When Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff started their dishy true crime/comedy podcast My Favorite Murder in January 2016, they didn’t expect it to blow up. As their iTunes ranking and Facebook group numbers climbed, they continually thanked their fans—“Murderinos,” they call themselves—for creating a community with shared interests in true crime, social justice, and feminism. They seem to understand toxic masculinity and the disparity in media coverage of white crime victims and those of color. They get together to raise money for charities like End the Backlog, which is dedicated to processing untested rape kits, and Victim Support UK, which provides resources for those impacted by crime.

But swirling under these noble causes is an extreme vein of white privilege, one that Hardstark and Kilgariff have done nothing to rein in—and have, in fact, done everything to support. This issue came to a head in August 2018, when the podcast’s main Facebook fan group—more than 235,000 people moderated by unpaid volunteers—was shut down and archived, earning the nickname the “MFM DF,” or My Favorite Murder Dumpster Fire.

Several incidents precipitated Kilgariff and Hardstark’s decision to close the group. During its final week, a member shared a racist story that was approved by moderators and allowed to be posted. At the same time, official My Favorite Murder merchandise featuring tepees (wildly inappropriate, considering the disproportionate rate at which indigenous women all over the world are murdered) were discovered to still be on sale after MFM had promised to take them offline in late July. People of color and American Indians spent countless hours trying to explain why pointing out racism mattered. White fans, angry that their entertainment—murder—had been sullied with real-life problems begged people to get over it and move on. Admins started blocking people speaking up about racism in the group. Hardstark liked inflammatory comments from people on Instagram, called others “dummies,” blocked them, and deleted negative comments.

Hardstark and Kilgariff have always claimed to be actively learning feminists, and, as Bitch Media pointed out in an otherwise critical 2017 report, they used to respond well to criticism—for instance, updating their usage of “prostitute” to “sex worker” after being called out early on. But in the last six months, the hosts seem to have stopped taking criticism to heart. They’ve become defensive. Kilgariff and Hardstark use their own mental health struggles with addiction, depression, and anxiety as a free pass to speculate on the mental health of others. They remind listeners that they are college dropouts and cannot be counted on to get facts right.

Despite complaints, Kilgariff has persisted in calling any establishment of homeless people a “hobo camp.” Hardstark admitted in August to using a European pronunciation of an Australian monolith instead of the aboriginal name because it was easier to pronounce. And she let everyone know that the police don’t mean to coerce confessions—they just do, a particularly upsetting line to hear at a time when this issue is so charged. Add to this the fact that My Favorite Murder covers white victims at a highly disproportionate rate, and some fans had finally had enough, leaving the Facebook group, unsubscribing from the podcast, and publicly vowing to never listen again.

Other fans, though, remain out of control. They leave the podcast’s catchphrase, “Stay Sexy, Don’t Get Murdered,” often abbreviated “SSDGM,” tagged all over cities and under many true-crime articles online, in full view of survivors and others affected by crimes. Last April, one fan allegedly snuck into a private press conference about the Golden State Killer in California for bragging rights. These fans have been implored by others to be more respectful; they harass people asking for respect by calling them triggered snowflakes and telling them to get over it. Kilgariff and Hardstark have done little to address this. The two episodes released after the archiving of the Facebook group said nothing about it. When they did address it in a late-August episode, they claimed the group was shut down because of one problematic Facebook post, calling it “the beginning and the end of it,” never noting how deep the problems were or what they were going to do to make them better. Hardstark apologized for liking inflammatory comments and said the podcast would donate $10,000 to the First Nations Development Institute, a post which garnered hundreds of “you didn’t do anything wrong” comments from white women eager to get back to listening to the worst moments of people’s lives.

The issues within the My Favorite Murder fandom reflect larger issues in society, a head-in-the-sand unwillingness to have hard conversations about white privilege. With the explosion in popularity of My Favorite Murder—more than two hundred episodes, a strong Patreon following, an exclusive paid fan club, a book deal, the launch for their own podcast network, and international tours, including the one bringing them to DPAC on September 20—Hardstark and Kilgariff wield more responsibility and influence than they did when they began trading their favorite crime stories at a party. The hosts need to dedicate themselves to equal coverage of all victims and model respect and responsibility for their fans, running the podcast like the business that it now is. They’ve long encouraged women to “fuck politeness” in self-preservation, but maybe they’ve taken that maxim too far.

Follow Kat Harding on Twitter @iwearaviators. Comment on this story at backtalk@indyweek.com. 

One reply on “The Fan Community of Popular True-Crime Podcast My Favorite Murder Is Out of Control. Have Its Hosts Done Enough to Fix It?”

  1. Wow, such an important article. Thank you for your tireless work to thought police the fans and creators of this popular podcast. By insisting these creatives share your worldview exactly, all the way down to their pronunciation of certain words, you are moving the left forward.

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