It’s the year 2017 and if you don’t have at least one friend who won’t shut up about true crime, I’m not sure where you’ve been. From television to movies to podcasts, it’s undeniable that true crime is absolutely having a moment in pop culture today. And, while this fascination is certainly not a new one, the attention that true crime is getting these days has definitely caused society in general to take notice. Dateline and America’s Most Wanted were on televisions everywhere years ago, and let’s not even get started about how long Forensic Files has been on the air. Yet, the amount of dialogue happening in both private and public circles about this topic has undeniably skyrocketed.
So, what exactly is the fascination here? How is it that your mild-mannered, mother-of-two best friend is texting you, asking if you’ve started the new Laci Peterson special yet because it’s “just so good”? There is an obsession that has more recently become much less taboo, and people are coming out of the woodwork shouting to the world, “I love murder!”, though perhaps not in those exact words. And who are the majority of these people? Women. A Science Daily article from 2010 states that research even shows that women are far more interested in true crime than men. So what is it that is attracting more and more women to the topic? I would like to explore these possibilities certainly as no expert, but as one of those women myself.
I fall into the category of self-proclaimed “murderinos”; a group which seems to be growing exponentially by the day. About eight months ago I offhandedly heard someone recommend a comedy podcast by two women who talk about murder. At this point I was deep in my Sherlock binge and checking something like this out seemed more than appropriate. Now, before looking said podcast up, I had never listened to an audio podcast in my life. I somehow missed the bus for this, then it almost seemed too late to try. Yet, soon after, I found myself opening my phone, and looking it up: My Favorite Murder. The girl (yup) who had recommended it said that the girls were so hilarious and I was unbelievably curious to find out how on earth a podcast about murder could be funny. So I started the most current episode at the time, and I never looked back. Georgia and Karen quickly stole my heart. They are foul-mouthed and quick-witted, and their chemistry is unbeatable. As I listened, they were somehow able to illicit gasps of shock and horror from me one minute, with a cackle of laughter following just seconds later. Yes, the topic is completely serious and tragic and not funny at all because, let’s be real, murder is horrible. But, as I tried to explain to my confused husband sometime later, somehow the fact that it was two women discussing these nightmarish facts completely changed the game. I could relate to these girls who were each as horrified and fascinated at the stories as I was. And, as the listener, knowing they “get” what it is to hear about murder as a woman made it all the more bearable and even enjoyable.
I tried once to explain to my husband what it feels like to be a woman living in this world. I tried to explain how I had to know as a teenager to carry pepper spray and stick my keys between my knuckles just because I was a girl. That I had to remember to check my backseat before getting into my dark car and know how to kick out the taillight of a car “just in case”. But it’s terribly hard to explain the fact that being a woman in society means that you have to actively look for danger. It’s terribly hard to describe the cold fear that can pit in your stomach just at the leering look of a man staring your way. But, these are the facts of life, and for me, they lent a great deal to my own discovery of my love for true crime. Georgia and Karen are no strangers to these things, either, and it’s incredibly gratifying to hear women openly discuss these realities. And, what makes it all even better is that amidst the laughing and cringing that goes on during each episode, there are incredibly important things discussed.
The girls talk about the issues we’ve all come to know well. They discuss the importance of things like “if you see something, say something”, and how people just calling the police after seeing something they didn’t feel right about has saved lives. They talk about victim-blaming and the pressure to be friendly and “smile!” even when we feel uncomfortable. They talk about following your gut and just getting the heck out of a situation if you’ve got those bad vibes. They talk mental health and how anxiety plays into the daily lives of so many women. These things are real and they absolutely need to be discussed and I really thank Georgia and Karen for bringing these issues more into light. Sure, this may be an unconventional way to learn about mental health and personal safety, but it in no way makes it less valid.
So, back to our original question: why true crime? Is it a morbid fascination with the possible fate anyone could meet? Is it a way of facing our deepest fears? Perhaps the idea of prevention by acknowledgement? Maybe a feeling of relating to the victims or even a keen interest in our justice system. Whatever each person’s reason, true crime is on the rise, and you may just be next to fall victim to its call. If you’re anything like me, it will start you on a deep spiral of listening to more podcasts (Casefile or Serial, anyone?) watching every series on Jon Benet, and putting Forensic Files on in the background. And I wouldn’t say it’s a terrible thing if you began to double check your locks and have an increasing collection of self-defense weapons.