More MFM: Episode 7, A Poetics of True Crime Emerges

I’ve already talked about the My Favorite Murder podcast a few times on this blog (here, and here, for example). And it’s easy to keep coming back to this podcast because, for one thing, it’s a long-running series at this point and, more importantly, it serves as an interesting example for both its popularity and its deviation from other circulated forms of crime discourse.

It’s also fascinating as its own cultural object: it’s quite rewarding for someone trying to understand what true crime discourse means and does in a particular cultural context. And there’s something that struck me while listening to an early episode of Karen and Georgia’s podcast.

At the end of episode 7, Karen and Georgia read a “hometown” murder. This is when they pick one or two emails or social media posts from their fans that describes a murder case Karen and Georgia might not have heard of before. After reading a set of hometown contributions, Karen and Georgia talk about what kind of murder they “like” — and it again turns out to be either a) someone very attractive and smart, or b) a narrative they can follow.

For example, they like the “alphabet” murders in Rochester, NY they hear about, in which girls with double letters in their initials are abducted and killed, and their bodies are later found in nearby towns with alliterative names.

This points to some things that media editors and producers have known since always:

  • There are different kinds of crime stories that will or won’t grab and keep the attention of audiences (consumers).
  • In order to be consumable, a crime story has to be desirable. That means: attraction.

Attraction to the victims? Attraction to the killers? Attraction to the narrative story-telling itself?

Karen and Georgia, perhaps without knowing it, are defining a poetics of true crime, one that relies not only on narrative devices and formal elements but aesthetic judgement about the subjects: are the subjects worthy of their attention?

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