So, do y’all remember me writing about how much I loved the podcast Serial awhile back? I’m not sure I stand by that anymore.
(Do I give a Spoiler alert here? I mean, this is a true story that’s out on the internet, not a scripted TV show no one knows the ending of. I don’t know. I guess if you haven’t listened to the podcast and don’t even want to know how they handled the story, then this might spoil things. But if you’re not sure you care, or maybe considering listening to it, then I don’t think this will spoil things. But I DON’T KNOW! POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD?)
I did really like it. And while a lot of people complained when the host went from actual investigating of facts to “discussing of personal opinions” …I didn’t mind that. I felt like that made a lot of the characters, including the host as she was a character herself, 3-dimensional and not just “someone who saw this ________” or “someone who did this _________” BUT! The second the last episode played without any sort of wrap-up reminding the listeners that Hae Min Lee was still dead, it suddenly felt very exploitive.
I think I expected the final episode to kinda remind people of that, since it did feel like culture – as a whole – was discussing this podcast like it was the latest episode of Scandal and forgetting there’s still a dead 18-year old girl at the center of the story. I mean…I understood that excitement, it was a well-done podcast. I didn’t mind the fervor around it at first, but I did feel like it was the job of the podcast to bring everyone back to reality in the end. And they didn’t.
The final episode was fine, I liked that we got to hear from the producers more and I liked that Sarah Koenig was very honest about how often she changed her mind about things, but it surprised me that no one ever said – when discussing other potential suspects, “And it keeps me awake at night knowing the real murderer could be still out there.”
Why didn’t they say that? There were small little things like that, that I expected on the last episode, to bring it all back from the “Law & Order” feel of a TV show you’re trying to guess the ending of, to a REAL story involving a REAL tragic murder. And none of that happened. No thoughts on how – if the wrong guy is in jail – there could be a murderer still roaming free. Not discussion about how, if the right guy is in jail, they’ve dug up a traumatic phase in everyone’s history for nothing. Sarah Koenig did not keep the 4th wall up at all, she often discussed how the popularity of the story led them down new paths of investigation. So why didn’t they discuss how that same popularity made them feel more like they were writing a scripted television show than doing a journalistic piece on a possible botched trial?
I don’t know…I guess I just expected some “real” talk on the last episode, maybe even some discussion about how the popularity of the podcast got weird considering there’s still a tragic murder in the center of it all. Maybe just a gentle reminder to people writing blog posts and podcasting like it is a television show…that it’s NOT a television show. It’s a true story. It might deserve a little more respect than, say, your recap of The Good Wife.
But nope, just a basic wrap-up. Good, but just missing a lot, to me. Missing a lot that would have made me feel comfortable with people joking about their addiction to it. I don’t know, it just went from “Holy Cow…this is an interesting look on crime investigation and murder trials!” to “Why am I saying I’m addicted to a story about a girl’s murder?”
I’ve been sitting on that for weeks, trying to decide how I felt about it all. And then they started offering swag with the show logo – and that felt REALLY weird. Maybe after there’s a second season with a different story it won’t feel weird. But right now, all that logo means to me is “A story about the murder of an 18-year old girl!” And who wants that logo on their coffee mug?
And then there was MORE digging by other journalists and agencies and there were podcasts about podcasts and I DON’T KNOW…It just got weird. REALLY WEIRD.
So, I’ve stopped talking about it completely. I don’t recommend it anymore. I still think it was well done and if it hadn’t gotten so popular, none of this would sit wrong with me. But since it became a pop-culture hit, something that Entertainment Weekly wrote about, I felt like the last few episodes should have maybe brought the people listening back down to earth a bit. I definitely don’t think they should be selling swag until that logo stands for something other than Hae Min Lee’s murder. When someone asks me if I listened to it, I give them this long speech that basically says what I’ve said here.
Yes, I listened to it. I thought it was well done, but the popularity of it all freaked me out and I had trouble listening to the last few episodes without thinking about Hae Min’s family, knowing that I was one of 40 million people listening to the story of their daughter’s murder.
What about you? Did your feelings change about it? Did any of the fanfare sit weird with you?