First and most obvious: Trigger Warnings. ALL OF THEM. We’re talking about true crime, so we discuss murder, crime, assault, kidnapping, sexual abuse, all of it. So please be safe, both in your brain, and in your life, ok?
Amanda and Elyse like true crime in several forms, from podcasts to books to television programs, while I can’t nope hard enough. So we talk about the true crime programs they enjoy, and what they get out of listening and watching. They make a lot of recommendations (sorry!) and talk about the ways in which reframing the stories of crimes against women to refocus on the women’s lives, not just their deaths, has a lot of parallels to this other genre we all really like. We also talk about some studies examining the popularity of true crime, and how that popularity may be changing the ways in which people perceive fear, personal safety, and getting involved. (In other words, “Fuck politeness.”)
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Here are the books we discuss in this podcast:
SO. MANY. LINKS. Are you ready?
Articles, research, and journalism on true crime
Television shows and documentary films
And, of course, information about the RWA Literacy Signing! Romance Writers of America will be hosting their annual “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing. Hundreds of romance authors in one place, and all proceeds of book sales go to literacy organizations – you should totally come.
Plus I’ll be signing this year – woo hoo! And if you come and find me and mention the podcast, I have a special sticker for you – if you’d like one.
The signing is at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort in Pacific Hall. Saturday, July 29th from 3-5pm. Get all the details at: https://www.rwa.org/literacy — see you there!
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What did you think of today’s episode? Got ideas? Suggestions? You can talk to us on the blog entries for the podcast or talk to us on Facebook if that’s where you hang out online. You can email us at email@example.com or you can call and leave us a message at our Google voice number: 201-371-3272. Please don’t forget to give us a name and where you’re calling from so we can work your message into an upcoming podcast.
Thanks for listening!
This Episode’s Music
Our music is provided each week by Sassy Outwater, whom you can find on Twitter @SassyOutwater.
This is from Caravan Palace, and the track is called “Lazy Place.”
Jules & James is a weekly, half hour podcast; a narrative fiction between two artists connected by fate. One part Before Sunrise, one part Griffin & Sabine, Jules & James captures the charm of falling in love with the unknown.
Jules is a British writer and director who’s currently making a film in London. James is an American who’s given-up his 9-to-5 life in the states to become a painter living in Paris. Through a misdialed phone number, these two young artists connect and decide to continue a conversation that started by chance. During weekly calls, Jules and James talk about their lives, their dreams for the future, the world around them and everything else that the comfort of speaking to a stranger allows you to reveal.
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Sarah Wendell: Hello, and welcome to episode number 254 of Smart Podcast, Trashy Books. I’m Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, and this here is a podcast about romance fiction and the women who read and write it, plus all the other things we’re interested in, ‘cause we’re interested in lots of things, ‘cause, well, y’all are very interesting people.
Today we are talking about True Crime. Elyse and Amanda really like True Crime in several formats, from podcasts to books to television programs. Meanwhile, I cannot nope hard enough. So we talk about True Crime and all of the things that they enjoy, specifically what programs they like, and what they get out of listening and watching. They make a lot of recommendations, and I apologize in advance. Plus, they talk about the ways in which reframing the stories of crimes against women to refocus on the women’s lives, not just their deaths, has a lot of parallels to this other genre, the one we really like. I can’t think of it right now, but there’re a lot of similarities. We also talk about some studies examining the popularity of True Crime and how that popularity may be changing the ways in which people perceive fear, personal safety, and getting involved. In other words, to quote another very famous podcast, fuck politeness.
Now, obviously, if we’re talking about True Crime, if you are sensitive to stories of murder or crime, assault, kidnapping, sexual abuse, every bad thing ever, you might want to skip this episode; I’m very sorry. We are talking a lot about True Crime specifically in terms of individual stories and also about the genre that examines crime, because so much of this is about crimes against women.
And if you are thinking, oh, my gosh, I cannot wait to listen and I want to hear all the recommendations, there are so many. They come very quickly. There are lots and lots of recommendations, and I will link to everything in the podcast entry at smartbitchestrashybooks.com/podcast.
Now, I have a very interesting sponsor for this episode, so listen up! This episode is sponsored by Jules & James, a fiction podcast that tells the story of two strangers who fall in love with the unknown. Have you ever met a stranger and felt like you had a special connection to them like you’d known them from before? That’s the inspiration behind Jules & James, a new romance fiction podcast made up of a series of conversations between two young artists, Jules and James. They start talking to each other through a misdialed phone number and decide to keep chatting indefinitely but under certain conditions. During weekly calls, Jules and James talk about their lives in London and Paris, their dreams for the future, the world around them, and everything else that the comfort of speaking to a stranger allows you to reveal. And who knows? Maybe their phone conversations might turn into something more. Eavesdrop on their conversation by subscribing and downloading the episodes on iTunes, Google Play, RadioPublic, and other outlets. Check out meetjulesandjames.com to find out more. And during the outro I have a sample, if you would like to hear a preview, so stay tuned after the podcast to hear a little sneak preview of what this podcast sounds like. It’s pretty cool. So thank you to Jules & James and the team behind this fiction podcast for sponsoring this episode.
And for this episode, I have some compliments, which is so much fun! So, first:
To Lisa B.: If you were a country and you had your own flag, the design would be so incredible, four different Project Runway episodes would be dedicated to it.
And to Liz H.: There is one word in just about every language that is nearly untranslatable, but scholars are pretty sure it refers to your being terrific.
And if you are wondering what this is, please have a look at patreon.com/SmartBitches. If you would like to support the show with a monthly pledge starting with as little as one whole dollar a month, you can help me reach goals like having transcripts for all of the episodes in the archives that don’t have one, and we are so close to that last goal! Oh, my gosh, I’m so excited!
And on Sunday, July 2nd, I have a post going up about the podcast, but I will give you a sneak preview: we have crossed over one million total downloads for this show. I am in awe. Wow. Thank you for that. If you have listened from the beginning or just found us, if you have told a friend or subscribed or left a review or had a look at the Patreon page or you just hang out with us every Friday afternoon or evening or whenever you listen, thank you. That is so cool!
I also have some news. I have news, lots of news! I have lots of things to tell you. If you are in Orlando, Florida, or you will be on Saturday, July 29th, you should know that Romance Writers of America will be hosting their annual “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing. Hundreds of romance authors in one place, and all of the proceeds of the book sales go to literacy organizations. Now, why am I telling you this? Some of your favorite authors are likely to be there, including Sylvia Day, Tessa Dare, Courtney Milan, Julie James, Beverly Jenkins, and Jill Shalvis, and for the first time ever, I will also be signing at RWA’s Literacy Autography. Yay! I’m so excited, oh, my gosh! So I will be signing. The signing is at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort in Pacific Hall, Saturday, July 29th, 2017, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. Now, if you come and find me – and I’m in the Ws, ‘cause my last name is Wendell, and over in the Ws, we have all the AC. It’s nice and cool, usually very open, or at least we’re at the end of the room, so it’s pretty awesome to hang out there for a bit – if you come find me and you mention the podcast, I have a special sticker for you if you would like one. And if you would like more details and see the complete list of authors who have signed on to sign – signed on to sign? Who are signing? Yeah, that – if you would like to see the whole list and get all the details, go to rwa.org/literacy. That’s rwa.org/literacy, and I hope if you can make it, you, I will see you there. It would be super cool to meet you.
The music you are listening to is provided by Sassy Outwater. I will have information at the end of the podcast as to who this is.
And if you would like to check out these episodes on iTunes, we have our own iTunes page at iTunes.com/DBSA. Recent episodes, books in the iBooks store, all the things you need if you are an i-type-user, iUser. iOS? I – you are super into Apple things, this is where you should go.
As I mentioned in the intro – the earlier part of the intro, ‘cause this is still the intro – we talk about a lot of different television shows, podcasts, and articles. I did a lot of research for this podcast, because like I said, True Crime is not my thing, and I’m trying to figure out why it is the thing for so many other people, so I did a lot of research, and I have links to some scholarly articles that I found, as well as press coverage about the resurgence of True Crime with podcasts and other programs. So please go to Podcast entries at smartbitchestrashybooks.com/podcast. You’ll find all of the links.
And now, on with the podcast!
Sarah: So we’re going to talk True Crime!
Sarah: I’ve been, I’ve been looking forward to doing this podcast for, like, weeks, and I’ve been doing research, which is weird because I don’t like True Crime.
Elyse: So you –
Sarah: Like, I can’t enjoy it, and yet I’ve been researching it.
Elyse: So you’ve automatically put in, like, ninety-nine more percent effort than me.
Sarah: Well, no, because you actually enjoy it, so you, and this is something that you, this is something that you actively seek out. You like True Crime, so –
Amanda: Yeah, like, our, our homework is technically part of our routine, since we –
Sarah: Right, exactly, whereas I am like, this is the strangest thing. I don’t, I don’t understand, and it’s weird because I’ve been leaving notes for myself like, Sarah, you don’t like it, but don’t sound judgmental when you ask why they like it. [Laughs]
Elyse: Well, I think it’s important to specify that I like certain types of True Crime, not –
Elyse: – all True Crime, and –
Elyse: – just like I like certain types of thrillers and romantic suspense, but not all of it, because, I think you and I were talking that thrillers and romantic suspense and True Crime can fall into the category where it’s just another way of commodifying women’s bodies, right? So the whole story is –
Elyse: – built upon, usually, the, the death or abduction of a woman or a child, and how you treat that is really insignificant in terms of whether or not I’m going to consume it.
Sarah: Yes, and the True Crime that you guys are gravitating towards sounds like, from what I’ve been reading in my research, that (a) is, is created by women and is largely consumed by women, which changes the gaze overall of how the stories are framed.
Elyse: Right, it’s, I think, you know, with the rise of all of the Girl titles in thrillers, Gone Girl, you know, the –
Amanda: The Girl on the Train.
Elyse: -right – you’re starting to get this from the female gaze, and that’s really significant.
Sarah: So what specific True Crime stories do you guys like? What do you enjoy inside the idea of the, sort of the genre of True Crime? What are you guys enjoying?
Amanda: Oh, man. I’m all across the board, I guess. Serial killers are always interesting. Cults, I think, are interesting too; that sort of how so many people can be led to believe this one unifying thing, even if it’s harmful to their families, to themselves, to their lifestyles. I don’t think there’s anything that I’ve read or listened to where I’m like, no, this isn’t for me, or no, I can’t deal with this. I know, Elyse and I discussed The Keepers briefly, which is a new Netflix docuseries, and it’s so good. But trigger warning: it does deal with a lot of sexual abuse, and it is hard to listen to, and it is hard to watch these interviews with these victims, but so far there hasn’t been anything that I’ve listened to that I’ve personally had to turn off, so I’m pretty much fair game for everything, I guess.
Sarah: And it’s funny because I think things like The Keepers and My Favorite Murder are all housed in a genre that is titled “Not for Sarah.”
Sarah: And it’s not because I’m particularly triggered by them; it’s that – well, no, actually, it is, because I listen to that, and then I cannot get over the anxiety that I hear hearing the story. Like, I get so mad, and I get so anxious, and I’ve got nowhere to put that, so I, I just cannot engage in it, but at the same time, I am so admiring that it exists, because sexual abuse is not something you are “supposed to” talk about, and that’s why it flourishes. Like, even teaching my children the proper names for their body parts was a somewhat scandalous decision in my preschool, but if you don’t do that, then it’s very hard for kids to articulate if something’s happening to them and someone has touched them; they don’t have a language to say what’s happening, you know? So I’m really glad that this all being talked about. I just can’t go near it! [Laughs] You know?
Elyse: The thing –
Sarah: Elyse, what were you going to say?
Elyse: The thing that’s really interesting about The Keepers is, for people who haven’t seen the previews, it is about two women who are right now working to solve the, the cold case murder of a nun who died in the 1960s –
Amanda: And these women are awesome. They’re, like, in their sixties, I think, and one’s the researcher, and the other one’s kind of like the beat cop who will, like, knock on doors and cold call people.
Elyse: So this nun was an English teacher in an all-girls Catholic school in Baltimore, and she one day – she was, lived in an apartment with another nun, and one day she said, you know, I’m going to run some errands, but she never came home, and they searched for her and couldn’t find her, and eventually her body was found, and – so it starts off as, okay, there’s this mystery, but then you find out that there was a huge problem with priests at this all-girls high school sexually assaulting the girls, and what, shortly before this woman, Sister Catherine, was murdered, some of the girls had told her what was happening, and she had promised to do something about it, and so there’s a lot of evidence that suggests that the reason that she was killed was because she was going to expose what was happening at this school. And it is hard to listen to; there’s, there’s one woman who very graphically describes what happened to her, and at certain points it was like, I don’t want to listen to this, but I also respect that she has the right to tell the story of her abuse however she wants to tell it. And I think the fact that she was saying, these are the specific things that happened to me, while making direct eye contact with the camera and saying, I know this makes you uncomfortable, and I don’t give a shit because I, I need to tell this story, that’s significant, and I also think –
Sarah: Brave! Whoo!
Elyse: And brave! And, and she did talk about what you said, Sarah, where she said, you know, people now will say to me, you know, at sixteen, seventeen, how did you not know that this was abuse? How did you not know that this was wrong? And she’s like, I was the sheltered, you know, Catholic girl who – she said, like, I didn’t even know what semen was! How was I supposed to know? You, you know what I mean? Like, none of this made sense to me because no one had ever talked about it, and because no one in my family would talk about it, I’m certainly not going to go to them and say, hey, this thing is happening that I don’t think is right.
Amanda: And to make matters worse, these priests kind of sought out girls who had a dysfunctional home life or had –
Amanda: – histories of abuse –
Amanda: – so these things were sort of the norm for these women, and they had no outlet to talk about them, so they would come to their priests as, you know, to give confession about these feelings that they were struggling with, and then in turn, those priests would exploit those confessions for their own horrible, horrible actions.
Sarah: I generally think that cultures where chastity and ignorance are so heavily emphasized are the most obvious places where abuse like that flourishes, and it’s, it’s infuriating. Like, this is the part where I get mad, and I don’t have anywhere to put it. [Laughs] You know? I, this is part of why I can’t – I, I feel like this is a shortcoming on my part, to be clear, that I can’t, that I can’t be like, okay, here’s what I’m going to do. What does the show do to help process viewer reactions? I mean, I know that the – ‘cause I’m, I’m in Maryland, and this is rather large news, just a bit – I know that the Baltimore Police Department has set up, like, an anonymous submission page. Like, if you have, if you were abused at this school you can, you know, please tell us, give us all the details, but that was how many years ago?
Elyse: It was in the ‘60s.
Sarah: Yeah, that was a long-ass time ago!
Amanda: In the ‘60s.
Elyse: But I –
Sarah: So what is the, what is the way that they sort of channel viewer reaction? Is there any kind of – I mean, I hate to sound like I’m talking about search engine optimization, but is there, like, a call to action involved?
Elyse: I just want to say really quickly that the – ‘cause I think it’s important to say her name – the nun who was murdered was Sister Cathy Cesnik.
Sarah: Thank you!
Elyse: You’re welcome. I think when you listen to a lot of True Crime podcasts or you watch the TV show, they do a pretty good job of alternating, like, the heavier episodes where you’re dealing with things like sexual abuse of a child and then episodes that are a little bit more procedural –
Elyse: – you know, so that you’re not getting constantly hit with what’s happening. So they had this woman talking about, she was listed as Jane Doe for a long time, and they had her discussing what had happened to her at this school, but then they would alternate that with the two women present day who are doing the active investigation and how they’re investigating and the steps they’ve taken to get justice for Cathy Cesnik, and so it kind of spaces it out so I think it’s not super overwhelming all at the same time.
Amanda: And I think seeing those two women who were Sister Cathy’s students who are like, you know, this woman touched our lives. She was our favorite teacher, she was so sweet and so nice, and even though her murder is fifty years in the past almost, we’re not going to let this go, we’re not going to forget it, and I think the passion that these two women have to try to find justice for a woman who touched their lives, I don’t know, I think it’s really powerful, and it’s really kind of, I don’t know, positive in a way to see that they’re not going to let this go, no matter how much time has passed.
Elyse: And I think it’s significant that they’re saying that Cathy Cesnik’s story isn’t the story of a woman who was murdered. It’s not the story of this body that was found in a field. Her story is the story of a teacher who touched a lot of lives and who very may well have stood up for students who were being sexually assaulted, and that was what resulted in her death, and that’s the story we’re going to tell, not the sensationalist she went missing and we found her, you know, in a ditch so many weeks later.
Sarah: Which is what I was talking about earlier, which is what I was saying when I was talking about reframing the story. It, it shifts the gaze, and it focuses on the victim as a person, as opposed, as you said, the victim as, like, a, a body, a dead thing that was no longer alive, and the idea that a person’s murder that’s unsolved fifty years later matters is really interesting. I am, I don’t have an opinion; I’m just sort of fascinated by the idea that cold cases are being revived in all of these different forms of new broadcast, you know what I mean?
Elyse: I think that for me, if I’m going to be consuming True Crime, it has to do one of two things: it either has to tell the victim’s story in a way that’s about the victim and their life, their, their lives and kind of how, it, it has to make them a person, right, like we said, not a body. Or –
Elyse: – the other thing it has to do is it has to provide a larger context for how this particular crime changed how we think about crimes and how we treat them. So one of the podcasts that I’m listening to right now is called In the Dark, and it’s about the Jacob Wetterling case?
Sarah: Oh, gosh.
Elyse: Right, so for those of you who don’t know, this was, like, a huge thing in the ‘80s; I’m trying to remember what year it was exactly. Jacob Wetterling was a little boy who was eleven years old, and he and his friends lived in a small Minnesota town, and they went for a bike ride down to, like, a –
Amanda: It was, like, a store or something?
Elyse: Yeah, they were going to rent a movie, and it’s actually kind of like a super – I shouldn’t say this – it’s like it’s a, they talk about this in the podcast like it’s the most ‘80s thing that could happen, where they were trying to get the sixteen-year-old girl who lived next door to go with them and, like, pretend to be their mom on the phone so they could rent an R-rated movie. So anyway, they go, they rent the movie, and they’re riding back, and a man kind of appears out of this cornfield and abducts Jacob and tells the other boys to run and not to turn around or he’ll shoot them, and so for years and years and years this case was unsolved, and this was kind of like a turning point in the ‘80s for, you know, they say, we lost our innocence, or – because it was so televised and, and so sensationalized, it really scared a lot of people that this stranger abduction could happen, even though it’s extremely rare. And –
Sarah: To put this in context, this was in 1989.
Sarah: And so I was about fourteen. This, from my, my memory as a child is like what Jon Benet was ten or fifteen years later. It was huge news, and it was everywhere.
Elyse: This kind of happened around the same time like Adam Walsh was kidnapped.
Elyse: His dad was the guy that started –
Amanda: America’s Most Wanted.
Elyse: Yeah. And the, the podcast is really, really interesting because it talks about the fact that we, we now know who killed Jacob, and his body’s been recovered, and it was this guy that lived, like, one town over, like twenty miles away.
Amanda: Also, it’s interesting that when this podcast started, that news hadn’t been broken –
Amanda: – I believe.
Elyse: And they totally reframed the podcast, but the thing –
Sarah: This is My Favorite Murder?
Elyse: No, this is called In the Dark.
Sarah: Oh, okay.
Elyse: And it’s, they just focus, it’s, like, an eight-part podcast that just focuses on the Jacob Wetterling case, but what’s really interesting that they talk about was that because this was so publicized and so sensationalized, that in a lot of ways they lost sight of kind of how to manage the investigation, and one of the things they, they talk about, a, a person who works for the FBI right now, the, the guy who killed Jacob Wetterling was well-known by police in that area as a guy who had, like, a suspicious interest in children, and they never had anything to prove he was a child molester, but several other boys that were Jacob’s age in the towns surrounding where he was abducted from had been molested by this guy. One kid had actually been kidnapped and gotten away, and they said that, the, the FBI agent said something really interesting, which is, no one ever talked to kids in the area, and if you want to find out who’s a threat to kids in your neighborhood, you talk to kids, because they know. They know this person shouldn’t be here, this person stands out, why is he always coming to the park but he doesn’t have kids. So if the police had actually listened to other people who were Jacob’s age who were maybe afraid and ashamed to come forward, they would have found out what had happened, and actually, it was some of these victims who were later adults that kind of found each other and were processing through the fact that they had been sexually abused as boys who helped push forward the investigation that got the confession that led to finding Jacob’s remains.
Amanda: I think for me, I’m just fascinated in terms of what people are capable of in terms of both on the negative side, the people perpetuating these crimes? Is that the right word? [Laughs]
Amanda: Committing, yep. And some of these are, are horrible, and also the survivors. I know on an episode of My Favorite Murder, I can’t remember her name, I think her name was Mary.
Sarah: Mary Vincent?
Amanda: Yes, Mary Vincent. Her survivor story, when I heard – I think Karen was the one on My Favorite Murder who told it – her survivor story, like, shook me to my core in the sense of, I can’t imagine ever being in that position where she was in, like, kidnapped. You know, she’s trying to get away, and this guy essentially severs her arm and leaves her for dead on the side of the road. Like, I just can’t imagine being in that place and having the, the will to, like, crawl up this ravine back to the shoulder of the road to flag a driver down. It just amazes me, both what people are capable of in a negative sense and in a positive sense. And I know a lot of people, I think Redheadedgirl tried to listen to some podcasts, and it, and it wasn’t for her because I think the whole armchair detective aspect is a turn-off to her, and I can understand why, and that’s not why I listen to these podcasts. I know some people do to help solve cold cases. I know there’s an, an entire web community dedicated to solving cold cases and missing persons; I think it’s called Websleuths. But I know for me, and probably for Elyse, that isn’t the, the draw to these True Crime stories.
Sarah: Do you know why you’re drawn to them? Do you know the, the source of your fascination?
Amanda: No, I have no idea, like, where –
Sarah: You are definitely not alone.
Sarah: It is not a fascination I have, but there’re a whole lot of people that do.
Amanda: I don’t know –
Sarah: I just want to make it clear, I just want to make it clear again, I am totally not judging you for this.
Sarah: I don’t understand it, and I, and my response is completely different, but I don’t, I’m not judging you for loving this. I’m trying to figure out what it is that you love that I don’t share.
Amanda: I, I can’t, like, pinpoint a moment where I’m like, this is really interesting, but I think my first brush that I can remember in terms of True Crime or these sort of, you know, horrible, horrific stories was the, the Columbine shooting. So it was in 1999, and I was ten when it happened, and I remember coming home from school, and my mom had the news coverage on, and I just remember sitting on the couch and, you know, trying to process this as a ten-year-old, what was happening, so I think that’s, like, the first moment where I can pinpoint having some kind of memory related to, to crime and just being so drawn in by it? It, I’d hate to use the analogy, but sometimes when this happens it’s kind of like a, you know, if you’re driving on the highway and there’s an accident and everyone’s slowing down ‘cause they want to know what’s going on; they want to know what’s happening, so it’s, I, it’s like one of those things where I can’t look away or I can’t turn it off, and, you know, I want to know every single detail. But my mom had an interest in True Crime. She really likes those old Hollywood stories like the Black Dahlia and, and that sort of thing. I think my interest is a little bit more, darker than hers, whereas hers focuses more on, like, Hollywood and crime, which is also a really good podcast, I think it’s called, is Hollywood & Crime that focuses on –
Amanda: – cases relevant to, like, old Hollywood.
Elyse: Yeah, I think, like, the Black Dahlia was one that they talked about. They, there were a whole bunch of murders at the same time, and that podcast kind of explores whether or not one person did that or it was multiple murders over a, a span of time that were unrelated. But, yeah, they do, like, kind of reenactments a little bit too, which is, I think is kind of fun. Like, you know, they have actors who do the cop voices and who do the reporter voices.
Amanda: It’s definitely more like a radio drama in some cases.
Sarah: Which one is this?
Elyse: It’s called Hollywood & Crime. I think for me, I, I totally get what Amanda’s saying, ‘cause there is, there’s absolutely, like, a titillation aspect of True Crime. There’s no way around that, and I think it’s how, how is it being framed up, though? Is it exploitative or isn’t it? Because there’s part of you that wants answers. Like, I love stories about people who have vanished or disappeared because, like, I want to know what happened to them. How did, how did they just disappear? How do you just vanish? How does somebody, you know, go for a drive and never come back? So –
Amanda: Which is funny, ‘cause I’m the opposite. I find, like, cold cases and vanishing stories so frustrating because they don’t know what happened; I don’t know the outcome.
Elyse: And I’m one of those people, too, that I think if you say, you know, well, that’s upsetting, don’t think about it, then I’m guaranteed to think about it obsessively until it drives me nuts, so in some respects, listening to True Crime is kind of like identifying the thing that scares me a little bit and saying –
Elyse: – okay, I want to know these stories because I, in some respects I want to feel prepared.
Sarah: Yes. I was, in my research for this, for this episode – seriously, this is so indulgent of me. Like, I am sitting here interviewing you because I want to figure out what the fuck is wrong with me that this is not my thing. And there’s probably –
Amanda and Elyse: There’s nothing wrong with you!
Sarah: There’s probably nothing wrong with me. Like, I’m probably quite normal, but – or, you know, as normal as I can get to – but there was an article in The Atlantic that sort of asks the same question but says that one of the things that is visible in the community around My Favorite Murder is not only is it True Crime, but it’s also a lot of discussions about mental health. Like, if you are scared of these things and you can’t control your thoughts, you can get help. There’s help for that. You can get help, and you can get therapy, and you can get psychological support – which, again, is another thing that has stigma and you’re not supposed to talk about – but one of the points that was in this article is from Krista Lawless, who’s a mental health counselor in Oregon, says in the article that one of the things that people do is that they have to walk up to the things that they are really scared to talk about and start processing them out loud and accepting that they are real. Now, I have no problem admitting they’re real; I just don’t want to manage the part where my brain’s like, oh, okay, so here’s what would happen if that happened to you. Nope, nope, nope, nope, no, brain. Bad idea! Bad idea, brain. We don’t want to do that.
Sarah: And then another person, Amanda Vicary, who’s a psychologist who did a study called Social Psychological and Personality Science, or an article in that magazine, said – this is so interesting to me – there may be an evolutionary reason for women’s obsession with True Crime. “We’ve adapted to pay attention to anything that can help us increase our survival, so it could be the fact that we’re just in tune and interested in these things that are dangerous to us because understanding and knowing about them can increase our chances that it’s not going to happen to us.”
Amanda: I fully support that one hundred percent. I think in My Favorite Murder they bring up that a lot of the crimes they talk about happen to women. Women are the victims, and I know, like, one of the slogans or one of the kind of sound bites that has come out of My Favorite Murder is Fuck Politeness?
Sarah: Yeah, and Stay Sexy; Don’t Get Murdered.
Amanda: Yeah, because especially, I guess I’ll use Ted Bundy as an example, Ted Bundy the infamous serial killer of women.
Sarah: Good example.
Amanda: A lot of the reason why these women became victims is because Ted Bundy had, like, a cast, and he would portray himself as kind of like this bumbling idiot who needed help, you know, carrying things to his car, so, you know, these women saw him, and they’re like, oh, you know, he, he has a broken arm, he needs help, he seems really nice; I’ll just help this –
Sarah: He’s not a threat to me.
Amanda: Yeah. I’ll just help this stranger to his car, so that’s kind of –
Sarah: ‘Cause we’re supposed to be nice.
Amanda: Yeah! And so these women, I mean, I’m assuming, they could have had this gut feeling, but they wanted to appear nice, and so there’s this message of listen to your gut. Who cares if you’re not nice to this stranger? Like, it would, it doesn’t matter; if you make it home safely, you’re not going to, it’s not going to bother you that you were rude and refused to help a stranger a week from now. You know what I mean?
Sarah: Mm-hmm. There’s actually a name for the idea that women are particularly interested in things that increase their chance of survival. There are several studies that show that women fear crime more than men, even though men are more likely to be murdered. There’s a name for that thing: it’s called gender-fear paradox.
Sarah: Men are more, statistically more likely to be victims of crime, but women, of course, are more likely to be the victim of disturbing crimes that have a, a sort of obsessive or, or very specific target intent, like rape, serial killings, profile killings. That, the, the idea that the, the crimes that women are victims of are crimes of some form of obsession and directed attack that are based on things that you don’t have any control over, like your gender or the color of your hair or the way someone is obsessed with you. And that is all tied up in, in politeness too, because we’re taught that we should, we should attract gaze, that we should attract men, or if that’s, you know, if that’s how you roll. We are, we are taught that we should want that attention and we should cultivate that attention.
Elyse: I think women are conditioned to be, we want to be appealing to a large audience and at the same time completely inoffensive, right, so, but then when something happens to a woman, you get the bullshit of, well, she shouldn’t have been dressed like that. Why was she in that neighborhood?
Elyse: And one of the things that My Favorite Murder does a lot of is, they push back really hard on that and on victim shaming. It doesn’t fucking matter what she was wearing; she didn’t deserve to be murdered. It doesn’t fucking matter –
Sarah: It doesn’t matter that she went down an alley –
Elyse: – she didn’t deserve to be murdered. And they had a guy on the show; he’s a comedian, and his name is Guy Branum, and he’s, if you’ve ever seen him –
Amanda: He’s also a lawyer, or he was a lawyer.
Elyse: He was a lawyer, yeah. He’s this really large man, and he’s also gay, and he has kind of, like, for his size, he has kind of like a very high-pitched voice?
Elyse: And he has what he refers to as gay voice, and he said that he now notices when he’s, like, walking out of a club at night or a restaurant and there’s a woman in front of him, he can tell that she’s a little bit scared because he’s so physically intimidating, and he said he will pick up his phone and pretend to make a phone call, because once they hear the “gay voice,” they’re not scared anymore.
Elyse: And so he’s aware of how women around him perceive this threat.
Sarah: And it’s interesting that the community around My Favorite Murder in particular not only focuses on, on humor and sort of laughing at parts of the story to take away some of the fear, but that it’s women gathering around this thing that they’re obsessed with, that they’re, that they’re obsessed with, that they’re told that they should feel bad, bad about enjoying. Something is like that, and I can’t think of what it is; there’s another genre that has that same problem.
Elyse: I have no idea what you’re talking –
Sarah: I, I, I’m going to have to edit in later what the hell it was, but I’m not sure.
Sarah: But anyway, if you figure it out, you could let me know. So there’s, there’s the idea that women’s fear and women’s survival and then women’s arousal and women’s emotions are shameful, and you shouldn’t indulge in learning more about them, and you shouldn’t, you shouldn’t enjoy them, and you shouldn’t seek out stories about them, so it’s, it’s like the, the cousin of the crap that that other genre gets. Instead of, you know, oh, your emotions and your sexuality and your arousal, that’s dumb, it’s, your fears of being a victim are dumb. No, actually, kind of rooted in reality.
Elyse: Well, and I think it’s interesting because a lot of romance readers are also –
Sarah: Oh, is that it?! Is that the genre?
Elyse: That is it!
Sarah: Oh! Oh, thank you! I’m going to have to edit my notes. Anyway, go ahead!
Elyse: A lot of romance readers are fans of True Crime and psychological thrillers because you’re going after the same thing, which is, I’m exploring these feelings that I have, or these interests that I have, that I am told I shouldn’t have, that I should be ashamed of. And they’re both –
Sarah: In the privacy of your imagination.
Elyse: Right, and they’re both really powerful. I mean, when I look at how being a romance reader has impacted my life, I mean, I think that in a lot of ways it’s certainly made me more, more comfortable and cognizant of my own sexuality and talking about it, and also saying things like, I’m going to set these boundaries for myself relationship-wise, and that’s totally cool because I have the right to a mutually respectful, fulfilling relationship. And when I look at how I, I’ve taken some True Crime and factored it into my life, it’s made me more aware of my surroundings, and it’s made me more aware of, these are things that happen, but I don’t have to be a victim, right. I mean, even Memorial Day, I went to the office and I was alone, and our front door wasn’t locking, and I wound up calling IT, who’s in charge of, like, the automated locks, and the guy’s first comment was, oh, yeah, I guess we have a lot of stuff that could get stolen –
Elyse: – and my comment to him was –
Sarah: Oh, yeah, yeah, the computers were first on your mind.
Elyse: Right! And my comment to him was, or you have a woman working alone in this building when no one’s here, and he goes, ohhh! Like –
Amanda: It’s, it’s so weird that there’s, there’s such a disconnect between genders, because, so I went to the live show, and it was amazing, and I brought Eric, my boyfriend. He was not into it. He’s like, that’s not for me, afterwards.
Amanda: But – he doesn’t do True Crime – but we were planning a vacation to Austin, and it was wonderful, and Eric’s a runner, and he’s like, I think I’m going to reach out on Craigslist to see if a local can take me down some, you know, local running trails, and I’m like –
Amanda: – like, what the fuck are you talking about? He’s like, what? And I got, like, mad at him. I was like, you don’t do that! Like, what?
Sarah: [Still laughing] Why not?
Amanda: Like, people do it all the time! I was like, how do you think I would feel – like, like, if I was a woman, would you feel comfortable with me hooking, like, finding a stranger to take me on running trails in a place I’ve never been? He’s like, yeah, I guess. I was like –
Amanda: – just, guys don’t, guys don’t understand.
Sarah: They are not conditioned to fear for their safety.
Amanda: Yeah! Like, how many times as a woman we have to think about our own safety in spaces that we’re both comfortable in, like my own street, or places we’ve never been. Like, I would never in a million years go running with a stranger in an unfamiliar place, but he thought it was normal.
Sarah: I used to run, I used to run outside when I lived in New Jersey, and I would run in the mid-, in, on the side of the busiest streets, and I dressed ridiculously, because people didn’t always look where they were going; I would run with some weird colors and combinations. But I ran in the street, and I would wave to every car, like, hey, how you doing? Because I wanted to know that they –
Amanda: Because if something happened –
Sarah: – saw me.
Amanda: – someone would be like –
Sarah: Right. Man, I would have people who would swerve at me and make me get up on the sidewalk, and then I would be like, what the fuck is your problem, asshole? But you know what is so fascinating, what just hit me? Women are conditioned to both fear and need men in this sort of patriarchy/terror campaign. You should be afraid that some guy is going to make you a victim, and that’s why you need me, this other guy. I’m the nice guy; I’m going to take care of you. So we are conditioned to both fear men because we need men to protect us, and if we go out alone, then we deserve what we get, because other men are going to hurt us, and we should need a man to protect us.
Amanda: Well, when I –
Sarah: How completely fucked up is that?
Amanda: When I moved to Massachusetts – actually, no, when I started college in Florida, my parents gifted me with a pepper spray keychain?
Sarah: [Laughs] Have a good time, dear! Don’t get killed!
Amanda: Yeah! And in Florida I think it’s fine to have, but in Massachusetts, you need a permit to have pepper spray?
Sarah: Holy shit, really?
Amanda: Yeah, yeah.
Sarah: Oh, my gosh!
Amanda: One of the things on My Favorite Murder was Pepper Spray FIRST; Ask Questions LATER, because –
Amanda: – if I’m in a situation where I need to use pepper spray, I really don’t care that I might get fined for having it.
Elyse: Bring it, right?
Amanda: Like, this is my personal safety, and if the cops are going to, like, go after me for protecting myself with pepper spray, then, you know, whatever. I’ll take it; I’ll deal with it.
Elyse: I mean, even stuff like, whenever I come home, especially at night, when I get out of my car, I have my house key in my hand, and, like, I am ready to, I’m going to go straight to the house, put the key in, come inside, lock the door, and the number of times Rich and I have come home together at night, and he’s, like, fucking around on the front porch looking for his key, looking for the right key –
Elyse: – and I’m like, a woman would –
Amanda: Dropping his keys on the ground –
Elyse: [Laughs] Right! A woman would never do that!
Amanda: Nope. You’re ready to get in the house at the second you get there.
Elyse: Yeah, and then –
Sarah: And it’s funny –
Elyse: – you lock the fucking door.
Sarah: Oh, yeah! You lock – oh, yeah. So, what do you get out of – I mean, are you both, is your, is your favorite of this particular new genre or new evolution of True Crime, is your favorite My Favorite Murder, or is there something else that you’re like, oh, no, no, no, this is my thing? ‘Cause I tried to listen to My Favorite Murder, and I couldn’t, I couldn’t get past the comedy part?
Sarah: Because I start identifying with the victim. I’m like, okay, that’s someone’s, someone loved that person. Someone cared about that person, and –
Amanda: There’s –
Sarah: – that person is devastated, and I can’t get to the comedy part.
Amanda: Which is pie for me. My Favorite Murder is really great for kind of like the, the feminist aspect? I like that it’s by women and for women. I like the discussions on mental health. In their latest episode, they talked about how the two of them went to their first therapy session together to kind of address their communication styles and how they work together, which I thought was really cool. But I also like The Generation Why Podcast, W-H-Y. The hosts are two men. It’s not a comedy podcast. There’s a lot of research. It’s mainly storytelling, but there’s no comedy involved whatsoever, so it’s a pretty good straightforward podcast. They have really soothing voices. I know this is going to sound really twisted and awful, and I think I’ve told Sarah this, but I like to listen to things while I go to sleep, whether it’s white noise or a podcast, so my go-to white noise to put on is their episode on the Scott Peterson case?
Sarah: Holy shit! Yes, you did tell me this! [Laughs]
Amanda: And that, I’ve listened to it probably close to a hundred times, so I don’t really need to pay attention because I know the story, and it puts me to sleep in a good thirty to forty minutes; I’m out, I’m out like a light.
Elyse: The cool thing about Generation Why, though, is that they really don’t get into details? Like –
Elyse: – you know, get into the violent details, or if there’s sexual assault, they just say there was sexual assault. They, it’s not, they’re, they’re not hyping up that. Like, they’re being fairly vague about it. I think for the humor with My Favorite Murder, some of it is like you have to laugh so that you don’t cry, if that makes sense?
Amanda: Is My Favorite Murder your favorite, Elyse?
Elyse: I don’t know that it’s my favorite, ‘cause I drive, I have, like, a little over an hour commute every day, so I listen to a lot of different podcasts? So I listen to My Favorite Murder. We talked about Hollywood & Crime, which I really liked, and then there’re a couple others. I talked about In the Dark. Have you listened to Someone Knows Something?
Amanda: Yes! I thought the – so, Someone Knows Something, it’s on season two, and each season is a different case. I thought the first one was anticlimactic. It’s about this little boy who went missing, I think in Canada?
Elyse: Yeah, they’re all Canadian.
Amanda: Yeah, and there was this one part where they brought out, like, these sniffer dogs, and they were, like, hitting on stuff, even though this case is, like, thirty years old, but it was, I just found it anticlimactic. But I am enjoying the second season, where a woman was proposed to on, like, New Year’s Eve, and then she goes, like, missing, like, a day later.
Elyse: There’s another one that’s Canadian, too, from the Canadian Broadcasting Company, called Missing & Murdered, and that –
Amanda: Ooh, I listen to that one too.
Elyse: I think the thing that’s really interesting about that is it focuses on the fact that in Canada, and I would imagine everywhere else, the rate of abduction and murder among indigenous women or women of color is much higher than it is with white women, and it doesn’t get anywhere near the same amount of press coverage.
Amanda: And I liked that the host or the investigator of that podcast is also an indigenous woman, so I thought that was an, it brought, like, a deeper understanding –
Amanda: – to the podcast. I thought that was really good.
Elyse: And then there’s another one that I like called Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories. It’s a Parcast podcast. So the murders, like you can tell from the title, are unsolved, but it’s, it’s acted out; it’s like a radio drama. Each murder is a two-part episode, and then they do kind of like a, they intersperse the facts of the case with a dramatization.
Amanda: Some other recs – I’m going through my podcast list right now –
Elyse: I know.
Amanda: Criminal? The episodes are short, I believe, like maybe a half an hour, and the host kind of just touches on, really quickly, like, a crime case. One episode that I thought was really interesting was this young woman who, I can’t remember if she goes to buy a car or a house, but her credit is just obliterated, and it turns out that her mom had been opening up all these cards and stuff in her name, and her mom has since passed, so she’s trying to reconcile with the fact that her mom did all this stuff to her credit and trying to fix it, and not having any answers, and her dad was just as clueless. But that has, like, good shorts, I guess? There’s not an ongoing case that they’re working on. If you’re into, like, organized crime and corruption, Crimetown is really good. The first season, I think, deals with, like, political corruption in Providence, Rhode Island, I think, if I remember correctly. Let’s see, Casefile has an Australian host, and that –
Amanda: – and that’s pretty straightforward in that it’s kind of like Generation Why, where they’re just telling the story. It’s not humorous, but sometimes it can get graphic, right, Elyse? Am I remembering that –
Elyse: Yeah, they go into a little more detail.
Amanda: Yeah. And then, one that I thought was really, really good was Stranglers, which is –
Elyse: Oh, yes!
Amanda: – yeah – which is about the Boston Strangler case and how that it might have been possible that there was more than one Boston Strangler committing these crimes at the same time. That one was really fascinating. The host is great; she does great research. The interviews that she gets with people are amazing, so I highly recommend that one.
Sarah: People who have what my husband calls bartender pheromone, where you sit down and talk to them and they tell you everything about their lives? Those people make amazing interviews happen, and it’s really interesting.
Amanda: She finds people that, like, you know, had brushes with, potentially, the Boston Strangler or people working the case, and the memories that these people have, like, decades later about, like, the, the odd details that stick with them are amazing.
Elyse: I also read True Crime books – not a ton of them; they have to really, really intrigue me – but I have two that I want to recommend, if that’s cool. Is it cool that we recommend books on this podcast?
Amanda: I don’t know. That might be out of our purview.
Sarah: I guess. I’ll, I’ll allow it this one time.
Elyse: I appreciate that. So there’s a book by Beverly Lowry called Who Killed These Girls?, and it is about –
Elyse: – the Yogurt Shop Murders that happened in 1991 in Austin, and –
Amanda: Isn’t, isn’t that, like, a cold case, right? It’s, like, a crazy cold case.
Elyse: It is a cold case. So it’s about four girls who were working at an I can’t believe it’s not yogurt, or I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt! – I can’t believe it’s not yogurt –
Elyse: – What is it? We don’t know! – I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt! shop in Austin, Texas, and they had been closing up, and they had been murdered, and then the, the shop had been burned down to try and cover up some of the evidence of what had happened, and she does a really good job of kind of describing how it was handled initially and also talking about the girls as people, but then also how this crime really impacted the community, because at the time Austin was a very small community. They didn’t have a lot of violent crime. And then there’s another book I’m reading that – trigger warnings for discussions of sexual abuse against children – but it’s called The Fact of a Body –
Amanda: Yes! I was going to –
Elyse: – and –
Amanda: – recommend that one too! It’s so good!
Elyse: – it’s, it’s written by a woman who’s a lawyer. It’s, it’s half of a memoir and half of a True Crime book. So when she was in – I can’t remember if she had just graduated or she was still in law school, she went to New Orleans to work on –
Amanda: I think it’s, like, a summer internship or, like, a summer –
Elyse: Right, to try and get this guy off death row and just get him life in prison, and he had sexually assaulted and murdered a child, and as she was working on the case, it triggered her own memories of being sexually assaulted as a girl by a family member, and she talks about how that case in particular impacted her and also how it tied into her reconciling and understanding sexual abuse of children, and so it can be a little tough to read, but it’s, it’s really, really good, and it’s really thoughtful. And it’s also a, you know, a very personal memoir that I think, when people come forward and tell those stories, that this happened to me, this was a family member, at some point her parents knew about it, and they just chose not to discuss it, to never leave their kids alone with that family member again, but not to deal with it. She talks about how that impacted her, and I think those are powerful stories.
Amanda: Earlier, I think it was last year, there was a great series on A&E called The Killing Season? It just –
Elyse: Oh, that was so fucking scary!
Amanda: It was, it was really good. It’s about the unsolved case of what is being called the Long Island serial killer case, where these bodies were just found on this stretch of beach in Long Island, and they haven’t been able to solve it, and so these two filmmakers who have done some True Crime documentaries in the past kind of investigate it. It’s really good, but there’s also a book called Lost Girls by Robert Kolker. He’s a journalist who wrote a story on the fact that these bodies had been discovered, and for whatever reason, the Long Island police force hasn’t really been able to make any breaks in the case?
Elyse: Well, if I’m remembering correctly, the victims were all sex workers –
Elyse: – and we know that when women are sex workers and they get murdered, the –
Amanda: No one really cares.
Elyse: Right, the, the narrative is, well, they deserved it because they were sex workers, as opposed to, nobody deserves to get fucking murdered.
Amanda: Yeah. So it’s a, it’s a really good book. I think it was on, like, the New York Times 100 Notable Books, but the case is really recent, I think, like in 2010, or in the late 2010s? So it’s a new case, and I’m hoping that it’s still being worked on, so maybe we’ll see something in the future.
Elyse: I think one of the things that’s really significant with the uptick in women talking about True Crime and the fact that we’re looking at it from a more feminist perspective is we are changing the narrative a little bit from somehow the victim deserved this because she was promiscuous or she was in a bad neighborhood or she made bad decisions to looking at toxic masculinity as a cause of a lot of these murders. Like, why did you think that you – you know, men who have anger issues and feel like they’re entitled to this –
Elyse: – and then murder this woman because she didn’t sleep with him, or she cheated on him, or whatever. There, we’re shifting –
Amanda: Or, like, her being a sex worker, you know, maybe they viewed her as less than because she’s a sex worker.
Sarah: Yeah, it negates her humanity.
Elyse: Right, and, and so we’re kind of, it’s almost like, I think one of the things that feels very therapeutic for me is that we’re getting angry, right.
Elyse: As a, as a community of women, we’re saying, fuck this, and we’re going to talk about it, and we’re going to talk about it honestly, and we’re not going to victim blame, and it, that anger is, is cathartic. It feels good, and I think that’s some of the reason why I don’t get bogged down in the, the sadness of it.
Sarah: I do want to ask you a question, and I don’t expect you to have the answer –
Sarah: – but I’m curious what you think, what your take is on the, on the racial aspect, because so much of who is talking about this, watching it, consuming it, and the profiles are of white women.
Amanda: I can’t remember what podcast it was, but they, there’s, like, a term for women of color who, you know, wind up murdered or go missing, and they’re called, like, the invisibles or something like that, because, you know, no one really pays them any attention. No one, they don’t get, like, the press coverage that, you know, a, a white woman would. I, there’s a podcast called The Vanished that’s all about missing persons, and there was this little, five-year-old girl who happened to be Black, who, her mother went to prison. She was, when she was born, she was given to a family, I think, like, cousins of the mother, and she had a great life! And then the mom came out of prison when her daughter was five and insisted that she get custody back. Now, this mother went to prison for child abuse and child neglect, and the family was like, we don’t really want to give her back to her mother, but the police were like, you know, there’s no sort of, like, transfer of parental rights; you have to give her back. And this child winds up going missing. Well, this was also happening around the same time as the Casey Anthony case, so this got no press coverage at all because everyone was so glued to the Casey and Caylee Anthony, you know, media circus that it was. So it is tragic, and it’s unfortunate, and to be honest, I don’t know what can be done? You know, I’m hoping that by, as Elyse said, changing the narrative and, you know, viewing sex workers as people rather than, like, oh, they’re sex workers, this is, like, an occupational hazard sort of thing, might help with getting certain cases more media attention? Especially with these, like, armchair detectives and these podcasts kind of, you know –
Amanda: – putting a spotlight on these cases.
Elyse: I know that, you know, the – I don’t know the answer to why the consumption of True Crime is predominantly white women. I do think that there is starting to be a little bit more focus on the fact that especially women of color do not get the same media attention that white women do. Like, we talked about the, the podcast Missing & Murdered from the Canadian Broadcasting Company. They talk about the fact that there are a lot of indigenous Canadian women who are murdered or who disappear that never get any media attention, and so, and it’s a, it’s an indigenous Canadian woman who does the podcast, too, which I think is very significant. I’m hoping that changes, but that’s, that’s a real issue. I mean, when a little, when a little white girl goes missing, it’s a big fucking deal, and when a child of color does, it’s much, much less televised. It’s not, it’s not as significant of an event, and I think that talks about just how pervasive racism is in our society.
Amanda: It’s definite-, I, I was about to say, it’s definitely a show of, like, how ingrained racism is in the sense that, you know, a white child’s life is, you know, more valuable than a black child’s. Like, we’re going to put more effort in finding one over the other.
Elyse: And I think that there is, I mean, there’s a sort of scale of victims. So there’s the white woman who is, you know, married and has kids, and for whatever reasons can –
Amanda: Like, the mother, yeah.
Elyse: The mother figure, right, or the young woman who’s going to college, who’s viewed as being, you know, “a good girl.” Then there’s the white woman who’s a sex worker or who is sexually promiscuous or maybe had a drug habit or is mentally ill or had some factor that makes her less than, and then the scale slides down into women of color, and it’s, it’s really sad. It’s a, it’s a sad fact that we live in a society that uses those, those factors to decide how much a person’s life is worth.
Sarah: Are there, aside from the, the indigenous podcast that you mentioned, are there any that focus exclusively on victims of color that you know of?
Elyse: I have not found any that have, no.
Amanda: Yeah, I haven’t either. Your best bet right now is to find a podcast, and they’ll have episodes that focus on victims of color. I think there was one, it might have been either Generation Why, or True Crime Garage did a, one on Mitrice Richardson, her death and, her disappearance and death, but I thought that was a really good episode, and that addresses how, you know, one, she was suffering from an undiagnosed mental illness, but, you know, the police thought that she was just drunk or on drugs and not really in need of any sort of supervision.
Elyse: Well, I think – and I’m not, please, please do not misinterpret this as me making excuses, because I’m not, because it’s bullshit – but a lot of these cases, when you, you do the podcasts, they rely very heavily on what the police have done, the active investigation, what the community has done to help fill out that story, and if we are being honest, when people of color go missing or are murdered, there is less community attention, and there may well be less police attention to what happened, and so there are fewer details to that story. So, and, and I think that’s a story in and of itself.
Sarah: So I did some quick Googling, which is by no way, a –
Sarah: – an exhaustive search, and there is a, a website that I like called podcastsincolor.com –
Sarah: – and that is a directory of podcasts of color. They spotlight different podcasts made by people of color, and there is one, one show represented in True Crime, and it is called True Crime Asia –
Sarah: – and this person, the host will take you through “one crime from one country in Asia.” So there’s an episode about occult murders, there’s an episode of something set in India, but I think the last one was in February, and I haven’t seen any others.
Elyse: Yeah, I’m looking at it. There’s an episode in February, December, and November.
Sarah: Yep, that’s it. I mean, I fully empathize – I think it was Linda Holmes at, at NPR who said that the, 2017 is going to be peak year of hey, remember that podcast I started, I didn’t realize it was so much work? Which is totally true? [Laughs] I can attest to that! But I don’t easily find podcasts of True Crime or any consumption of True Crime that focuses on victims of color, especially like the amount of attention lately paid to how many victims of color are also trans and how high that murder rate is. The thing that I think is so interesting about the number of romance fans who are also fans of True Crime is that a lot of True Crime has no ending.
Sarah: You know, there are a lot of, like you said, Amanda, the, the unsolved, the un-, the unresolved cases are very frustrating, and the missing cases are frustrating because if those people don’t, don’t, if they’re not discovered or found or recovered, then there’s no end. There’s just a mystery.
Elyse: Do you watch Disappeared, Amanda?
Amanda: No, what is that?
Elyse: Disappeared –
Sarah: [Laughs] I love the way, like, wait, what?
Sarah: I’m sorry. So did you hear about that book with the billionaire and the secret baby and the, and the marriage of convenience? No? I want to know about, that’s the same –
Elyse: And they’re Amish vampires?
Sarah: Yes! I get the, the same expression of, oh, really? Tell me more! It’s, it is so interesting.
Sarah: Anyway, Disappeared.
Elyse: There are two shows I really like on Investigation Discovery: one is Disappeared, and it is, every episode is about a different person who disappeared, and sometimes after, I think it’s usually after filming, you’ll get kind of the blurb at the end where there is some resolution to what happened, and sometimes you don’t find out, and it drives Rich nuts. Like, he, my husband, my husband cannot watch, watch what he calls murder shows. Like, murder shows are Elyse Time only.
Elyse: Usually murder shows involve Dewey, me, knitting, and an adult beverage of some kind, ‘cause he just can’t do it, and Disappeared drives him the most crazy, because there’s no resolution at the end? So if I’m watching it and he comes in the room, he’s like, oh, let me tell you how this ends: we don’t fucking know! And then he walks out of the room. And also, like, the production quality of Disappeared is not super amazing, but – [laughs] – he’s doing an impression of the show: still photo, pan, still photo, pan.
Sarah: See, I can’t watch that either.
Elyse: But –
Elyse: – the stories really, really fascinate me. Like, there’s a story of a woman who, she was a mom, she had – there, there wasn’t anything that stood out as being of concern in her life. Like, no debts, no sudden change in behavior that might indicate mental illness, no substance abuse problems. She calls into sick, calls into work sick one day, middle of the day, leaves a note on the counter for her husband, ‘cause he’s going to coming home from work, saying, hey, I went for a walk, and is never seen again, and it’s like, what the fuck happened? Right, like –
Elyse: – I, I hope when I die, if there’s an afterlife, I know how all of these things ended. Like, I’ll get resolution at that point. So I really Disappeared, and then I also really like the show A Crime to Remember, and they’re all set, like, ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s, maybe going into the ‘60s, and they’re significant crimes that happened in the past, but they reenact them, and that production quality is a little bit better. Like, one of the ones that I think was really interesting was the story of Kitty Genovese?
Amanda: Oh, my God, have you seen The Witness on –
Amanda: It’s so heartbreaking. My mother and my grandmother used to live in New York, and this was, like, the story my grandmother would tell me to, like, scare me as, like, a teen. Like, be responsible, and – oh, my gosh.
Sarah: The legend of Kitty Genovese is a little bit different from the reality. The, the, the idea that there were thirty-eight witnesses or people who heard was actually propagated by a newspaper report – I know that you are shocked.
Elyse: Are you suggesting that the media sometimes fucks with True Crime?
Elyse: And –
Amanda: Fake news, Sarah! It’s fake –
Sarah: I know, I know, fake news. Someone did actually call the police, and there were people who heard it, but because they were only seeing parts of it, no one put the whole picture together until the end? But at the same time, I also think that it’s, it’s important to acknowledge that, you know, bystander effect is totally real, that you don’t want to get involved in someone’s argument, you know what I mean?
Elyse: Oh, yeah!
Sarah: You, you don’t want to take responsibility for a situation that you don’t know anything about, but then there are also situations where I still regret not saying anything or not getting involved. One of the things that I, that I find so interesting about My Favorite Murder is that it, it encourages people to actually get involved –
Elyse: Yes! And –
Sarah: – and, and look out for each other.
Elyse: – and I think that, you know, again, by addressing this and by kind of giving women permission to be rude or be loud or do whatever, I mean, they talk about one of the things, I, I can’t remember where I read it, but they said, if you see a woman, as a woman, if you see a woman who’s clearly kind of being harassed or, like, some guy’s just not leaving her alone –
Sarah: You okay, sis?
Elyse: – you, yeah! Walk over and be like, oh, hey! I’m so glad, you know, we could meet for lunch! And, like, insert yourself into, you know, the conversation. Like, hey, I am another person who is expecting this person, and –
Sarah: She’s not alone.
Elyse: – she’s not alone, and now you’re going to be uncomfortable. And, you know, I think women do that for other women; we’re kind of more aware of what’s happening to – you know, how many times have you gone up to another woman and said, are you okay?
Elyse: Even a total stranger. You know, you hear, you see someone in the bathroom who’s clearly upset at Target – are you okay? Do you need help?
Amanda: In terms of, like, television, I don’t watch a lot of True Crime. Like, I like documentaries a lot. Netflix has been doing some, some really great stuff there. A lot of the Investigation Discovery shows, it’s hard for me to get into, ‘cause I hate reenactments so much, and their punny titles of shows just make me mad. Like –
Amanda: – Southern Fried Homicide and, like, Wives with Knives and, like, geeze, people. I, I just can’t with those? I just can’t. Like – but you’ll be amazed at, like, how many cases there are with, you know, jilted wives stabbing their husbands. But there are two good shows on ID that I really like. One is Real Detective. They do have reenactments, but they’re so well done, and a lot of the time it’s just about actual detectives giving commentary or retelling these cases that they just can’t forget that have really impacted them, so I like having that added interview of someone who was actually there and actually worked on a case.
Sarah: That was the other thing I wanted to ask you about very quickly. One of the things that My Favorite Murder has brought up frequently – I, I love how I know all about this show that I can’t listen to.
Sarah: I’ve read a lot of, I did a lot of research – that everyone has a local murder.
Amanda: A hometown murder, yeah.
Sarah: Yes, everyone has a, a murder that was local or hometown to them, and I was like, oh, my gosh, that’s even true for me, ‘cause my freshman year, a guy murdered a senior at my high school and said that he did it because when he watched A Clockwork Orange it made him do terrible things, so he called her out of her house in the middle of the night and killed her, and left her in the yard for her parents to find.
Elyse: Oh, yeah, no, totally, it’s A Clockwork Orange’s fault, you motherfucker.
Sarah: Oh, yeah, totally. But I remember thinking, oh, my God, I’m never leaving my house at night. Like, that, that one local thing changes your behavior.
Elyse: I’m from Wisconsin, where not only do we have serial killers –
Amanda: You’ve got some –
Elyse: – they’re –
Amanda: – heavy-hitter serial killers.
Sarah: Seriously, Elyse, what’s in the cheese? We need to look at the cheese; the cheese is doing something.
Amanda: This wouldn’t happen if –
Sarah: If you ate more Velveeta, this wouldn’t happen.
Elyse: I don’t think it’s the cheese. I, I honestly think, to some extent, when it’s this cold and gray for this much of the year, it fucks you up.
Sarah: I’m telling you, you ate more Velveeta, you wouldn’t have this problem. [Laughs]
Elyse: One show that I really like – it’s on Lifetime – is I Survived.
Amanda: Ooh, that’s –
Elyse: And it’s not all crime-based. I mean, some of it are, some of it is people who survived disasters and stuff like that, but it’s, it’s, like, this empowering show because the person who survived this horrible event is telling you about it. And it, again, the production value isn’t that amazing, because they really don’t do reenactments, but they just focus on this person telling you their story. It’s just, it’s incredible, and it’s, it’s also, I think, affirming because, obviously, these people survived or they wouldn’t be on the show called I Survived.
Amanda: Vanity Fair Confidential is really good.
Elyse: Oh, that’s good.
Amanda: It’s, I think it’s also on Investigation Discovery. And I mean, with Vanity Fair backing it, it’s got some good production value and amazing interviews, but it runs the gamut of well-known doctor, you know, skips town and, you know, the double life he was leading, to murders, to just all sorts of stuff.
Elyse: Did you, did you watch the one about the woman who went in for laser treatment in New York City and disappeared?
Elyse: So this woman goes to – and I’m probably getting this all wrong, and I apologize, so disclaimer: do not, not that, I’m, I’m just talking out of my ass here – but this woman goes to a, like, laser treatment clinic, like an esthetic laser treatment clinic and disappears, and she’s never seen again, and the police focus all the stuff, like, on her boyfriend and was it a stranger abduction? And it turns out the guy running this, like, you know, this clinic didn’t have a license, and he’d, like, faked his way through all the stuff. He accidentally, like, killed the woman and then buried her in his backyard to cover it up, so it was, like, completely not what anyone thought.
Sarah: Holy shit.
Elyse: Okay, so here’s the, the story I was telling you about, so I’ll have the facts correct: the woman’s name was Maria Cruz; she was a financial analyst; she was thirty-five years old. She went to the cosmetology clinic of a guy named Dean Faiello for laser treatment. Turns out that this guy did not have any kind of license to do cosmetic surgery and also had an out-of-control drug habit, which is not a great combination. So she went to see him for something called black tongue and during her treatment started having seizures due to a lidocaine injection he had given her, and he obviously didn’t call the police ‘cause he was practicing without a license and probably while snorting cocaine, and when she died, he hid her body in his backyard, and I believe it was not found until another couple bought his house.
Amanda: Oh –
Elyse: Can you imagine buying a house and then, surprise! There’s a dead person in your backyard.
Sarah: Oh, my God.
Amanda: If you don’t have cable, BuzzFeed has started doing, like, these little shorts called BuzzFeed Unsolved. You can find it on YouTube really easily. They switch between, so there’s BuzzFeed Unsolved: Supernatural that looks at supernatural mysteries and then BuzzFeed Unsolved – True Crime that has True Crime stories, and the videos are usually pretty quick. They range anywhere from, I don’t know, like seven minutes to about a half an hour, and looking at their page, it says they have new episodes every Friday at 3:00, so if you don’t have TV or cable, I think their series is pretty interesting. They had one on the Salem witch trials which I really liked.
If someone’s into True Crime or, like, crime, but they don’t like the, I don’t know, like, gory aspects of it, I watched a really good documentary last night. It’s more like schemes and, like, white collar crime. It’s called Betting on Zero. It is available on Netflix for streaming, and it’s how this company, Herbalife is essentially a multilevel marketing/pyramid scheme, and, like, a Wall Street bro tries to expose them, but the main aspect is, is that Herbalife targets Latino communities, and so there’s this big group of mainly women trying to expose how Herbalife is a pyramid scheme, and no matter how much money you put into it, you’re not going to get any money back. It was really good. It’s like an hour and forty minutes or so, but I, I thought it was really good.
Sarah: I follow the documentaries channel on Reddit, and I was reading about this last night. One of the interesting things that the, the conversation around it emphasized was that if you have to pay to be part of a business, you’re not a business owner, you’re a customer?
Sarah: So that if you have to participate in a business that requires you to pay to be part of it, you’re not running a business, you’re a customer of that business, and the later you get in, the less money you make, but that’s how pyramid schemes work, generally.
Amanda: Yeah, there’s one thing that’s like, if you’re at the bottom, in order to make the kind of money that –
Sarah: They tell you you’re going to make.
Amanda: – yeah – you’d have to have as many people under you that equals more than the actual population of the earth.
Amanda: There’s no, really, there’s no possible way.
Sarah: Somebody did math!
Sarah: And that is all for this week’s episode. I want to thank Amanda and Elyse for hanging out with me and letting me ask them, but why do you like this? over and over and over.
If you are a True Crime fan or you have recommendations you want to share, you can come find us on smartbitchestrashybooks.com/podcast in the comments to this entry, or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or if you’re feeling like one email is better, Sarah@smartbitchestrashybooks.com also works, all goes to the same places. But if you’re a big fan of True Crime and you’d like to recommend or maybe explain the things that you like about it, I would love to hear from you, because y’all are really interesting and have cool things to say!
This episode was sponsored by Jules & James, a fiction podcast that tells the story of two strangers who fell in love with the unknown, and if you remember this from the intro, I have a sample, so stay tuned! Have you ever met a stranger and felt like you had a special connection to them, like you’ve known them from before? That’s the inspiration behind Jules & James, a new romance fiction podcast made up of a series of conversations between two young artists, Jules and James. They start talking to each other through a misdialed phone number and decide to keep chatting indefinitely, but under certain conditions. During weekly calls, Jules and James talk about their lives in London and Paris, their dreams for the future, the world around them, and everything else that the comfort of speaking to a stranger allows you to reveal. And who knows, maybe their phone conversations might turn into something more. So if you are at all curious, the wonderful folks behind Jules & James gave me a sample to share with you, so here is a sample of the first episode of Jules & James:
Why are we still talking? You’re a wrong number.
And you’re a sign. I don’t know, I’ve never actually met a sign. Here you are! A real live sign speaking to me with this great British accent.
Uh, well, it’s my voice; I’m not putting it on.
And you’ve literally changed the trajectory of my entire life. I mean, I think that’s worth a, a quick chat.
You used literally wrong.
I have a confession.
It’s absurd that your name –
Sarah: What about his name? I don’t know. I have to listen to the rest of the episode. If you would like to eavesdrop on more of their conversations, you can subscribe and download the episodes on iTunes, Google Play, RadioPublic, and other outlets. I will have links at smartbitchestrashybooks.com/podcast, and you can check out meetjulesandjames.com to find out more! Thank you so much to Jules & James and the team behind the show for supporting this episode!
I also want to tell you about a thing, because this is super exciting for me. If you will be in or near Orlando, Florida, on Saturday, July 29th, Romance Writers of America is hosting their annual “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing. There will be literally – and I used it correctly – hundreds of romance authors in one place, and all of the proceeds go to literacy organizations. Over the past few years, their donations to literacy from the RWA have totaled over one million dollars. So some of your favorite authors are going to be there, like Tessa Dare, Courtney Milan, Julie James, Beverly Jenkins, Jill Shalvis, and for the first time, I’m going to be signing too! I’m so excited! The signing is at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort in the Pacific Hall. It is Saturday, July 29th, 2017, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., and if you come find me – I’m in the Ws, we have all the air conditioning and it’s super cool – mention the podcast, and I will have a special sticker just for you, if you would like one! For all of the details, you can go to rwa.org/literacy; that’s rwa.org/literacy!
Our music every week is provided by Sassy Outwater. You can find her on Twitter @SassyOutwater. Yes, this is still Caravan Palace, because this two-album set makes me stupid levels of happy. This track is called “Lazy Place,” and I really like this one a lot. I’ve used it before. You can find the two-album set that includes both the albums Caravan Palace and Panic at Amazon and iTunes and wherever you get your fine music. Caravan Palace is also on Facebook and on their website at caravanpalace.com.
Now, I have been reading a few articles on improving your podcast and outreach with podcasts and growth, and it occurred to me that all of the things that I’m supposed to ask for, you guys have already done, and I’m really honored by that. As I said in the intro, the podcast has totaled over a million downloads, and I’m seriously blown away by that, so thank you so much for hanging out with me each week and for liking the show, telling a friend, leaving a review, subscribing, and having a look at our Patreon at patreon.com/SmartBitches. However you’re choosing to support the show means an enormous amount to me, and I’m so glad that you’re listening, and I will say this in an entry on Sunday on the site, but I always wanted to have my own radio show, and now I do, and it’s really cool! So thank you so much.
On behalf of Amanda and Elyse and myself, we wish you the very best of reading and listening. Have a great weekend! We will see you next week.
This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.
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