I’ve always been a bit of a chicken. I’m easily startled and I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m afraid of the dark. The amount of things that I’m afraid of is endless. I’ve always been so afraid of heights that even when going up an escalator, I refuse to look down, or I shut my eyes. But despite my fear for heights, and despite my being afraid of the dark, I have always been interested in crime.
I am a true crime and crime drama enthusiast. Podcasts, documentaries, movies, television shows- whatever it is, I’ve watched them and listened to them all. I don’t remember when I started watching Law and Order, but I am quite sure that my obsession began there. I’ve probably watched every episode of the original series, in addition to Law and Order SVU. If you ever want to talk about the evolution of Detective Benson and Stabler’s relationship- I’m there. And if you’re curious as to whether or not there is a difference between the theme songs of Law and Order, Law and Order: SVU, and Law and Order: Criminal Intent– yes, there is.
When I think about what attracts me to the crime genre, I think it is the element of discovery and the satisfaction of solving the crime. With crime dramas like Law and Order, NCIS, or even Bones, you always know that at the end the detectives, agents or, in the case of Bones, forensic anthropologists save the day. They follow the evidence, they put the pieces together and they ultimately solve the crime. It’s methodical and follows a pattern. And in today’s day and age where there is a lot of uncertainty when it comes to the path our country will take, watching crime shows where you know the outcome may be welcome escape.
But what about true crime? Recently, I’ve noticed a sort of boom in true crime podcasts. You have your classics like Sarah Koenig’s “Serial”, which is a podcast that chronicles a true story over the course of a season. Its first season covered the true crime story of the murder of Hae Min Lee by her then boyfriend Adnan Syed. What made Koenig’s approach to podcasting interesting was that she played detective and inserted herself into the story, each week taking listeners on a rollercoaster ride of emotion with the simple question, “Did Adnan really do it?”
Other podcasts like “Accused” take on a similar style, while others put their own twist on true crime by adding comedy to the mix. Take the weekly podcast “My Favorite Murder,” hosted by comedian Karen Kilgariff and TV show host Georgia Hardstark. Each week, Kilgariff and Hardstark each choose one or two true crime stories to recount and discuss. In addition to their weekly episodes, they have MFM- Minisodes in which they each read a listener-submitted “Hometown Murder”. But, the question is, how do they make listening to tales of real life crime appealing, when , after all, they are all too real, and there is no happy ending? They make a usually dark subject matter lighter and interesting by making fun of themselves and not taking themselves too seriously. They don’t go for accuracy, making that apparent in their weekly “Correction Corner” segment where correct any inaccuracies from prior episodes. And lastly, they talk about their personal lives, current events, etc. Weirdly enough, they make the gruesome topic interesting; their enthusiasm seeps into the topic as they recount true crime tales in their own words, cursing at the bad guys along the way. And as a result of this, they have a large following. The “My Favorite Murder” Facebook group, which I admit I am a part of, has over one hundred thousand members, known as “Murderinos”, who actively post about their hometown murders, quotes from the show, and podcast fan apparel (yes, this is a thing).
I actively admit that I am a chicken. Yes, sometimes I have to turn on the light when SVU is on, or I have to turn off “My Favorite Murder” when I’m walking home at night- it is a little scary, but I love the crime genre. Viewers and listeners alike can put themselves into the role of the investigator- pretending to solve a crime. Podcast creators like Koenig, Kilgariff and Hardstark have created a media environment where they are not only the storytellers, but also are actively involved with the product they are creating in some way. What makes these podcasts so great individually is that as a listener you can participate, sending in suggestions for content (MFM, “Hometown” segment) and follow some of the cases in real time (Serial, the Adnan Syed case). What I believe is so wonderful about all of it is that there is an aspect of discovery that comes along with it.