Serial is showing white people how to talk about non-white people

Jeff Yang in Quartz:

SerialThat’s one way of looking at Koenig’s enterprise—as pure cultural tourism, exploitative of the people and communities involved for the sake of streaming-audio melodrama. And it’s not an inaccurate one, either: There’s something deeply uncomfortable about how the show treats these people — the Korean American deceased, the Pakistani American convicted killer, the black friend whose testimony led to that conviction, and all of their friends and loved ones—as mere characters, “colorful” in both senses of the word, for the sake of engaging and enthralling millions of listeners each week. Families have been destroyed by this case. A young man has spent over a decade in prison. And there is, still and forever, a dead young woman, who no doubt would have liked to be remembered for more than just her death (and her Sweet Valley High-esque diary).

But as Kang himself writes, there’s a more charitable way to view the podcast—“one in which Koenig has been intentionally presented as a quixotic narrator with Dana, her occasional sidekick on the show, playing the role of Sancho Panza,” he notes, admitting that “There’s ample evidence that this is what’s the show is striving for.”

This, to me, is the core of the show’s appeal, and the reason why I, like millions of other listeners, have become obsessively fascinated with it. Yes, there’s something a little freaky and white-savior-complex-y about “Serial.” But throughout the series, Koenig has very consciously forefronted her ethno-cultural ignorance, the things that compromise her as a reporter and an actor in this drama, in ways that I think very few white journalists choose to do.

Read the full article here.