January 19, 2015 |  Category:   life


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.

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  • Natasa January 19, 2015 at 4:14 am

    I also just finished listening the podcast and the people and nerrative is really captivating I think even more because it’s telling a real story. Like Sarah Koenig said in the podcast she wanted to contact Haes family on many occasions but there were no response so I’m also in doubt that her brother would post on reddit (I’ve read it though). In a way I understand Haes family, it must be still devastating for them and nothing in this world (not even a fair trail) will bring their daughter back.

    • Jenna January 19, 2015 at 8:29 am

      I believe the post on reddit was really him. If I were him, I also would have hesitation to be interviewed – I wouldn’t want to do it.

  • Lena January 19, 2015 at 10:29 am

    I enjoyed the podcasts but felt similarly uncomfortable. I had a gut feeling from the first episodes that Adnan did it… so coming from that viewpoint the show seemed a little irresponsible to me, to be opening up the ‘story’ for the public to speculate. It must be painful for Hae’s family to have their daughter’s murder be worldwide entertainment.

    did you come across these interviews with Jay?

    • Jenna January 20, 2015 at 10:09 am

      I did Lena, but I haven’t read them. I probably will at some point, but just wanted to put the series aside for now completely.

  • victoria January 20, 2015 at 12:12 am

    I too gorged on the episodes and now I look back, I too didn’t feel I had too much of a handle on Hae, on who she was, aside from as a shadow. I had much more of a connection with Adnan, I guess because there was so much information about him. You’re right, it would be horrendous, I feel a little shamed that I bought into it, without truly appreciating what it meant to those involved on Hae’s side.

    • Jenna January 20, 2015 at 10:12 am

      I don’t think you should feel shameful or have this feeling that you bought into it. It is a compelling case and the podcasts are fantastic from a storytelling and production point of view. I just think that what can sometimes happen beyond the podcasts itself in the form of reddit forums, etc. is where we can all use a reminder that there are real people and emotions involved.

  • Kris January 20, 2015 at 11:39 am

    I was pretty obsessed with the show but haven’t actually read anything outside it yet. I think yours is a good reminder to keep perspective. And people getting upset that an online forum was temporarily shut down as a gesture of respect – boy, howdy, those people need to take a breath and stop and think a bit.

    Also, you may already know this, but it was unclear in your post, the second season will be an entirely different story, not more about the Adnan case. As far as I know, there is no info yet on what the next story will be.

    • Jenna January 20, 2015 at 8:48 pm

      I actually wasn’t completely sure about the second season, but yes, you are right.

  • Jessica January 20, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    I agree about the uncomfortable feeling. It’s difficult not to get so caught up in it – like we somehow have the power to speculate “ooh who did it?” like in a Law & Order episode. The entertainment value it has had must be hard for Hae’s family.

  • mak January 20, 2015 at 5:12 pm

    I’m so glad you wrote this. I was actually trying to express this to a friend last night (who hasn’t started listening yet). I’m only on episode 5 and every mention of Hae’s name over some quirky music makes me feel like: this is a person!!! A life!!! It could have been a friend of mine. That’s someone’s child. Their baby. It’s a mystery but it’s not fiction and there is little done to speak to the horror of what she went through and to humanize Hae (at least–so far, for me) and it makes me terribly, terribly sad.

  • RR January 20, 2015 at 6:14 pm

    Just wanted to recommend a different podcast that you may like: StartUp. It’s documenting the podcaster’s journey through starting his own business, and I think you’d relate to parts of it as a business owner yourself.

    • Jenna January 20, 2015 at 8:49 pm

      Thanks for the recommendation. sounds like a good (and relevant) listen!

  • jen January 21, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    i was addicted to this show too. why? because they made it very entertaining. it’s the craft of great storytelling. and for hae’s family, they must feel devastated again. to have her death turn into entertainment. i think they could have done more for hae’s and her family.

  • Rachel January 21, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    I felt slightly uncomfortable about all of the hype it was getting for the sake of all involved, including Adnan. Don’t get me wrong, I binge-listened and obsessively read articles just like everyone else, but I had to keep reminding myself that all of this was a real story and not just some excellent fictional storytelling. Then I heard that HBO was the frontrunner to make a Serial TV show, and that made me feel even more uncomfortable. I mean…I think stories like this need to be told, especially because there are obviously huge flaws in the justice system that were brought to light, but how far is too far? Not sure.

  • Christina January 22, 2015 at 1:06 pm

    So I haven’t had a chance to listen to this podcast yet but have been hearing a ton about it. I also came across this article that I thought you might find interesting about the implications of race and silences around the young woman who was killed.

    • Jenna January 30, 2015 at 11:10 am

      Thanks Christina for the link. Yeah, I read that article after googling to see if I wasn’t the only one that was left rather uncomfortable after hearing the series.

  • Wendy January 29, 2015 at 7:03 pm

    I listened to the podcast because you recommended it, and I also liked it. However I didn’t see it as entertainment. Sure, the music, the storytelling is good, but if you watch any documentary about prison or murder cases, it’s way worst than that.

    I only wished we had more infos about what the students found, and also the murderer they talk about in the last episodes, this is one of the only information that make me keep on thinking about the case.

  • Nan January 29, 2015 at 9:06 pm

    I think this could be extrapolated to a whole social pathology which involves the assault and murder of females as “entertainment”. I don’t watch TV, my husband does, but I catch things over his shoulder and it always seems to be about the murder of some poor girl or woman,who was beautiful but is dead. No voice, no personality, no presence, just beautiful and dead and then the whole show or film revolves around who killed her and why. As a character, she doesn’t exist, she’s an emblem — the dead victim. It’s heartbreaking even when it’s just a character, let alone a real person who was someone’s beloved child and walked upon this earth. That Serial subreddit is gross — they had trivia teams with “humorous” names taken from the victims and the people involved in that tragedy.

    • Jenna January 30, 2015 at 11:11 am

      Nan, this comment hits it right on. Everything that you say here. Thank you for joining in on the conversation.