6% of perpetrators shown to be male

My Lover, My Killer, however, turns this exploitative nature on its head, as the families and friends that are involved, use the platform of Netflix to create a level of awareness regarding domestic violence and the murder of their family members. As a result of this, they hope to increase awareness surrounding the risks involving relationships, equipping viewers with the ability to spot red flags before it’s too late. Whilst statistically domestic violence is a gendered crime, with 94.6% of perpetrators shown to be male, the Netflix show doesn’t shy away from female on male violence, reminding viewers that it happens to everyone, providing a gateway for men who are struggling to come forward. Many of the families of those affected have since created fundraisers and trusts, including The Ruggles and Gazzard family. Here you can find The Alice Ruggles Trust (https://www.alicerugglestrust.org/alices-story) and the Hollie Gazzard trust (https://holliegazzard.org/hollies-story/).

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