Murder in the Parlor
by Avery Smith
Charade Media’s Creative Content Specialist
Literature experts and pop culture lovers alike have shared a keen interest in the mystery genre since the development of the modern detective story. As with most genres, there is a basic formula that can be manipulated to produce thousands of versions of itself. The formula at its core consists of a suspicious event (perhaps a murder or a heist), an investigation by the main character, a range of suspects with motive, and finally, the conclusion in which the mystery is solved. As time goes on, creators have become more creative and ambitious in their approach to the genre.
The famous board game “Clue” was published in 1949. The idea came from pianist Anthony Pratt, who designed the original version with his wife Elva based on party games that he had seen played in hotel parlors. The cherished mystery game is still being mass produced today, and has been converted into several different themed versions. My personal favorite is Harry Potter Clue. No matter if it’s Voldemort in the potions room with a wand, or Scarlett in the library with a knife, the principle of the game remains the same: solve the who, where, and what of the mystery. The rest is up to the imagination. And with 324 possible murder combinations, there is plenty of game to play.
Popular streaming platforms have also started capitalizing on mystery content. Spotify, an audio streaming platform with over 400 million users, has made “True Crime” podcasts accessible and even addictive. In a survey of U.S adult citizens by You Gov America, one in three Americans said that they consume true-crime content at least once a week. True crime as a genre can be considered by some to be controversial content, and has sparked heated debates about consumerism and censorship. Do these platforms exploit victims and their families? Does it encourage violent behavior? Will consumers be at risk for paranoia, or is it an opportunity for dialogue about the operations of our justice system? You might just have to give the genre a try for yourself to find out.
TikTok is a video hosting service that initially launched in 2016. Users can create their own short videos to upload with content ranging drastically. It is estimated that throughout the world, TikTok has over 1 billion users. This number is almost unbelievable. What’s even more frightening, and perhaps bizarre, is how this allows millions of people to conduct their own investigation of mysteries and crimes across the world. This highly-invasive involvement in crime can surely be to the detriment of those directly involved with these cases. Occasionally, however, the power of TikTok has aided in justice being served. One such example is the recent murders of four University of Idaho students. An article by Vanity Fair shares that within a span of six weeks, authorities received nearly 20,000 tips.
The data speaks for itself– sleuthing continues to be a favorite pastime of many Americans. The main question I pose is this: where do we draw the line? Is reading a cozy mystery a gateway into darker, more real crime? Can a board game really satisfy your need to close the case? Perhaps social media platforms and streaming have created a slippery slope to true-crime obsession. Personally, I prefer to take my murder in the parlor with a fireplace and a cup of tea.