It’s 2022 and everyone is obsessed with true crime. Literally everyone. From podcasts to TV miniseries to documentaries, every media platform is flooded with content about the murdered, missing, and maligned. TikTok has loads of accounts dedicated to “investigating” unsolved crimes or rehashing closed cases. True crime is scary, unsettling, and anxiety-inducing—and people cannot get enough. It just seems to scratch a weird itch in our brains. And I suspect that itch may be traced back to the fact that so many of the food products we consumed as children were “mystery” themed.
I was born in 1993. When I was little, every brand had some kind of “mystery” item on the market. Whether these products transformed into something else, changed color with the addition of heat, or revealed a surprise inside, no food was to be trusted. And for some reason, that was considered super fun!
Everything from yogurt to popsicles to frozen meals (never forget the Shrek Kids Cuisine and the search for the green tray) featured a mystery to be unlocked. This phenomenon got so out of hand that some products were banned because the “surprises” inside turned out to be a choking hazard.
But despite the risk of death, I always wanted a snack mystery. I didn’t care that I didn’t know what I was getting or if I would even like the way it tasted. The element of surprise was delicious enough. I was willing to sacrifice everything for a bowl of Quaker Instant Oatmeal Dinosaur Eggs or a color-changing Lion King spoon. What colors would they turn out to be?! I craved the thrill of discovery.
I am not alone in this. Mystery foods made their way into the diet of every 90s kid. And those 90s kids eventually turned into 2022 adults who are now completely infatuated with true crime. If you really think about it, it makes sense. As children, we were taught that the epitome of fun was finding out something we didn’t know. Nothing was more exciting than a reveal.
Now, because of how we were raised, we all need constant surprise and mystery to feel alive. Unfortunately, the world is full of bad people and the most readily available form of mystery involves tragedies. We’ve gone from “curiosity killed the cat” to a morbid curiosity about the killing of the cat itself. Is it toxic? For sure. I cannot deny that. Were we set up to be this way? Yes! I refuse to take responsibility for it.