I'm curious why people find crime stories so interesting. It used to be, all the 'interesting' stories were things like coming of age stories, or people confronting their mortality or middle age or something. Things that are basically relatable, universal, even. Lately you've seen a lot of stories about superheros – not relatable, but extra-ordinary in the most literal sense. And if you want to change the world in some way to be more than ordinary, it makes sense the most relatable change would be changing a person (as opposed to an element of setting), and only a few at most. As easy as it seems to be to mock people's obsession with superhero stories, it makes sense to me, I suppose.
But crime stories have been popular for over a hundred years, certainly. Detective stories, but also The Wire and Breaking Bad, where investigations are just another perspective on the same events. I guess I don't understand the interesting part? Zero humans are criminal masterminds, as vibrant as that trope is portrayed in media. Most people's only interaction with crime in the terrifying and hopefully brief experience as a victim. It isn't pleasant or interesting, and even if it did have some weird appeal (some people like to build resilience against trauma by experiencing it in media), the stories we tell aren't much like crime at all.
So why do people enjoy shows like Dexter? Even if you go back before civilization, before laws and consequences, I've got to assume obsessive crime is unusual but repetitive – that's a recipe for something either boring or about to quickly become so. And yet, this is one of the most persistent genres – crime procedurals are notoriously repetitive, but find surprising success.
I suspect the appeal is the cat-and-mouse of it all. Humans are community- and persistence-predators. That's how we survived. There's something deeply fixating about tracking down and capturing a criminal. And obviously the criminal has to do a bad thing, that's the whole point. So we see crime only insofar as it motivates us to a very basic human drive – stop the bad guy, even if he hides.
There's a part of me that feels like the story is so much better if I don't have to see the (frankly disgusting) murders and such of this genre. It's gross. No judgment for the people that enjoy the macabre, but I can't handle it. Perhaps this is why I have a strange fondness for things like anti-money laundering enforcement.