Serial: The Podcast and Why I Stopped Listening

When I was a kid, the Son of Sam stalked my neighborhood of Flushing, Queens. He killed two people just three blocks from the house I grew up in. I became a bit obsessed with serial killers and how they operated. The mindset, the lurid details, their sad dehumanizing upbringing…
I devoured non-fiction books by the ton. Documentaries, what there were on the subject at the time at least, were treasured viewing. I once met a woman who was writing her masters thesis on the subject and we became friends. She had somehow gained access to some “not-for-public” records and interviews and she shared them with me.

So, all this to say that for most of my life I had a vigorous appetite for serial killer stories.

Then three things happened… the third one is that I got older. The first two are personal and I have a bit of a hard time sharing them… now, to be honest, nothing happened to me. But things happened to people close to me and it changed how I think and feel about the genre of “women in jeopardy.”

Which brings us to “Serial.”
It’s an expert podcast with excellent writing, editing and producing. Sarah Koenig is a great writer and host and it’s immensely engrossing. But as I listened to the third episode I came to the realization that it’s Adnan’s story; is he guilty or innocent of his girlfriends murder, that’s what the story is all about. And the subplot is Sarah’s involvement with the people in the story as well. To me, forgotten in all of this was Hae Min Lee, the murder victim.

The podcast focuses on the unraveling of the prosecution’s case against Adnan and introduces several other characters, I mean people, whose own stories either bolster or disrupt the idea that Adnan is innocent of murder. As we delve deeper into the world of high school drama mixed with a thrilling murder mystery, the story gets more interesting with an assortment of sordid personnel (the creepy pervert who found the body, the drug dealing “best friend”, the ineffective and now deceased defense attorney…)

But it’s not a story. It’s a real murder and Hae Min Lee was murdered. Strangled. She’s the only one we never really hear from. Koenig reads from her journal and old friends recount their time with her but both are actually hearsay and probably inadmissible in a court of law. The one good thing to come out of this is that Adnan’s appeal will be in a court of law once again in January. It needs to be settled.

hae-min-lee-jpgI recognize how well produced the podcast is. I recognize how stories like this are so popular (hell, one of the reasons we remember Jack the Ripper to this day is because of the press coverage of the time.) I recognize that there are a million other awful, awful things going on.

I have a hard time nowadays with murder as entertainment. Perhaps I’m getting older. Perhaps I’m getting a bit soft. Perhaps I have been inundated with so much (all self inflicted) murder that I cannot take yet one more.

Serial is a very popular podcast. Hae Min Lee deserves more than a podcast. Murdered at 18. She was girl and now she’s a plot device.