Whether it is following the bloody footsteps of a serial killer or chasing the seductive leads of an unsolved crime, Generation Why is a guided journey through true crime that is as eerie as it is thrilling. But while following the narrative paths constructed by the two hosts, I began to question my faith in them as responsible guides.
Since they began recording their conversations in June 2012, co-hosts Aaron Habel and Justin Evans have come far to polish the quality of their audio content. In response to negative reception from early fans regarding their often inconsistent and unpredictable structure, the hosts refined each episode to be coherent and serviceable. The two friends focus on a single topic per episode — be it a deep-dive into a serial killer, an infamous criminal or an unsolved crime. They present the facts of the case, narrate often gory and repulsive details and spur on discussions with their personal theories. For example, in Episode 261, “Jeffrey Dahmer,” Aaron and Justin loosely follow a chronological narrative of Dahmer’s brutal murders, sexual assaults and acts of perversion; interspersed amongst these criminal exploits are information regarding Dahmer’s upbringing, personal theories for his psychological motives and discussions regarding contentious facts.
The monotone and dispassionate delivery of Habel and Evans irks many ears, but I find unexpected solace in the contrast between the unflinching, coarse images of violence and the soft, droning voices that paint them. However, what is dangerous about their ostensibly impartial delivery is its potential to mask this podcast as a piece of journalism and obscure what it really is — a conversation between friends. Whether this air of expertise is intentional or not is unclear, but there is definite room for improvement in making clear transitions from hard facts to speculation. For example, in Episode 243, “2012 Aurora Shooting” the co-hosts are mindful enough to preface a particular strain of conversation discussing the mental health of the mass murderer, James Eagan Holmes, by acknowledging the sensitivity of the topic of mental health and their own lack of expertise. While gracious for this caveat, it reminded me that such a gesture was not made in the aforementioned Dahmer episode when discussing Dahmer’s mental health. Ultimately, it made me question how much conjecture I passively accepted as truths.
Generation Why pulls listeners into uncomfortable yet enthralling experiences, unsparingly covering graphic criminal details to an extent most conventional media outlets avoid in fear of alienating their audience. Whether you want to soak in the bloody spectacle of crime scenes, examine the outliers of human monstrosity or simply want to add some morbid excitement to a mundane morning commute, there’s something here for you. However, the abhorrence packed into an hour-plus episode can be draining. It is a podcast best consumed in smaller doses and with a grain of salt.