5 True Crime Stories I Recommend... that AREN'T Murder-Related

Friday, June 7, 2019

When you hear the term "true crime," you probably think murder. With the rise in popularity of podcasts like My Favorite Murder & some of my other faves (check them out here, though I need to update the list), that's the crime most commonly associated with the genre.

But, of course, there's more to crime than murder - & thus, there's more to the genre of true crime pop culture content, too. Here are a few of the things I've been reading / watching / listening to in the genre of true crime that aren't all of the murdery books I've read lately.

Believed (Podcast)

I was hesitant to listen to this podcast because I knew it would be incredibly painful - & it was, but it was absolutely worth listening to. Created by Michigan Radio & NPR, Believed tells the story of the many victims of Olympic gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, who is now serving a life sentence for child pornography & sexual assault.

Nassar is thought to have sexually assaulted at least 250 young women, many of them patients under his care for sports injuries - including Olympic athletes like Simone Biles & Aly Raisman. What I liked most about this podcast was that it focused on the women he hurt - not on Nassar himself, or his story or perspective. There was no apologism here - only profiles of strong women who overcame traumatic pasts to put away an abuser who never should've gotten as far as he was allowed to.

Bad Blood (Book)

I named this book one of my top three favorite reads of 2018, so you might have already read about it here - but it was good enough to be include on this list, too.

Carreyrou is the journalist who broke the story of the mega-scam that was Theranos, a medical start-up worth billions... that couldn't do a damn thing it said it could. Its founder, Elizabeth Holmes, had been called the next Steve Jobs, featured in The Wall Street Journal & beyond; Henry Kissinger & other big names sat on the board; the company had a major partnership with Walgreens stores... & yet, it was all a farce: Holmes - & Theranos - was a total fraud.

Plenty has been done on Holmes since the book came out, including HBO's The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley (which is hard to watch because Holmes's voice is so unsufferable) & the podcast The Dropout, which I haven't yet listened to. I still recommend Bad Blood first.

The Dream (Podcast)

This podcast is about MLMs - multi-level marketing schemes - which are not technically illegal but certainly toe the line.

Even if you're not familiar with the term MLM, you know the businesses that operate as MLMs: Tupperware, Avon, Lularoe, Rodan & Fields, Jamberry, Stella & Dot... the list goes on. MLMs are juuuust on the border of being pyramid schemes - & they primarily target young women, who frequently end up in debt as a result of their MLM involvement, given how difficult it is to rise to the top & actually make money.

I've never been a fan of MLMs, for all the reasons listed above that I already knew, but after listening to this podcast, I don't think I can ever purchase from one again. There is so much shady shit going on in this industry that it's unbelievable it's allowed to function with so little oversight.

I Am Elizabeth Smart (Movie)

Make no mistake, Elizabeth Smart's case could easily have resulted in her murder - & in watching this Lifetime movie, which she narrates, it's clear that she often worried it might. Kidnapped from her bed in the middle of the night while her sister slept on the other side of the room, Smart was held captive for nine months by religious fanatics Brian David Mitchell & Wanda Barzee.

Her story captivated the world, & Smart's outspokenness & advocacy in the aftermath of her kidnapping has continued to bring attention to the plight of missing & abducted children. Smart said that this film, which she co-wrote & narrates, is so accurate that she could hardly bear to watch it.

Fyre Fraud (Documentary)

This made waves when it came out, so I'm sure I'm not telling you anything new here - but damn, this was a wild ride to watch. I preferred this documentary, created by Hulu, to FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, the Netflix version that debuted around the same time - but it's even better to watch them back to back.

How did this failed luxury music festival even come to be - or, as it turned out, to not be? How did organizer Billy McFarland manage to scam so many people out of so much money? (Fun fact: MacFarlan, who is currently serving a federal sentence, was out on bail when he was caught selling scam tickets to events like the Met Gala & Coachella - even after Fyre Festival.) And, uh, just how much of a role did '90s star Ja Rule play in all the scamming?

Do you like true crime? What have you been watching/reading/listening to lately? Give me all your best recs, true crime & otherwise! 

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