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what if the worlds/were a series of steps/what if the steps/joined back at the margin

Rethinking “Serial”

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I love documentaries and true crime. “Serial” was a compelling podcast because it was based on a real life tragedy with elements of deception, love, sex, betrayal, and at the height of its success was dramatically relayed to 2.2 million people. On this blog I originally and uncritically went along with Sarah Koenig’s conclusion that it was reasonable to believe that Adnan was innocent and had been a victim to a great barrage of deception on the famed story changer Jay’s part. It was a stylized story, a sexy story as storytelling goes because of how well Koenig got the story to flow. It was compelling, surprising, and disturbing at the same time. As was reflected with this combination, people love stories that are woven tales of the complex intricacies of real life. With Adnan, Koenig found a relatively likable character who was charismatic and intelligent. However, after a few months of listening to “Serial” sporadically after listening to it relatively non-stop for days on end over the course of a few weeks during the winter, my perspective on Adnan’s innocence to one of guilt and how the techniques Koenig employed effected the overall point of view of Adnan’s innocence.

By far, women are more likely to know their violent attacker rather than experiencing violence from a stranger. While in my other blog post I flirted with the plausible idea that there could have been a serial killer who was targeting Asian women, it is statistically more likely that Hae knew her attacker and that he was or had been an intimate partner. That is why Adnan and Don were initially suspects. While listening to the podcast after the shiny sensationalism faded away, I noticed that Koenig uses this to stir the audience against the police and to create sympathy for how Adnan must have felt to be falsely accused by these two police who did nothing but just look at him. She finds other people to corroborate this perspective, notably a lawyer named Dierdre Enright who runs an innocence project at the University of Virginia School of Law. While Diedre Enright makes some legitimately construcitvely critical statements about the investigation into Adnan’s guilt, notably Jay’s inconsistencies and the lack of hardcore physical evidence, there are still things Koenig does to gloss over some of  the aspects of the case that look badly for Adnan.

However, while Adnan is talking, there are points where it feels like he is too slick to not be lying. When Koenig confesses to having feelings that she and Adnan are friends, he balks and exclaims that she barely knows him. Koenig doesn’t understand, saying that she has talked to him for probably more hours than she has other people she most certainly considers friends. This always struck me because of how poorly Koenig demonstrates she doesn’t understand Adnan’s life. For Adnan, he never escapes the people he lives with, he is constantly around other people as the result of being stuck in prison. He knows who his friends are and are not in prison. Koenig also notes that he does not tell her about any violence in the prison, probably more likely because it is not his business to spread the instances of violence rather than the idea that there aren’t any instances, which is what Koenig infers. There is some naivete to Koenig, she appeals to the white liberal idea that people who say that they were framed were indeed framed, and that the reality that is presented is the truth. Perhaps its how she manipulates the media she uses to tell a tale that ends up being sympathetic to Adnan that makes me take this perspective about her, but she seems too eager to believe Adnan that nothing other than the conclusion of “Serial” where she states she believes in his innocence is possible.

There is also what could be infinitely referred to as “The Jay Problem” and that is figuring how the ever elusive and slick Jay with his differing accounts of what happened on the day in question. Why does he do things like change the name of a mall they allegedly went to, is he correcting himself or making it up? Koenig presents Jay as a villain in the podcast, she casts him in with the prosecution and police that went after the presumptuously innocent Adnan. The point that just because a story changes doesn’t mean the truth isn’t revealed is thrown out in the “Serial” podcast. There is a curious question as to why Jay would frame Adnan. In my previous post, I posited that it may have something to do with drugs, that perhaps there was a deal Jay and Adnan were making and Hae saw, and was killed, and that somehow the convoluted stories that Jay came up with were a way of protecting the drug source. For all I know, my theory is as likely as the one I am positing now, which is that it is fairly likely that Adnan killed Hae and Jay is just getting the story wrong for reasons of being nervous, or stoned, or mixing up his days and times and the simple process of being human getting in the way of having the story go smoothly. Jay did admit to participating in the disturbing act of witnessing the burial of the murdered body of a friend. However, maybe that is why he came clean in the end and using a patchwork of the stories he told to be the truth of the day in question, ended up revealing what happened to Hae.

The courts are taking another look at this case soon. Hopefully something constructive will be revealed.

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Author: gzeu

intellectual queer femme who lives to maximize the experience of the beautiful assault that is our world. bohemian queen and hip hop scholar. I always tell the truth, even when I lie.

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