S-Town is being prevailed as the pinicle of the podcast medium, stepping up from where Serial’s style and production level finished. Though, even the people who enjoy it so dearly have the same concern: are we, as listeners, or even Reed as a reporter, entitled to devour so much information about a private man’s life?
There was an uncomfortable moment in the series where Reed divulged a story which John believed to be off the record. Although his reasons for doing this were valid, there was one which resonated with me as the most important. John B. didn’t believe in an afterlife, and so what did he care that his secrets were being made public?I think about my life and wonder what each of the beats would be in my eulogy. It’s true I won’t be around to hear it, and so why do I care? Like John B I don’t have many expectations about watching down from a loftier place. There are one or two bits which I think my mother and father could continue on with their lives a little happier for not knowing. My thoughts here are not that John’s privacy needs safe guarding, but his mother’s honour.
I know honour is almost frowned upon in the western world, but you go ahead and tell your tiny town a close secret about your brother or daughter. After that try to walk through a high street without the self conscious tickling of people eyeing you up. Tell me you don’t give a shit.
I’m torn between another feeling to though.
Reed’s work reminds me strongly of the work of a Speaker for the Dead. Let’s take a moment after our friend’s death, really look at their blessings and their flaws, and then let’s talk about what made them like that. Then you see, even in the most distant, ugly, or complicated people, a genuine beauty in understanding them.
In this way, it’s hard to listen to S-Town and not fall in love with John B. I don’t think this piece is a work of invasion of privacy or revelling in the death of a complicated man for entertainment. I think it’s the nicest way a dear friend can memorialise a person, every part of them.