So, Serial…I finished the podcasts in 2 days in typical binge watching fashion (or in this case, listening). Like everyone else, I got absorbed in the case pretty quickly; it’s compelling storytelling and the podcasts are so well done, right down to the seamless integration of interviews, narration and music. When I was done, I searched around for further reading material. Like others, I wanted more – did we really have to wait months and months for another season?
But as I lurked on discussion boards and became keenly aware of just how many people were obsessive about it, I started to think about the murdered girl’s family. And when I read somewhere that her brother posted on a reddit forum (identity not confirmed, but there is credible reason to believe it was him) and made his presence known to the rabid community of Serial fans, it promptly hampered my curiosity. I stopped googling.
What do we really know about Hae and her family? In the podcasts she’s depicted almost like a fictional character, portrayed via teenage diary entries. It’s really easy to forget that this is a true story, that these characters are real people. I did read the brother’s Reddit post and to be honest, up until then, I hadn’t really given much thought to what it must be like, from her family’s perspective, to have the world buzzing about this series like it’s their own mystery case to solve. That’s partly because I didn’t think about her family at all; they’re rarely mentioned in the podcasts. But as her brother posted in his own words, this is real. For us, it might be entertainment, but for them, it’s real life. He mentioned his mother and how we didn’t stand beside her and see her in crippled anguish during the trial like he did. I could easily envision his mother, probably because I just witnessed my own Korean mother grappling with the sudden death of her child, so perhaps I’m a little more sensitive to this than most. But when I saw on Reddit that some posters were actually pissed that the subreddit was shut down for a day last week as a gesture of silence on the anniversary of Hae’s death, it did me in. I don’t know – it just doesn’t sit well with me.
I’m not arguing that this story shouldn’t be told. On the contrary, if Adnan, in fact, did not receive a fair trial then his story should be told. After all, there is pain on both sides of the story. But we could all keep in mind that we’re discussing, analyzing, speculating, and maybe even sensationalizing a murder case that involves real people and families. There’s a way to be respectful while still being fascinated by this story.
* Photo from the recent installation at the Park Avenue Armory. 2 pianos in a shallow pool of water. A complete mirror reflection.