S-Town – Tiffany Tran

S-Town may stand for Shittown, but the podcast wasn’t necessarily shit.

The podcast is a narrative of Brian Reed, who goes down to a small town in Alabama to investigate a potential murder that a man named John B. Melbourne asked him to look at.

What’s interesting is that Brian Reed isn’t someone in the police force, but is a journalist. So, he does his own investigation.

This podcast is considered a nonfiction novel and it sounds fake-ish, but is a true story.  Despite that fact, I didn’t think S-Town was real at first. All the voice recordings and such – I thought were actors and actresses. It was only after a classroom discussion that I learned that it was real.

I thought this wasn’t real because the whole story seemed unnatural at first. A journalist comes out to investigate a murder that some man asked him to check. And that man, who is John, digresses a lot when talking to Brian. When Brian came to visit John, John doesn’t pay much attention to the murder that he asked Brian to come all the way to Alabama for. It doesn’t make sense at first, but I find that in the end, it does.

In this story, John presents himself as an intelligent person (only on things that he is very interested in) and as someone who enjoys company. Brian interviewed a few companions of John, each giving a description of how John and them maintain a close relationship until they find a significant other. This causes John to be jealous, and John ends up going through a cycle of getting a close friendship before being seemingly “left behind.” The connection that John makes to Brian reminds me of how John and Olin met. John and Olin met randomly through a singles phone line, and then John was intrigued by Olin enough to maintain a friendship with him.  I assume that John randomly stumbled on Brian’s podcasts, found him entertaining, and decided to pursue a friendship with him. That’s why it made sense to me as to why John asked Brian to come over, although I don’t doubt that John wanted to figure out what really happened with the murder.

Brian displays John as a complex character, which is why I did not think that this was a real story. But, there are definitely some complicated people out there in the real world, so I started to believe Brian. John is presented as a guy who slightly seemed like a bit crazy person, asking a reporter to help solve a murder, and digresses a lot. However, Brian showed that John is also intelligent, and does have good intentions. We see a caring side of John when he told us about how he helps Tyler out, we see an intelligent side when he talks about clocks, and we see a sad side of John when we see how John may have felt left by others. Even after John’s suicide, Brian portrayed John as a powerful character. I like to think that it was to show how much of an impact John had on others even after he stopped maintaining his connections with them.

John is shown to be a mixture of people. I had a hard time trying to keep track of who John is because he seemed to be too many things at once. And I think that may have prompted Brian to release this story about John. I never looked too deep into who Brian Reed is, so I’m not quite sure of his nature, but perhaps Brian thought that John was a fascinating character that the public should know about. Maybe he thought that John deserved the acknowledgement that he deserves for being so caring and smart, amongst other things. Regardless, Brian and his team got sued for many things, including invasion of privacy and ethics.

The part that I disliked the most about the podcast was the ending. I felt as if there was no true ending. We’re left on a loose end, but I’d imagine that may have been how Brian had felt. I wonder why he chose to end the podcast that way. Was it because he didn’t want to disclose more things about John? Unlikely-ish. Was it because he didn’t have more information? Or because the ending may have been predictable? Maybe, but we wouldn’t ever know. Only assume.

Now, onto the brief feedback on the media platform. For a podcast, this is very interesting. I do not listen to a lot of podcasts, and actually did not listen to Brian Reed’s story as a podcast. I have problems listening and paying attention to audio, so I read the transcript for the most part. But the inclusion of having audio clips from the actual interviews that Brian had and having some music being played definitely made the podcast more entertaining to listen to, and be able to visualize the people in the story more. So, I guess that I can’t say that this was an interesting podcast, for I didn’t listen to the whole thing as a podcast to begin with. But it is an interesting story (and a lot to keep up with).