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Australia’s True Crime Fascination – Why Are We so Invested?

From ‘Serial’ to ‘Making a Murderer’ to Stan’s returning series ‘Dr. Death’, true crime has truly captivated Australians’ attention over the past decade

Dr. Death


The true crime anthology series Dr. Death is back with a new case, premiering on Stan the same day as the U.S. on December 22nd.

While the first season focused on the case of Dr. Christopher Duntsch, Season 2 is about the story of Dr. Paolo Macchiarini (Édgar Ramírez), a seemingly charming Italian surgeon who was nicknamed the ‘Miracle Man’ thanks to the groundbreaking medical procedures everyone thought he was able to accomplish.

Yet the truth about his negligent behaviour would soon begin to unravel, and cracks in the credibility and ethics of his operations would start to show. The series is an adaptation of a real-life story told through the eyes of Benita Alexander (Mandy Moore). 

Crime shows like Dr. Death have truly captivated Australians’ attention over the past decade. Hands up, who watched Making a Murderer in a day or followed the case of Adnan Syed from the podcast Serial more closely than your crush’s Instagram feed? It’s true – crime shows are loved by many, but interestingly, women are the genre’s biggest consumers. Multiple studies of the past few years have confirmed this phenomenon, and psychologists have sought to understand what draws so many women to the genre. 

One possible theory of what attracts women to tales of serial killers, murderers and rapists is that women can really identify with the fictional victims portrayed, as they are often victims of such crimes themselves. Researchers believe that through absorbing true crime content, women realise their fears about their own susceptibility, experience catharsis and find an outlet to release their rage about what has happened to other women. As well as finding a certain amount of validation in these stories, women think of true crime as a source of education on how not to become a victim. 

While these are all plausible hypotheses, I think they miss one key factor: women’s interest in true crime has coincided with the rise of online dating. Tinder was launched in late 2012, and over the past decade, dating apps have become an increasingly popular way to form romantic connections. Although dating has never been entirely safe for women, it was far less risky when women would meet potential partners through mutual friends and community ties. Going on dates with strangers can be scary, and rightfully so when romance scams and catfishing are so commonplace.

The term ‘catfish’ originated as the title of a 2010 documentary in which filmmaker Nev Schulman discovers that the woman with whom he’d been having an online relationship had not described herself honestly. Since then, countless series, such as Tinder Swindler and Love Fraud, have revolved around the same theme. It has become necessary for women to become amateur detectives, skilled at scrutinising the backgrounds of their prospective dates. So it’s no wonder that it’s the detectives in true crime they are relating to as well as the victims.

Viewers will love Dr. Death because Benita Alexander, the show’s heroine, is both a victim and detective in her own story. She’s an intelligent, award-winning journo set to produce a two-hour segment on Macchiarini for NBC called A Leap of Faith. Upon meeting the handsome surgeon, she immediately fell for his charisma and would soon forgo her journalistic integrity as she fell madly in love. As the lines between personal and professional blur, her life is irrevocably changed. 

The segment aired in 2014 as the couple were in the midst of planning their wedding. Macchiarini had often mentioned to Benita that he looked after very high-profile clients, including world leaders, but could only divulge a little information due to the sensitivity and privacy of patients. The wedding was set to be a glamorous event with the Obamas, the Clintons, and Elton John said to be on the guest list. All the wedding planning was in hand with Macchiarrini, with the deceitfulness including printed wedding invites.

The wedding singer would be none other than Andrea Bocelli, and Pope Francis would wed the couple – another of Macchiarini’s ‘patients’, at least, that’s what Macchiarini told his unknowing fiancee. But it’s not long before his lies and deceit start to unravel, and Benita begins to uncover the truth. As she grasps how far Paolo will go to guard his secrets, a group of his fellow colleagues/doctors halfway across the world make shocking discoveries that call everything about the ‘Miracle Man’ into question.

Based on the breathtaking true story and hit Wondery podcast, Dr. Death Season 2 will premiere on December 22nd, the same day as the U.S., and only on Stan.