Gabby Petito, White Woman Syndrome, and Americas Fascination with True Crime 


On September 19th, 2021 human remains were found in Teton County. Wyoming, that was consistent with the missing person Gabby Petito, Gabby had been on a van life trip with her fiance Brian Laundrie, documenting their travels on their online blog. Before this incident police had questioned the couple regarding a domestic altercation on August 12th, but at the time the couple expressed that neither wished for the other to be charged with a crime, and the went on their way. This nightmare road trip has become one of the most high-profile missing person turned murder cases in media history, spawning webpages dedicated to solving the case, and even bringing Dog the bounty hunter out from retirement. Media outlets have been covering every detail of the story non-stop. A person may wonder why one murder case gas garnered so much attention, and the answer can be boiled down to two things, exposure and identity. Gabby and Brians entire trip had been documented online prior to their disappearances, this personal insight into Gabbys life serves as a form of call to action for those who feel a connection to her. This attention leads to the media covering the story more and more, and this causes compounding interest in the story as media coverage is based on interest, and interest is based on media coverage. The other reason for the prominence of the Gabby Petito case is that of her identity and the phenomenon of White Woman Syndrome. The coverage of Gabby Petito, a conventionally attractive young white woman radiating social media happiness completely dwarfs the media and police attention aimed towards the missing and murder cases of black and indigenous people. A report from earlier on in the year from the University of Wyoming states that seven hundred and ten indigenous people in the state have been reported missing, none of whom have garnered nearly as much national attention. The Gabby Petito case and cases like it are part of an even grimmer phenomenon, turning death into a spectacle of entertainment. The true-crime community is a large one, with multiple online pages, communities, and TV channels all dedicated to the subject. People are less interested in these developments unfolding as news and more interested in them as a real-life version of Law and Order. In addition to sitting on the sidelines, amateur sleuths pop up like moles, trying to emulate the experts who solve these cases, and they can often lead to more harm than good. The primary two outcomes of amateur detectives trying to crack these cases is that evidence that the Police are keeping close to them as to not alert the culprit are spread throughout the internet and news media, and the lives of whoever they deem a suspect are ruined, leading to harassment, and sometimes even death (see the suicide of the person Reddit deemed to be the Boston Marathon Bomber, who actually had no ties to the attack) If one thing is clear about our culture it’s this. People like a pretty victim, an easy suspect, and a dramatic ending. Nothing Else will do. 

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