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14 April 2017

Anyone here listened to the Shittown podcast from This American Life? I have finished the first two and I don't know that it is worth going on.[More:] I have read a lot of praise for it and people have called it a true crime story but before the end of the first episode it became clear this is not about a murder but about one man's mental health.

After the second episode I find I am not liking host Brian Reed's presentation much and and it seems this will be a dissection of a troubled man's life and death.

That is not in itself bad but I feel like John McLemore reached out to a broadcaster as a lifeline and I can see this getting very exploitive very quickly.

My dislike of the host might not change but I can live with that. I don't however, want to spend another 5 hours on exploitation.
I found it to be gripping in the later episodes. Episode three was the one that affected me most emotionally, but I found it to be a fascinating study of a complex man who was full of contradictions. I didn't mind the presenter's style, nor did I find it to be exploitative.
posted by Senyar 14 April | 02:52
I found it very interesting and enjoyed listening. However, I do not think that there was a cohesive story with any discernible arc, which was disappointing. My other complaint is that Brian Reed is an uptalker and every sentence sounded like a question. The more I listened, the more this annoyed me.
posted by amro 14 April | 14:37
I am with you. Listened to the whole thing, came away feeling that it was voyeuristic. It's an interesting portrait of one person's life and the ways in which a stifling, dead-end environment twists and stunts people in many and various ways, but in the end, though there was some craft to admire in the storytelling, the commodification of the people and content left me with a bad taste.
posted by Miko 14 April | 23:46
When I was young and first seriously considering journalism, some degree of invasion/exploitation seemed inescapable in the nature of it-- now I'm going to try to proceed here without spoiling anything.

Basically, the big issues people have seem to circle around consent and appropriate representation, which in the end is a big question, but ultimately those are questions for nearly anyone that is a subject of a complicated work. Even when people do consent to things, when and why they do at that moment can be contested as to their ability for informed consent and ultimately no one can control how other people choose to perceive things at any stage of a thing's existence. So while people can balk at whether or not the subject would have agreed to it or if he could have even been able to give informed consent, the reasons why people find it so estimable do, to my mind and others, more than validate its existence. It is, so far as I know, a rare work in its kind because it evidences a life that is not a common occurrence in anyone's stories.

If anyone was to try to divine his actual, truest wishes from what we have access to, what emerges has to do with making a difference and preserving unusual things of value. This does those things and as all the people who cared about him involved with it seem at least ok with it, it's an affecting requiem and memorial. The qualms I had with it fell away with all the people who were grateful for the testimony of this kind of existence. I'd love to discuss it once we're past spoilertown.
posted by ethylene 19 April | 15:45
I liked the first 2 episodes best, so if you don't like them, I'd stop.
posted by Obscure Reference 19 April | 20:09
I find there's a difference between consent and commodification. You can commodify someone, even with their consent, and it doesn't make it less distasteful.

One powerful difference between this and journalism is the notion of the public interest. It's hard to argue this is journalism by that test, so discussions about what journalism is/needs don't support the decisions related to S-Town much. The TAL/Serial team are not really journalists, though they play at it sometimes.
posted by Miko 19 April | 21:45