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Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

The Armchair Juror: audience engagement in true crime injustice narratives

Larke-Walsh, George S. (2017) The Armchair Juror: audience engagement in true crime injustice narratives. In: Film Philosophy Annual Conference, July 4-6 2017, University of Lancaster, UK.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


The true crime genre is acknowledged as a popular documentary form, but not one that necessarily finds critical praise or value. The formulaic structure of true crime crime narratives is well documented (Murley, Fishman and Cavender); it presents fearful, yet exciting events that shock or horrify audiences, and then resolutions to reinstate the moral certainty. Alison Young (2010) suggests that crime narratives that do not provide such resolutions violate “the border that separates community from criminality, law from disorder, body from violence” (153). This paper will argue that true crime injustice narratives take the traditional form of the true crime narrative, explained by Anita Biressi (2001) as “help[ing] to produce the modern social subject who is both fearful and vigilant, but also intrigued by crime” (2), and extends them to encourage viewers to question the social and political context of those feelings. Reviews and online discussion of Making a Murderer (2015) insist that strong emotional reactions to the series either justify its influence, or blind viewers to its manipulative structure. In response, this paper will extend Platinga’s model of spectator emotion and Young’s use of affect in the absence of law to explore those emotional reactions. Making a Murderer is an example injustice narrative that disrupts the border between community and criminality because the central mystery is not resolved. As armchair jurors, viewers witness the flaws and feels indignation at the foolishness of the judicial system without having to bear any responsibility for the decisions made. Armchair jurors are able to feel pity for the victims as well as the accused, but avoid a strong personal identification with either. Instead, they are encouraged to believe in their own ability to provide a seemingly objective judgment on events that is morally and intellectually superior to the ‘true-life’ judgments presented on screen.

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Depositing User: George Larke-Walsh


Item ID: 13056
Official URL:

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Catalogue record

Date Deposited: 28 Jan 2021 09:48
Last Modified: 28 Jan 2021 09:48


Author: George S. Larke-Walsh

University Divisions

Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries > School of Media and Communications


Media > Cinema and Film
Media > Film
Media > Media and Cultural Studies

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