Netflix has confirmed a second season followup to Tiger King and has promised “more madness and mayhem.” However, with the already existing issues around Tiger King and the TikTok True Crime discourse following the disappearance and murder of Gabrielle Petito, is that something we really need?
True Crime has always been popular. People have been watching hangings, taking clothing scraps and dipping them in the blood of dead mobsters, and turning death into content for ages. What is different about it now, with the advent of social media, is the amount of people who can become invested in a case at once and the speed at which misinformation can spread.
I have spoken before about the misinformation that is in Tiger King, and a lot of it has to do with the way the documentary chooses to frame all the major figures in its narrative. This matters because even with other articles and podcasts, none of that will have more reach than Netflix, especially not at this point. It has turned the killing of animals, and the many mistreated employees, into de facto public figures, without giving them any of the safety nets necessary.
The story of Gabby Petito, both her going missing and then the confirmation that she was deceased, was a media firestorm. Gabby Petito was an American woman whose family lost contact with her in late August 2021 while she was on a vanlife trip with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie. They documented their trip on social media, which is part of what was excavated in order to figure out what happened to her once it was clear Petito was missing.
Armchair detectives began breaking down every aspect of the case with vampiric gusto, turning the tragic death of this woman into content before we knew any of the real details—which only will make things more complicated in the long run, since people were attaching an unrelated case.
All of this is irresponsible, and while True Crime podcasts can be useful and informative, especially when bringing attention to missing and murdered BIPOC people, this, for many, felt like “missing white woman syndrome” taken to a new level. According to the New York Times, “as of Wednesday morning, the hashtag #gabbypetito had received more than 794 million views on TikTok.”
The Times also mentioned that a report from the University of Wyoming found that 710 Indigenous people were reported missing from 2011 to 2020 in Wyoming, which is where Petito’s remains were found. None of those reports caused nearly the same level of media attention as Petito’s disappearance.
It is not enough to canvas stories and put them up as TikToks and turn everything into a theory. It is irresponsible, especially without any sources, citations, or even a knowledge of how the legal system works.
From Tiger King to the Petito murder, it is too easy to get caught up in the story that you forget we are talking about real people who are gone and those left behind picking up the pieces of the heartless nature of humanity.
(image: Octavio Jones/Getty Images)
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