Park Unit 2 Criminal in Contemporary True Crime Narratives Discussion Paper


Before answering this unit’s questions, you should read “Next Door Monsters: The Dialectic of Normality and Monstrosity in True-Crime Narratives,” p. 175 in Natural Born Celebrities.

These postings will be written responses.


Full-bodied entries—of at least ten sentences of writing from you (in addition to quotations from the text)—are more likely to receive full credit. Lesser credit will be assigned to work that is missing, brief, or clearly disengaged or sloppily produced such that miscues interfere with readability.

Your responses to other students’ work are also assessed. Students often resist commenting on each others’ work in substantial ways; instead choosing to post simply “good job” or “looks okay to me.” This kind of peer response doesn’t help your own—or your peers’—development as a writer and thinker.

Acceptable peer responses will, among other things:

  • Explicitly identify what was learned from someone else’s work.
  • Ask a follow-up question.
  • Offer an alternative interpretation.
  • Offer concrete strategies for improvement.

Questions (Reading)

Choose one questions to answer:

  1. Schmid argues that the position of the criminal as an “insider” in a community or his position as an “outsider” from the community helps us to understand the persistent trend in crime procedural films and television shows. Using material from the chapter, show us how this applies to Norman Bates? Is he an insider or an outsider–and how does this help us accept/reject him?
  2. “In some respects, the absence of sympathy for the criminal in contemporary true-crime narratives recalls the Puritan view of sympathy as a dangerously unstable emotion” (Schmidt 195). How does Schmidt suggest that having sympathy for a serial killer is a good thing/bad thing? Is that even possible? Why would we want that?
  3. Schmidt elaborates upon the long history of true crime novels with an extended analysis of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. How does this example apply to Psycho? Why would we want to become intimate with serial killers? What is the moral dilemma faced by those who come face-to-face with these killers? What is gained by seeing their stories?

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