Thursday, April 23, 2020

The Murderinos Are Afoot

Staying sexy and not getting murdered have never been easier, nor more fun.  ♦ 
There's nothing quite as thrilling as falling in love with a book within a genre you've never explored before. The realization that suddenly there is an entire plethora of new books to read is a truly empowering feeling, as many have recently discovered for themselves through the popularization of true crime. Titles such as Michelle McNamara’s I’ll Be Gone in The Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer and The Midnight Assassin: Panic, Scandal, and the Hunt for America's First Serial Killer by Skip Hollandsworth have even found success that transcends the traditional expectations of the genre—highlighted as New York Times Bestsellers, praised by critics, devoured by readers. So, what caused this sudden interest in true crime?

I would argue that the current success of true crime literature was influenced by an unlikely source: the hugely addictive and intriguing realm of podcasts.

Growing in popularity because of its personality-driven content, relatability, and flexibility, podcasts feature devotees fervently discussing their favorite topics, ranging from politics to Dungeon & Dragons, and with the sheer number and variety of shows in existence, it's no surprise that there's a large number in the true crime genre. While some are dedicated to covering a single narrative, such as NPR’s wildly successful first season of Serial, others are more episodic and take on multiple cases, such as the podcasts Jensen & Holes: The Murder Squad, Crime Junkie, and My Favorite Murder. These podcasts opened the door to discussing true crime as a useful tool for analyzing human behavior, informing audiences about red flags, encouraging people to stand up for both themselves and others, and providing a community to explore similar interests. One podcast in particular truly helped with destroying the stigmas and barriers around true crime as a salacious genre of interest only to budding investigators or incipient serial killers, bringing true crime fully into the mainstream, and that podcast is My Favorite Murder.

My Favorite Murder began in 2016 with two hosts, Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, who bonded over their love of true crime. Sharing a level of vulnerability with their audience, the pair discuss personal stories and listener testimonials, encouraging an open dialogue between themselves and their fans. As their podcast continued to grow, they created resources such as Facebook groups to connect listeners who dubbed themselves “Murderinos.” Whether discussing hometown murders, invented self-insert stories, or tips on finding red flags, My Favorite Murder connected people from different backgrounds around a common interest, growing a community that was confident in the idea that it is entirely reasonable to love true crime and helping Murderinos not only befriend each other but like-minded individuals outside of the fandom.

As the community grew, there was a significant amount of fans who connected around their deep love of literature, and these bibliophiles began to form book clubs surrounding the genres of mystery and true crime. Discussing in online forums and libraries, these book clubs read novels and nonfiction highlighted on My Favorite Murder episodes such as If You Really Loved Me by Ann Rule and No Stone Unturned by Steve Jackson. I personally lead one of these book clubs on Chase the Darkness With Me: How One True Crime Writer Started Solving Murders by Billy Jensen. The book was a whirlwind for many of us as we tried to uncover the Golden State Killer and the Bear Brook Murderer, and the experience brought me closer to both the fandom and the genre, creating some new friendships with others who shared my passions and interest.

In my opinion, podcasts like My Favorite Murder have helped legitimize the genre, making true crime less about horror and focusing much more on awareness. As an aspiring author, I often used writing as an excuse for my knowledge of and interest in true crime, rationalizing any internalized anxiety I might have felt toward the genre as a "necessary evil" for research purposes. However, listening to My Favorite Murder allowed me to recognize my interest as a beneficial passion that I can share with others. I feel as though I am not alone anymore as I agree with Karen and Georgia’s comments, laugh with them over their silly ideas, and make friends in the community.

I, along with many others, am truly proud to be a Murderino.

  • About the Author
    Jessica Rosepen was born and raised in Ohio. She is currently a senior at Miami University, where she studies American Studies. After graduation, she will continue on to University of Kentucky to attend their Library & Information Science master’s program. In her free time, Jessica enjoys reading, writing fiction, and exploring history’s forgotten and abandoned places.

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