Listening to podcasts about true crime suddenly became a lot less weird when Serial was released in 2014, and rapidly became a podcasting phenomenon. Suddenly everyone in your office was into true crime podcasts, and it didn’t take long before there were literally hundreds of new podcasts to choose from if you wanted to listen to people talk about murder. Despite the obviously huge surge of interest in the genre, ardent true crime fans can still be thought of as a little bit strange, and that might explain the community which has built up around the hit crime podcast, My Favorite Murder.
For anyone unfamiliar with the format, My Favorite Murder is a comedy podcast hosted (fans will know that term is being used rather loosely) by comedian and television writer Karen Kilgariff, and TV presenter and former food blogger Georgia Hardstark. On each episode, they both prepare notes on a different murder case, which they read out to their co-host. With Georgia’s terrified gasps and Karen’s sarcastic quips, it has the atmosphere of kids telling each other spooky stories around a campfire.
There are plenty of slick, factual true crime podcasts, which is something that My Favorite Murder can’t readily be accused of. Kilgariff and Hardstark are open about the fact that they are often not entirely up to speed with all the details of their cases, but the slightly chaotic and rambling nature of the podcast seems to be something which appeals to the mostly female fanbase. They will speculate wildly about legal issues they know nothing about, mispronounce any and all British geographical locations that crop up, and go off-topic for huge chunks of time while they discuss the takeaway they recently ate, or how much make-up they just bought at Sephora. They will then devote a considerable chunk of time at the start of the next podcast to correct the things they got wrong, all the while affectionately berating their comically browbeaten producer, Steven, for things that were clearly not his fault.
A lot of people would be horrified by the idea of a comedy podcast about murder, but the podcast is not making light of murder or laughing at victims of crime, instead it employs a gallows humour which attempts to cope with the worst of humanity, somehow finding humour amidst the examination of the horrors that people are capable of, and the realisation that everyone has the potential to be a victim. Perhaps this is why it seems to appeal most to female fans, dealing with their greatest fear of being a victim of violent crime by looking at it head-on and laughing at it.
The feeling of watching someone nod politely and back away while you begin to talk about your “favourite” murder case or serial killer is one familiar to true crime fans, and goes a long way to explaining why My Favorite Murder fans have created such a huge online fan community, where it’s okay to be interested in the weird stuff. Fandoms in general exist because people want to connect with others who have the same interests that they do, but it is quite surprising for a podcast to command this level of devotion, and it may be partly because it’s a safe space where members won’t be judged for having seemingly unsavoury interests.
The My Favorite Murder fan group on Facebook now boasts a membership of over 150,000 people, with additional Facebook groups for fans from different regions or with overlapping interests, such as people who are also into Gilmore Girls or Harry Potter. Dubbing themselves “murderinos”, they get together to share their “hometown murder” stories, talk about true crime, and share recommendations for true crime documentaries, or other podcasts. Photos of murder-themed birthday parties and serial killer cakes are something which would elicit at least a raised eyebrow in most polite circles, but they receive an enthusiastic response from the Facebook murderinos.
Murderinos have also shown themselves to be very creative. This is a fandom for something with no real visual content, yet there is an incredible amount of artistic material which has been generated by murderinos with a talent for creativity. My Favorite Murder produce their own official line of merchandise, but it’s possible to buy everything from clothing, jewellery and tote bags to kitchenware, soft furnishings and wall art – all of it produced by and for murderinos. On Etsy alone, a search for My Favorite Murder brings up over 900 listings.
Some fans go one step further than advertising their devotion through the clothes they wear. Quotes from the show, including the sign-off catchphrase, “Stay sexy, and don’t get murdered”, have formed the basis for many tattoos, such as this one shared on Facebook recently by Wendy White.
Like most fandoms, there is also a plethora of fan art, depicting Karen, Georgia, and the other personalities from My Favorite Murder, including Georgia’s Siamese cat, Elvis, who miaows into the microphone at the end of each episode. Artists should make sure they capture Karen’s button nose accurately, or she won’t be happy.
Like any fandom, there are always those people who take things too far, or want to cause conflict, and the murderino community is no exception. When you’re talking about dark themes such as murder and serial killers, the boundaries of what is acceptable can be an even greyer area than in other fan communities. But the general impression given on the various Facebook groups is that this is a group of people who are overjoyed to find others who are into the macabre things that they are, and it has manifested itself in a huge, creative community full of people who are eager to take the themes of the podcast and run with them.
Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark certainly never expected the podcast to take root the way it has, and have repeatedly talked of their surprise at how it seems to resonate with the hardcore fans. Even after Serial came along and turned everyone into a true crime buff, who would have thought that two women having a conversation about murder could become such a cult-like phenomenon? And any good murderino knows what Karen and Georgia think of people who get involved with dangerous cults, a discussion on the subject spawned one of their most often-used quotes – “You’re in a cult, call your dad.”
But the impression you get from this fandom is that the murderinos aren’t ready to get dialling just yet…