photo: Instagram

The latest offering in the vein of true crime TV will be none other than JonBenét Ramsey's case, it was announced Wednesday (August 10). 

Debuting first as a Lifetime original movie, "Who Killed JonBenét?," on September 12, and then as a six-part CBS series, "The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey," later that week, the 1996 murder of 6-year-old Ramsey will be back on TV screens across the country. And it's exploitative AF. 

Commercially speaking, both projects make a lot of sense. From "Making A Murderer," to "The People v. O.J. Simpson," to "The Jinx," true crime is obviously seeing a televised renaissance. In July, it was announced another famously unsolved murder case, that of Chandra Levy, would be coming to the silver screen as well. And before all these, it was the "Serial" podcasts in 2014 that paved the way toward adapting the genre (previously exemplified by programs like "Dateline") for the millennial generation. 

Yet the reasoning behind highlighting these cases on TV is markedly different from the decision to resuscitate Ramsey's — namely, there IS a reason, beyond sheer morbid fascination. 

"Serial" exposes disturbing flaws in the criminal justice system.

photo: Serial

Quick disclaimer: "Serial," of course, is a podcast and not a TV show, but its popularity undoubtedly paved the way for true crime's resurgence. 

Not only is it a groundbreaking feat of journalism, winning the 2014 Peabody Award for that reason, it's more so an examination of reasonable doubt in homicide trials than a telling of a crime itself. 

And "Making A Murderer" makes a similar statement.

photo: Netflix

Beyond highlighting failure and corruption in the criminal justice system, the show is also an excellent educational resource for audiences to learn about still-pending litigation. 

"The Jinx" is a portrait of an alleged serial killer whose wealth and power helped him evade justice — until now.

photo: HBO

Famously, the docu-series' producers uncovered information leading to the arrest of its subject, 72-year-old Robert Durst, who'd previously evaded justice for his three alleged murders. His brother, Douglas, even thanked the show, telling the New York Times, “I no longer am looking over my shoulder. I’m very grateful to 'The Jinx' for having brought this about.” 

Clearly, by helping to expose a still-living killer and bring truth to the world, this show's impact extended beyond ratings. 

Meanwhile, "The People v. O.J. Simpson" was a reflection on so much more than murder.

photo: FX

The Ryan Murphy-produced series took the case/historical phenomenon and re-examined it through a fresh lens, highlighting the roles race, class, and sexism played in its outcome. 

For its part, the upcoming Chandra Levy series has the potential to be an enlightening exposé on the intersection of politics and criminal justice.

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Chandra Levy was a 24-year-old intern at the Federal Bureau of Prisons when she disappeared in 2001. She was discovered to have been romantically involved with a married congressman, Gary Condit, who was cleared of any involvement. Instead, an illegal immigrant was arrested and convicted. The real hook? Just last month, his charges were dismissed. This series could thus be an interesting reflection on society's attitude toward immigrants, as well as political corruption. 

A TV show or movie about JonBenét Ramsey's case, though, won't be any of those things.

The makers of both the CBS series and Lifetime movie claim their programs will contain "new information" about the storied case. For the series, a team of investigators will "re-examine crucial evidence" and "new theories will also be introduced," according to E! News. As for Lifetime, they've said the film will provide a "fresh look at the case," as well as "explore new information." 


There are no fresh angles from which to explore this long-cold case. True, it was *technically* re-opened by the Boulder Police Department in 2009 after Ramsey's parents were completely exonerated of any involvement the previous year. But it's not being actively investigated and hasn't been for some time. The most recent "new clues" to surface was back in 2012, when a former detective on the case, Jim Kolar, published a tell-all book. At this point, any genuinely new information would not only be entirely unexpected, it would also be covered on the news — not through a dramatized TV retelling. 

So no, this isn't a "fresh look," and unlike the aforementioned programs, nothing in Ramsey's case has deeper relevance to society. Instead, this comes off as merely an exploitation of the public's continued fascination with the young victim. 

Media outlets, like the "Today" show's website, have referred to Ramsey as a "beauty queen," and there's always been a disturbing emphasis on her dolled-up — sexualized, even — appearance. There are Instagram pages dedicated to her, and you can even buy apparel (I wish I was joking) bearing her face. Equally unsettling are the conspiracy theorists who claim Ramsey lived and is actually various female celebrities. Katy Perry and Heidi Montag are frequent guesses, and I'd venture to say it's not a coincidence both of these women are commonly associated with sex appeal.

At this point, turning Ramsey's murder into a TV series or movie isn't the next logical step in the gritty true-crime genre. It's continuing to sensationalize the gruesome death of a 6-year-old girl 20 years later for no apparent purpose. And that just doesn't seem right.