Image via Instagram @myfavoritemurder. (artwork by @ydartistry)
Let's get this out of the way: I am aware that some might find my true crime obsession to be disturbing. The fact that watching multiple episodes of various Investigation Discovery shows chills me out probably seems eccentric, if we're being generous. I have to be very selective about if, and when, I discuss this interest with people. Good idea: talking about it with others who have told me that they're also fascinated by murder, serial killers, unsolved crimes, etc. Bad idea: When tasked with telling a group of strangers something about myself, taking that opportunity to tell them that I can name a serial and/or spree killer who operated in most every state in the country.
It's not as though being into true crime is unique, and people who make television know that, but because publicly disclosing that your YouTube selections are 90% serial killer documentaries and 10% Say Yes to the Dress is risky. (Look, it's not like I respect what you do, serial killers, I just think it's interesting that you do it.)
So, like anyone who has an obsession that others would label deviant, people who like true crime have to seek out their own kind, and that's how I found My Favorite Murder .
My Favorite Murder is a podcast, 45 episodes old, hosted by comedians Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, who love tales of murder and tell them, hilariously. Even if you know all the details of a particular crime, it's worth tuning in to hear Karen bursting into song during a retelling, Georgia yelling "Oh FUCK," and Elvis the Siamese boisterously affirming his desire for a cookie at the end of every episode.
And here's another thing about My Favorite Murder that makes it unique — it's feminist as hell.
For me, listening to women talk about murder is a completely different experience than hearing the details of a crime mulled over by middle aged white dudes who openly ponder, without hesitation, things like, "Was she asking for it?" Even though they're my go-to when faced with the vastness that is media, there's a certain amount of anxiety that comes with watching true crime shows hosted and/or narrated by men. We already know about the latent (or not so much) misogyny, but are they going to say something homophobic or racist as well? Probably!
One of the best things about My Favorite Murder isn't just that its hosts identify as feminists, but that they actually do feminism in every episode, confronting things that feminist consumers of true crime shows think about regularly: the fact that the murders and missing persons cases involving young, white, wealthy women are the the ones we hear about, because who cares about women of color and trans-women, right? Georgia and Karen also talk about their personal experiences with anxiety, depression, addiction, toxic masculinity, the garbage that is the statute of limitations on prosecuting rapists, and all those untested rape-kits (they donated a portion of the proceeds from their merchandise sales to get some kits tested).
It might seem bizarre to use the word "safe" to describe anything in the true crime genre, but as someone who would like to believe it's possible to have a hilarious story about murder told via a feminist lens, and seems to have found it, I feel pretty good about using it here.
And of course, there is the discussion about fear, which, on some level, is why we're obsessed with all this stuff in the first place. Georgia and Karen talk about what they're are afraid of, all the times they were positive they were going to die, and how their true crime obsession has impacted their daily lives.
One takeaway that fans have deemed so important that it's been turned into a meme, a t-shirt, and even a tattoo: "Fuck Politeness." In short, women have been taught that the worst thing we can be is mean, but actually, the worst thing we can be is murdered, so what we should be doing when we're in a situation that feels dangerous is trusting our guts, doing our best to get away, and then, if later, it turns out we were wrong, and we feel like apologizing, fine, but the point is, we didn't get murdered.
As tempting as it is to declare that My Favorite Murder is the most perfect feminist podcast that ever existed, it's not. A few episodes back, there was some not great conversation about "prostitutes," when the ladies declared that no one would opt into having sex for money unless they were desperate. I got that all too familiar feeling, the one of being failed, the one that shows up to remind me that I should never have heroes.
But screwing up is inevitable, and there isn't, and can't be, such a thing as purity, so it's the thing you do after you screw up that says the most.
In Karen and Georgia's case, they read an email from a listener calling them out on their use of "prostitute" and offering resources about sex workers from the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP). And now the language around sex work has been changed on the show, as has the use of terms like "crazy" and "psychotic" (also the result of letters from fans). That's it. No defensiveness, just acknowledgement of wrong done, accepting of the feedback from a listener, and a change in the behavior.
If you aren't already a fan of true crime, My Favorite Murder won't make you a convert, but for those of us who have been looking for a place to manifest our strange predilection for the macabre that also understands the layers of politics that underscore it, it's a good place to end up. It might seem bizarre to use the word "safe" to describe anything in the true crime genre, but as someone who would like to believe it's possible to have a hilarious story about murder told via a feminist lens, and seems to have found it, I feel pretty good about using it here.