In the “My Favorite Murder” podcast’s genesis myth Karen and Georgia meet at a party while one is telling a somewhat gruesome story. An extended conversation between the two begins as all other party goers peel off in search of more pleasant conversation topics. The kindred spirits become friends and catalyze each other’s creativity around the topic of true crime and “other creepy stuff.” A podcast is born, and like ideal parents they nurture it as a child between them, delight in its success, and continue to revel in the way their work functions like their friendship did from the start: making people who are drawn to stories of true crime feel less alone.
Many are the fans who write in to thank the women for “being there,” and “creating a space” to share a love of true crime, and incidentally lots of other things that resonate with adult women in particular. In addition to the regular episodes, “minisodes” are published consisting simply of reading several stories sent in by fans. Fans also get to share the stage at live events, telling tales of their “hometown murders.” If there is another true crime podcast with this level of listener participation, I am not aware of it.
The connections go beyond a lone person listening through her ear buds to the hosts and other “murderinos.” Meet-up groups and Facebook spin-off pages have proliferated. Fans regularly tell stories about recognizing each other in unexpected places and how the podcast has helped them connect with family members. Hardstark and Kilgariff are quick to recognize and celebrate the importance of these connections, from the basic “I’m not alone!” to the deep significance of a teenage girl and her dad finding something they can actually talk about.
Their work gathers up a diaspora and reconciles the estranged. And they know it. They may not have planned for this outcome, but they wholeheartedly embrace it now. They are honored by their impact, but they don’t think of it in such religious terms. Or do they? When they decided to start an official fan club, they decided to call it the “fan cult.”
Perhaps this is just a nod to the subject matter (and one of the catch phrases that stuck), or a way of not taking themselves too seriously by using hyperbole. But it also indicates, on some level, that what they have created is filling a hole that religion is supposed to fill.
Their creative impulse, centered on something that ostensibly disperses people due to its repulsive nature, paradoxically has gathered and connected people. Traditional Christian liturgy teaches the same thing about the broken body of Jesus: partaking of it unites believers into one body. The nature of this unity is a mystery; the fact of it, when truly experienced, is surprising and life-giving. In the MFM podcast we find a community formed, through work, yes, but understood as born out of passion, a passion with death at its core. In this way, My Favorite Murder can be said to parallel some of the dynamics of the Christian gospel.
I’m not saying this was intended, but I am suggesting that it’s a God thing.
I’m also returning to a key refrain found on Annealing Souls: interacting with death has power – the power to unite people rather than repel. When Christian institutions forget this fact, they lose a key aspect of their potency and relevance to the real world. The MFM podcast, in my view, demonstrates how this dynamic can work.
NOTE: This is part of a series of posts on the podcast My Favorite Murder. Click for the introduction. Subscribe to get future posts as they are published.