anxieties about lurid voyeurism, unwholesome interest: In Cold Blood
December 8, 2014 7:53 AM   Subscribe

 
I just wonder what the victim's family must be thinking or feeling. Totally underrepresented in this whole thing. It must be beyond horrible for them.
posted by Nevin at 8:15 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


To help: Serial "is a podcast exploring a nonfiction story over multiple episodes."
posted by vapidave at 8:17 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Storytelling is the basis for a huge amount of how lawyers are trained to do trial advocacy these days as well. I remember being told explicitly that, in a criminal case, you don't just rest on reasonable doubt and the burden of proof; you tell a story in which your client is innocent. You obviously use the burden of proof, but our focus was always on building a narrative that could be presented in opposition to the government's narrative, not merely "poking holes" in that narrative. It makes sense to me, people use stories to think through mess and uncertainty issues and a genuinely contested criminal trial is definitely messy.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:25 AM on December 8, 2014 [12 favorites]


It's apparently ending up on Radio 4 in the UK, which feels like a pretty natural home for it.

My horrifying shame: I didn't quite pick up it was nonfiction and listened to the first couple of episodes thinking it was an exceptionally well made mock-doc, except the presenter was just a tad too doofy.
posted by Artw at 8:27 AM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


I just wonder what the victim's family must be thinking or feeling. Totally underrepresented in this whole thing.

Koenig said on the show that she tried to get them on but they didn't want to participate. She said she tried very hard to track them down, even sending someone to Korea, but it didn't pan out. It's by their choice that they're not on.
posted by Sangermaine at 8:27 AM on December 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


Serial: The Syed family on their pain and the ‘five million detectives trying to work out if Adnan is a psychopath’

I came across this today and was going to make a post about it but this one is much better, so I'll just leave this here if it's ok.
posted by billiebee at 8:31 AM on December 8, 2014 [10 favorites]


In Cold Blood is a whole 'nother level of creepy because Capote's relationship with Perry Smith (one of the convicted murders) is just there under the surface throughout the narrative. I guess it's only speculation whether Capote actually had sex with Smith or just sort of flirted along, but either way it was way beyond him simply being part of the story.

I'm enjoying Serial, it's thoughtful and detailed. Also hugely problematic in various ways, but to me that just makes it more interesting. The weirdest part is Koenig still hasn't finished the production, so responses to the reporting are now becoming part of the reporting. Several friends and relatives have popped up in /r/serialpodcast too, including some of dubious verification. It's all just a mess.
posted by Nelson at 8:34 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


about a post on the reddit Serial sub from someone claiming to be Hae's brother. The post originally contained screenshot of messages from Koenig asking for an interview but they've been taken down due to containing personal information.
posted by Sangermaine at 8:35 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Storytelling is the basis for a huge amount of how lawyers are trained to do trial advocacy these days as well.

I worked at a lot of law firms in SF in the nineties as a temp and it's not a coincidence that John Martel is a New York Times best selling novelist and "has tried over a hundred trials, losing just four."
posted by vapidave at 8:37 AM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's by their choice that they're not on.

Ugh. It doesn't appear to be their choice that the murder of their relative is being marketed as a podcast docu-drama product.
posted by Wordshore at 8:54 AM on December 8, 2014 [25 favorites]


I was an alternate juror on a five-week murder trial a few years ago. The murder had taken place a decade earlier. The evidence was almost entirely circumstantial, and in the end my fellow jurors believed the narrative the prosecution put together more than that of the defense.

I've been wondering a lot what conclusion I might have come to if I had been on Adnan's jury; I know from listening to the podcast that Jay's story(ies) doesn't make sense, and that in my now-listening state they create at least some reasonable doubt of Adnan's guilt.

On preview: Ugh. It doesn't appear to be their choice that the murder of their relative is being marketed as a podcast docu-drama product.

This makes me wonder how many people would feel (have felt) similarly about similar stories told in different formats - magazine articles, for example. The podcast nature of this makes a difference, but I can't quite figure out (for myself) why or how. The very public and prompt nature of the immediate feedback/engagement, maybe?
posted by rtha at 9:00 AM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Wordshore: While the podcast may seem ghoulish and exploitative of the victims family...

It's worth remembering this is just a new media in which ghoulish exploitative media ('news' is a bit of a strong word) profits from the family's misery.

(in my fantasy world every time a reporter asks a grieving relative how they feel about the death of their loved one they get punched in the mouth. then jury nullification sets them free. a couple of dozen of these incidents maybe families would be left alone).
posted by el io at 9:01 AM on December 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


The oddest thing to me is that, outside of the length, this is basically the sort of story you hear on NPR all the time. Are people just not big radio listeners anymore?
posted by Artw at 9:01 AM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Ugh. It doesn't appear to be their choice that the murder of their relative is being marketed as a podcast docu-drama product.

No need to be hostile towards me. I was just pointing out that the victim's family's lack of inclusion in the show isn't some sleight or sinister plot. I'm also uncomfortable with the use of true crime for entertainment.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:08 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is a timely post; I was on a (8 hour) drive yesterday, and both started and finished the whole run of Serial thus far, based on my wife having heard a bit about it. While I can understand Hae's family's reaction, I do think that Koenig has handled it about as well as you could expect. Nothing about it has seemed like she's in some way pulling for Adnan (she's gone to great lengths to express her skepticism, in fact), but instead just trying to understand what happened.

I'd also point out that it's not like she's working in some heretofore unknown genre; True Crime as a thing people write about and read about predates podcasts by what must be measurable in centuries, at this point. Most of the complaints about the work could be lobbied against a whole lot of critically acclaimed non-fiction and inspired-by-real-life fiction, with perhaps the length of time between the event and the reporting being among the only real distinctions.
posted by tocts at 9:19 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ugh. It doesn't appear to be their choice that the murder of their relative is being marketed as a podcast docu-drama product.

The victim's family doesn't "own" the experience of the crime. Their pain isn't more valid than that of Adnan's parents, who feel that their son has been unjustly imprisoned for 15 years and will likely spend the rest of his life in prison. And, it is absolutely essential that capital cases are examined and re-examined post-conviction, because in the U.S., we get it wrong a good bit of the time.

I have no problems with using true crime stories for entertainment, especially if it makes the audience more critical of police/prosecution narratives.
posted by gladly at 9:21 AM on December 8, 2014 [25 favorites]


I've made statements in other threads about how the format and presentation of Serial makes me uncomfortable, in that the extended presentation at times seems to needlessly finger old wounds. And I also think that there is a really interesting discussion to be had regarding what constitutes "beyond a reasonable doubt." While most of the conversation (on Reddit, at least, but to some degree here) has been from Adnan's perspective -- people saying things like "I think he might be guilty but there's not enough evidence to convict" -- I wonder often about the perspective from the other side. At what point, when the victim is a member of your own family, are you willing to say "there is enough evidence to convict."

However, all that being said, I think that the belief that crimes should somehow not be investigated and reported on, or that victim's families should be shielded from questioning is much, much more frightening and off-putting to me than any criticisms of Serial. While I think Adnan is in some way guilty, what if SK and team find that he was wrongfully convicted? And are those who are critical of SK also critical of Ronson? If not, why not? Is he not a reporter interviewing the victim's family?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:24 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I wonder often about the perspective from the other side. At what point, when the victim is a member of your own family, are you willing to say "there is enough evidence to convict."

I'm not sure what use an answer to that question would yield. Our criminal justice system does not (and should not) work that way, for very obvious reasons. We expect juries and judges to be made up of impartial 3rd parties precisely because the predictable answer to your question is, "on average, a point that's more conducive to exacting punishment/revenge than actually serving justice".
posted by tocts at 9:33 AM on December 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


You're not interested in imagining how you might pervert that ideal when you are not an impartial participant? I think about it. And specifically, for this case, I think about the tension of a family member who may hold the same ideal we all do or should hold, and how that might rub against the desire to keep this case resolved.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:36 AM on December 8, 2014


> (in my fantasy world every time a reporter asks a grieving relative how they feel about the death of their loved one they get punched in the mouth. then jury nullification sets them free. a couple of dozen of these incidents maybe families would be left alone).

Photos of grieving families at courthouses and funerals, too. I would argue that these sorts of photos are exploitative and add nothing of value to the public's understanding of a given event.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:44 AM on December 8, 2014


May be not to the understanding, but these photos allow us to connect with the family and empathize with them. Photos help us grieve with them.

For all our progress, we are still very visual oriented and seeing a face, a picture allows us to connect and empathize far better than 1000 words.

There are exploitative pictures but I would argue that the emotional connection that a picture enables is far more important for our society than the money earned by the exploiters in selling that picture.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 11:54 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Last I checked, the Bill of Rights doesn't get into any rights of victims. It does get into rights of the accused. Keeping check on prosecutorial cases or stories, before or years after, if they've been at all questioned or if new info comes to light, is necessary unless you're keen on having those rights stripped from Americans--or rather, cut down even more than they already have.
posted by raysmj at 12:26 PM on December 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


In Cold Blood is a whole 'nother level of creepy because Capote's relationship with Perry Smith (one of the convicted murders) is just there under the surface throughout the narrative.

Care to provide some notes? I've read it several times (albeit not in a few years) and am curious to know whether you based this on the book or the Phillip Seymour Hoffman pic.
posted by mr. digits at 12:44 PM on December 8, 2014


I'm one of those wringing his hands over being a fan of Serial. Not that narrative true crime documentary is anything new, but the nature of the serialized format -- teasing listeners, generating maximum suspense and fan speculation between episodes -- and the fact that the producers are deliberately structuring the episodes, withholding information, presenting things in a particular order, to boost the entertainment value...I find it impossible to really morally justify, though that isn't stopping me from consuming it ravenously.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 1:02 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Capote's relationship with Perry Smith
Care to provide some notes?


I don't have anything definitive for you. When I read the book a few years ago I immediately got the vibe that Capote had a romantic thing for Smith, just based on the way he wrote. Looking into it a bit I learned I'm far from the only person to make that assumption. Didn't realize it was in the movie, I haven't seen it.

The Wikipedia article has a couple of links with some info. More speculation here or here. Reading more closely I guess there's no specific evidence, and that the story may have grown in the past few years because of the film. FWIW the book read that way to me. Capote certainly is much closer to his subject than is normal for journalism, whether the relationship was explicitly romantic or not.
posted by Nelson at 1:50 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


If nothing else, you've piqued my curiosity -- sounds like a good excuse for giving it another read to me.
posted by mr. digits at 2:28 PM on December 8, 2014


But 'Serial' also testifies to how much the criminal justice system itself is founded on storytelling."

If people just realized this now, they should not be running loose on the streets. Everything is told by a story and not just court cases.

People get faces and they get stories.

Facts and logic are things people will completely brush aside for a good yarn ten times out of ten...story-telling is innate and everything else is secondary as it has to be learned and hence is a lot less fun and natural...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 2:34 PM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


This makes me wonder how many people would feel (have felt) similarly about similar stories told in different formats - magazine articles, for example. The podcast nature of this makes a difference, but I can't quite figure out (for myself) why or how. The very public and prompt nature of the immediate feedback/engagement, maybe?

I agree. There is something about this podcast that is more than a bit hard to listen to. Perhaps the "true crime" stories that we've consumed as entertainment in the past keep us at a remove through the sensationalism from the harsh reality of these crimes: brutal, incomprehensible, terrifying. When I think about Koenig methods and the way it is being done, I cannot find much fault. She is putting these voices directly on air. There is editing but there are no "dramatic reenactments" or "Some people say..." bullshit. She's digging in a clear investigative-journalism way and I don't think people are used to hearing that. Or understanding what it means to dig, what it means to confirm facts. Journalists are one of the whipping dogs of society but we've marginalized the good work that journalism has done in our country in the role of "watchdog." Tarred everyone in the industry with the same brush. And, hey, why pay a journalist when there's "10 Worst Celebrity Noses" to read?

But, I digress. I come back to the fact that so many of our incarcerated felons literally have a bad rap. The system is racist. The system does not treat juveniles with the care it should. This horrific crime doesn't make any sense. Why is this girl dead? If Adnan is not the killer, the true murderer should be found. I think there is a sense that Hae's story has not been told. I also think this provides some good coverage for The Innocence Project which does amazing, heartbreaking work.

People should be uncomfortable with this podcast. With this story. I'll keep listening.
posted by amanda at 3:29 PM on December 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


I find it impossible to really morally justify, though that isn't stopping me from consuming it ravenously.

Interesting. I feel almost completely the opposite - that this is an important story, and I'm glad that it's getting so much attention. I think Serial goes far beyond the True Crime genre in that it really is showing us, in detail, the mechanics of a dysfunctional criminal justice system.
posted by kanewai at 6:00 PM on December 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


The victim's family doesn't "own" the experience of the crime. Their pain isn't more valid than that of Adnan's parents,

I'm not exactly sure if I agree that there is a "dichotomy of pain" here. I will say that the victim's parents most certainly do "own" the experience of the crime. Their daughter was murdered. Full stop.
posted by Nevin at 7:46 PM on December 19, 2014




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