No matter how comfortable we are with it, it’s undeniable that true crime is one of the most popular and lucrative sectors of pop culture. Conversations and Facebook memes are constantly wrought with the general public’s thoughts on the latest true crime documentary to hit our screens, from Steven Avery’s innocence to Madeleine McCann’s disappearance.
It’s also an area of pop culture that has been, traditionally, not very accommodating of women. These podcasts, documentaries, feature films and 57 part Netflix mini series, are predominantly made, written and hosted by men. As a result of this, whether accidentally or on purpose, this content gives off a vibe that it is also made explicitly for men.
But this isn’t just an issue of representation. True crime is a pop culture space that has been objectively inhospitable for female audiences, because the (often excruciatingly detailed) discussion at hand is predominantly about violence against women.
Ted Bundy, Richard Ramirez, Ed Gein… it’s all a binge-watch of women’s pain.
For years, the way women and girls were spoken about in the true crime world were either as nameless, faceless prostitutes or idyllic, perfect angels. Or, they were described simply, with that matter-of-fact, all-encompassing term: “victim”.
Women were objects within the conversation of true crime, rather than participants that were welcomed to join in.
Then, along came Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, the hosts of true crime podcast My Favorite Murder, which released its first episode in January, 2016.
In the weekly podcast episodes, Karen and Georgia tell each other the story of a murder that struck them as interesting, and they discuss the details in a light-hearted but respectful manner.
Although many would find the idea of mixing murder and comedy distasteful, I think My Favorite Murder’s effect is the opposite. Karen and Georgia aren’t laughing at or about the most horrible things that could happen to a person, but, as Karen said in a recent episode (#165) - “the comedy runs parallel.” They’re simply finding comfort in making each other laugh as they discuss, essentially, the biggest source of their fears and anxieties.
Listening to My Favorite Murder feels like having a conversation with your female friends, curled up on a couch with a glass of wine or a cup of tea, confiding your fears, laughing at jokes and listening to advice (which ranges from “fuck politeness” to “you’re in a cult, call your dad.”)
With My Favorite Murder, Karen and Georgia have carved out a space in the true crime arena where women can feel comfortable, heard and respected.
Here, the women of true crime stories aren’t just prostitutes or victims - the word “prostitute” was quickly exchanged for the less politically charged term “sex worker” and they make a point of really humanising the victims; talking about their lives, interests, jobs and families.
The impact of having a space in the true crime world where women are at the forefront, in all senses of the word, has been immense. My Favorite Murder is one of the most popular podcasts in the world, with 19 million monthly downloads.
Karen and Georgia tour the world, telling stories about murder to devoted fans (who refer to themselves as “Murderinos” - like the Little Monsters of murder) in Ireland, Hawaii and New Zealand.
Murderinos have flocked to online spaces to discuss their shared interests, first on Facebook, and now through an official “fan cult.”
Murderinos have banded together for good, raising money and awareness for the women of the true crime stories that we so casually consume: donating to rape crisis centres, End the Backlog (an organisation dedicated to eliminating the backlog of untested rape kits in America), Planned Parenthood and more.
With My Favorite Murder, Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark transformed a male-dominated area of popular culture into a space where women can discuss murder, feminism, drug and alcohol abuse, depression and cats as comfortably as if it were with their closest friends – and work together to help victims and survivors while they’re doing it.Support Villainesse