Life As a Story: The Serial PodcastJanuary 08, 2015
OK, so, Serial. The twelve-episode podcast took the Internet by storm last fall (it even got its own meta-podcast), but in case you missed it, Serial is a This American Life spin-off, produced and hosted by Sarah Koenig. Its first season featured a reexamination of the 1999 murder case of high school student Hae Min Lee. Lee's ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was charged and convicted of the murder based upon (as we discover, along with Koenig) murky evidence. I could go into a synopsis, but, really, I'd just be repeating the work of others. If you're that curious, just listen, but don't blame me for how you spend the next 12 hours of your life. It's an amazing piece of investigative journalism and spellbinding ear candy.
Anyway, major spoiler alert: Koenig and her colleagues do not "crack the case." Syed is still in prison, and, although we're all on the edge of our seats over whether DNA from the case can or will actually be tested, it's entirely possible he'll remain in prison. It's entirely possible it's the right place for him to be. We really don't know.
And this seems to upset some people. We all wanted an ending, irrational as it was to expect from the get-go. We all had the burning anticipation we get as we near the end of a particularly good mystery novel. Seriously, whodunit? FunnyOrDie took advantage of this fact particularly well. When she spoke with Terry Gross last month, Koenig says that even Ira Glass suggested that she and her team solve the murder to round out the series (ooookay, Ira). (Unrelated: I will use any excuse to bring this comic back.) At the end of the day, Koenig and her team aren't detectives; they're storytellers.
As a bookish gal, this got me thinking about our need as humans to squeeze the world into neat narrative arcs that it (almost) never fits into. That's not to say that there isn't a definite series of events associated with this crime—there had to be have been, for it to occur—but it's one we may never find out, no matter how badly we want to.
To be disappointed in the podcast for that fact is to miss all the other fantastic points it has to offer: its commentary on the faultiness of memory, its portrayal of just how flawed our justice system can be (a favorite topic of mine), and the rollercoaster ride of humanity's capacity to trust and to doubt. Sure, we didn't get things tied up in a neat bow for us, but, seriously, when does life happen that way?
As for me? I blame the stupid library. Who only has seven tapes for its security cameras? Ugh, 1999.
Anyone else listen to Serial? (I know you did, Julianne.) What did you think?