The Thoughts of a Hapa "My Favorite Murder" Fan
Confessions of a Hapa-rino
By Melissa Slaughter
Like my cohort Autumn, I am also a huge fan of the podcast My Favorite Murder. My true crime interest was peaked when I was twelve years old and I heard about the Manson Family murders. Although mother wisely refused to let me read Helter Skelter (I was a die-hard Beatles fan at the time), a true crime fan was born.
True crime fans have always existed, but true crime fandom wasn’t mainstream until the podcast My Favorite Murder came out in 2016. I’m sure there were pockets and bubbles of fans here and there, a few tumblrs rolling around, and of course Michelle McNamara’s blog, but the label “Murderino” is definitely a modern invention. Hundreds of thousands of fans have come together from around the world and converged on the Internet to share our love of true crime. There are Facebook groups upon Facebook groups upon Etsy stores upon Meetup groups. I’m in an NYC group, a craft group, and a Harry Potter crossover group called My Favorite Avada Kedavra. Autumn is in a cat/MFM group (Meowderinos) and is in the official club called the Fan Cult. It’s truly a phenomenon.
But why? It’s weird to explain to people that I’m really fascinated with serial killers and that I binge-watch hours of Law and Order: SVU. Or, that I watched Mind Hunter and then immediately listened to the MFM episodes on Ed Kemper and Jerry Brudos. Murderinos get it, but laymen are still left scratching their heads.
Here’s my attempt to try and explain. First of all, how is everyone not fascinated with serial killers? They are not like “normal” humans! Their emotions function differently, and their thought processes are vastly different from "normal” humans. They’re like a species unto themselves, especially, when you see the patterns repeated by serial killers. Breaking down serial killer psychology (because yes, I am fascinated by that), and identifying the MacDonald Triad or traits of narcissism are just “True Crime 101”. Gender studies become insanely relevant here when you think about why so many serial killers have mother issues. Daddy issues don’t mean much to serial killers, unless we’re talking about toxic masculinity.
Move over, Electra; this is Oedipus all the way. If you’re Googling John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, Ed Gein or Albert Fish, then you’re probably not a true crime fan and you should close this article down now and just start listening to MFM.
Hosts Karen and Georgia are beacons to weird, hilarious misfits that are totally lovable, relatable, and real. They always talk about their insecurities, imperfections, their therapy and mental health. It’s so refreshing to step away from a perfectly composed podcast on Gimlet and listen to a podcast that’s not afraid of women getting messy.
There are plenty of Murderinos of Color, male Murderinos, Queerderinos and more. Over series of episodes, hosts Karen and Georgia have made a pointed effort to try and highlight more people of color (I see you, Girly Chew, Georgia Lee Moses, Rebecca Zahau and Elisa Lam!) They also speak extensively on white privilege and how the media focuses on some murders while brushing aside others. They’re not competing in any sort of “woke” Olympics. They are genuine and understand the the responsibility they have to “do right” by their fans. By admitting when they've made mistakes, and taking the time to listen, they set an example of how everyone should look, and listen, and respect the people around them.
Whenever I meet a fellow Murderino, I’m always slightly on edge. There’s no doubt that the overwhelming majority of Murderinos are white women in their twenties and thirties, and not all true crime fans have the same ideas of social justice as myself, or as Karen or Georgia. Interest in Jeffrey Dahmer doesn’t equal allyship for the queer community. Talking about Marsha P. Johnson doesn’t equal a belief that Black Lives Matter. The main Facebook group had it's fair share of blatant white feminism, racist posts, and misogyny. This lack of intersectional thinking came to a head recently in a Hometown Murder (when MFM fans share their hometown stories) that led to an upsetting racialized Facebook thread. And to the main Facebook group being shut down. Karen and George discuss the event on episode "135: The Multiverse Trajectory."
However, I've seen more positive Murderino interaction than negative. The Murderinos I've met in person, or the ones I chat with in the smaller Facebook groups, are absolute gems. I try to go to the local Murderino groups, and I add to various posts. I've joined some of the weight-loss groups (almost at the #DirtyThirty), and the people there are kind, supportive, and full of helpful advice. There are crafty Murderinos who's businesses thrive thanks to the support of other fans. There's paint nights and marathons and fundraisers that are organized by Murderinos. They donate money to charities like End the Backlog (to test untested rape kits across the country.) There are stories upon stories of Murderinos helping each other not get murdered (seriously) and more stories of support when something does happen, and Murderinos band together. #IdLookForYou. We mourn the loss of our own when tragedy strikes, and we support each other through tough times. I've seen minds blown and lives changed. All because of a true crime podcast.
There’s also the fine line of fandom, when academic interest becomes an unhealthy obsession. Or maybe an unhealthy misunderstanding. At live shows, Karen always makes it a point to say, “We’re not cheering for murder.” Obviously Murderinos don’t condone murder, but there is a strange romanicization of serial killers that can be dangerous. There’s no “fixing” a serial killer. They’re not “the ultimate bad boys,” as David Farrer called them in his mediocre Netflix Series Dark Tourist. When fantasy changes the facts and creates a false narrative that Ed Kemper just needed love, that makes us all look bad.
I have a theory that the reason women are fascinated by true crime is because we’re taught that girls are made of “everything nice.” We're taught to be obedient, demure, and polite, which is why “Fuck Politeness” is a rallying cry for Murderinos. At the same time, we’re taught that we need to protect ourselves from a young age. I was twelve when I first started getting comments about my body. I was in high school when I learned to hold my keys in my hand. It’s the juxtaposition of politeness and protection that I think sparks the flame.
What are we protecting ourselves against? Do you lock your windows and your doors? What are the signs of someone who might hurt us? There’s an aspect of preparation, the knowledge that any women could be the victim of someone like Michael Alig or the Golden State Killer. Whenever I see a report that someone in NYC is targeting Asian women, I take my hair out of its top knot, put in my earbuds with no music, and put my Stabby Cat in my hand. I might be white-passing, but I still know the rules.
Being a Murderino, it’s not all anxiety and academics. Being a Murderino also means you’re part of a community. In NYC, we have meet-ups in Manhattan and Brooklyn. There are book clubs, movie nights, and bus tours. I once even got a writing gig off the NYC group. It's crazy to think that friendships are made off of a mutual fascination of Murder and podcasting. But this is 2018, so anything is possible.
Stay sexy, and don’t get murdered.
The embroidery featured is by Cutiosities. Art was used with artists permission.
Melissa has lived in all four time zones in the contiguous United States. A former actor in Seattle, WA, Melissa now resides in NYC as a content creator. She is the producer of the We're Not All Ninjas podcast, which she also hosts with fellow Hapa Mag writer, Alex Chester. Melissa also writes for online blogs Nerdophiles and The Nerds of Color. Find her @NotAllNinjasPod.