Two women dressed in black walk on stage to deafening applause. After a few minutes of banter — discussing their outfits (to high heel or not to high heel) and all their human flaws — they take chairs and get down to business: Murder. Each tells a terrible story of death and mayhem. The other reacts, the audience claps, hoots, and hollers. Somehow they do all of this while making everyone laugh. This is My Favorite Murder live, give or take a location.
Twisted, right? Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark’s bi-weekly podcast has sparked a fan craze that reaches well beyond the limitations of its format. On the surface, My Favorite Murder (MFM to its diehards) is a true crime podcast with some comedy elements — which seems a strange if not downright disrespectful combination. But the show is important, and its adoring fans are in it for much more than a true crime fix. Kilgariff and Hardstark are women, advocating for women, while navigating a complex friendship.
In 2017, it’s nothing short of a feminist act to be a woman listening to a woman supporting another woman. Especially when those women aren’t conforming to any traditional vision of being female. Yet one of the best parts of MFM is that Kilgariff and Hardstark do not eschew any traditionally female behaviors, while also not necessarily conforming to them. In fact, they exhibit plenty of behavior that women have been historically belittled for — taking thirty minutes to get to the central point of the show, veering off topic to gush about a rugby team, talking body image, dresses… They do all of that, and yet they are also both highly accomplished and don’t shy away from harsh topics. Harsh topics are their jam.
Kilgariff and Hardstark both openly discuss being in therapy, their various anxieties and addictions, and most importantly, their relationship to each other. We’re accustomed to contentiousness between women. Mean girls and beautiful girls and girls competing and fighting and being catty and awful to each other are everywhere on TV and in our social media. That is all status quo. We’re not-so-used to seeing two women settling in for the long haul and being entirely three-dimensional and transparent, both with each other and their audience.
Karen is single, sober, and a seasoned comedian. Georgia is married, has social anxiety, likes vintage dresses, and is obsessed with her cats. Georgia loves cold cases. Karen is into creepy, potentially ghosty stories and people just losing it. They leave their listeners feeling like they have an intimate friendship and that they’re committed to each other, to being fully themselves and in total acceptance of their complexities, including this fascination with the darker aspects of the human psyche.
After listening to every episode marathon-style (if you are so inclined and can stomach the all the death), you can’t help but feel like you know them well, in all their weakness and all their glory. It’s sort of like how people felt about Oprah except, you know, with murder. There’s nothing glossy there, nothing that feels constructed. Their friendship is honest and gives us something to strive toward in our own relationships with one another.
MFM has its own lexicon, which is one of the things that sets the show apart. “Fuck politeness” is but one of the phrases that gets repeated time and time again. This is important to the MFM message: Women are generally taught to be well-behaved, but when it’s at the expense of your instincts, politeness can be dangerous. Listen to the show enough and it becomes incredibly obvious that politeness can have horrifying consequences.