On Tuesday, FX’s new anthology series “American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson” premiered with record-breaking ratings, proving that true crime continues to be a popular guilty pleasure for the American public. The series tells the story behind the “People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson” case, where professional football star and actor O.J. Simpson was trailed for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Lyle Goldman. The O.J. Simpson trial was the most publicized trial in American history, with news reports and television coverage every day for eight months until O.J. Simpson was found not guilty. I was not even alive at the time of the murders, nor do I know anything about the trial, but that’s not going to stop me from acting like I do. I may have only seen the pilot for the television show’s dramatized version of the trial, but I am convinced I have solved this murder. Why am I so sure? Because I am an armchair detective, and naturally, I am the worst.
An armchair detective is a term used to describe an unofficial investigator who does not personally work on a crime scene as a real detective would, but instead reads about or watches coverage of the crime from afar.
Armchair detectives are nothing new. In fact, the term can be dated back to the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Allen Poe. The most popular use of the term can be related to news coverage of controversial murder cases in the U.S. In fact, The Huffington Post has an entire section of their online website specifically about articles that armchair detectives can read and follow.
Armchair detective work is so common nowadays that journalism itself has changed. Because news reporters and publishers want to cover stories that will get the most viewers, they will choose to cover interesting topics that normally wouldn’t occur. There’s a reason why murder cases are front page news. They expose a side of humanity many seem to overlook and are oblivious to until it happens in their own community. Some cases cause more controversy than others because they often represent bigger ideas, dealing with issues that have been building up tension over time.
The problem with armchair detectives is that they often overlook key details in cases. The armchair detective is limited to the case notes reported in the news and talked about on online blogs. Essentially, the armchair detectives don't know what they don’t know. Reporters aren’t going to talk about boring details in their coverage for a murder, but they are going to give the most exciting details. These missing, boring details could in fact be missing pieces to a case. All of this may be true, but as an armchair detective, I do not care.
I binge watched “Making a Murder” over Christmas break and I am convinced Steven Avery is not guilty and that Scott and Bobby did it. I followed the Casey Anthony trial every day during the summer of 2011 and I know she got away with killing her child. I also know that Amanda Knox isn’t saying everything she knows about Meredith Kercher’s murder. Don’t even get me started on season one of “Serial." (Whoever murdered Hae threatened to do the same to Jay unless he frame Adnan. Boom. Mystery solved.)
I may not be a real detective, but for now, being an armchair detective will have to do.