Every week I listen to the podcast Tenfold More Wicked Presents: Wicked Words. It’s released on Mondays, so I curl up with coffee and listen to what is always a great conversation. One of these conversations touched on an important topic I don’t think we talk about enough.
True crime is difficult to be interested in. We feel disconnected to these acts as individuals, but these things truly happened. They happened to real people, no matter how long ago it was. As a collective, we are more interested in the criminal than the victim. This is to the point where we can rattle off the names of over ten people we all wish never existed. There are some who care so much about murderers, in an almost idealized way- that we all should reconsider how we are discussing this. In her interview with Rachel Monroe about Lindsay Souvannarath, Kate Winkler Dawson states:
“True crime doesn’t always have the best reputation when it comes to respecting the victims, when it comes to exploiting the victims –and really putting an emphasis on glamorizing the killers- and that’s a problem.” (Tenfold More Wicked Presents, Wicked Words. Rachel Monroe: Savage Appetite)
Bad Women, Ripper Retold from Hallie Rubenhold is a necessary podcast that holds this idea at its center.
Rubenhold is a sex work historian and the author of the best-selling book, The Five. The book and the podcast cover the same topic: The five women whose names we cannot remember. Their killer, on the other hand, is one the annals of time will never forget.
The Five were murdered by Jack the Ripper.
In this podcast Rubenhold uses her expertise as a historian to shine a light through these mists of history. Throughout the episodes, Rubenhold clearly states that she does not care about the real identity of the murderer. This is much to the bewilderment of “Ripperologists”- those amateur historians who spend their free time trying to figure out who Jack the Ripper Was.
Rubenhold is adamant in her position. We have spent enough time on an individual we will never know the real identity of. However, there are five women who we should remember. We need to remember the five who we knew about, who we didn’t remember. For the record:They weren’t all prostitutes. Even if that’s how we remember them, why aren’t they important?
Through the first two episodes, Rubenhold guides us through these difficult channels. We start with the usual ,then slowly we slide into the important things: Who were these women? Why are they important? Why are they important now when they weren’t important then?
It may be my American taste, but this podcast feels like it should sit with Lucy Worsley on the BBC. This feels like an October piece to put after someone talking about the Whitechapel Murders in the traditional sense. Give people some great foils to compare. Further, Rubenhold simply makes good content. Ripper Retold is easy to follow, with a narration full of spirit. She weaves a story as fascinating as it is important. I’m also excited to say that these thirty (or so) minute episodes will add up to be a fifteen-part series. This show gives us a chunk of fascinating to dig into while the days get shorter here in the north. We are cushioned by a good mix of interview, narration, and world building. As we walk further into this story we think we know, we will certainly find things we should know.
I sit awkwardly in my interest of true crime. Truly, no one should sit comfortably in it- at least not for very long. I’m greatful to be invited to listen to a podcast sitting right where I want to be looking. We can’t deny that murder has aftershocks that rattle a community. I’ve experienced the intense fear that grips a community between crime and capture. This podcast will dive into that space to examine so much more than the brutal murders. We will know 1888 London, the society of the rich, and the poor. We will get to know the five in a way that we have not been able to know them before.
Thank you to Greatpods and Hallie Rubenhold for giving me the early listen. Listen to Bad Women, Ripper Retold today, wherever you get your podcasts. For the record: I will read The Five and possibly be doing a Pages and Pods pair up for it. Stay tuned!