Each decade sees certain things in pop-culture that resonates on a whole different level with the general public. Think disco in the 80s, long hair and denim in the 90s, and Outkast’s “Hey Ya!” in the 2000s. If I were to hazard a guess at what the pop-culture obsession of the 2010s would be, I would nominate true crime as a genre of entertainment.
There’s something morbidly fascinating about decades-long unsolved crimes suddenly reopening up in the present day due to newly unearthed evidence. Just in 2018, we have had some fantastic true crime content such as the late Michelle McNamara‘s work in catching the Golden State Killer, Netflix’s fantastic documentary series’ Evil Genius and The Staircase, and most recently, The Teacher’s Pet podcast from journalist Hedley Thomas about the unsolved 1982 disappearance of 33-year-old Australian woman Lynette Dawson.
A year of investigation by @australian journalist Hedley Thomas has uncovered a handwritten statement Chris Dawson wrote for police in 1982. In it are a series of lies and deceptions that could be his undoing. #60Mins pic.twitter.com/a8hZ3MOS3V
— 60 Minutes Australia (@60Mins) September 9, 2018
The Teacher’s Pet is a particularly interesting case because two separate coroners found, in 2001 and 2003, that Lyn’s husband Chris, who remains the one and only suspect, had murdered her but maintains his innocence and wasn’t charged due to a “lack of evidence”.
New leads and reviews of the evidence commenced in 2015 but it wasn’t until 2018 when the case received intense attention from the media and public due to the launch of The Teacher’s Pet podcast, which went absolutely bonkers. I’m talking about iTunes-topping, Serial-toppling crazy here.
As Thomas’s journalism work into Dawson’s disappearance found a large worldwide audience via The Teacher’s Pet, real-life developments in the case were happening concurrently with the podcast’s run, which ended in August without concrete answers.
But what the podcast lacked in closure, real-life may be providing audiences with the sequel they all wanted in the form of a new forensic investigation (by that I mean digging around in hopes of finding a body) of Dawson’s former Bayview home in Sydney, which is currently underway at the time of writing.
And it is here where boundaries need to be drawn between entertainment and reality.
The amount of attention put upon the authorities to unearth something new in the Dawson case by the public and media is immense, putting even more pressure on the already-stressed investigators.
It’s nice that everyone wants justice for Lyn just as they did for Barb from Stranger Things, but there’s a worry that people are approaching this whole saga as nothing more than entertainment rather than what it really is – an actual crime in which real people suffer real consequences.
The whole case is incredibly fascinating and there is certainly nothing wrong with following the whole saga in hopes that it gets resolved. But whether or not the police find a body, we also must not forget that Lyn Dawson’s disappearance is a very real crime and that alone eclipses any notion we as the audience have in regards to closure or a satisfying “ending” to this “story”.