Nestled in bed.
Nothing but the glow of my Iphone.
I pressed play on The Alibi.
For 54 minutes I became hypnotized. This obscure murder case from Baltimore brought on a sudden obsession. My life shifted on the night of November 8, 2014.
Before officially listening, I was immediately sold on the premise of a podcast dedicated solely to a real life murder. Subscribed to Serial without notice. This occurred before becoming aware of any specific details.
I feverishly binged through the first 6 episodes. Each served a unique and fascinating chapter such as a breakup, body dump site, reenactment of drive from A to B; giving that very necessary breakdown. Juicy backstory and character analysis were only made possible by Sarah Koenig.
Sleep whispered way past midnight. I woke up in wonderment to finish wherever I left off. As you can see above, my Timehop photo shows the time stamp of The Opposite of the Prosecution. The Deirdre Enright episode called in for a smoother morning, with her talking straight for 15 uninterrupted minutes about the Innocence Project. I’m pretty sure by now I was starving and needing to pee since I hadn’t left the room –much less hopped off bed– beginning Serial from the night before.
The murder mystery resonated a connection beyond me.
James Renner wants to talk about being a True Crime Addict. Before r/serialpodcast became a minefield, I couldn’t get my hands off Reddit. Concentration and monitoring strictly pertained to discussion boards. I was lucky enough for another –and more civilized– group to magically come my way. We are still kicking a year later.
Before Serial I was frustrated with social media. Mindless memes and 6 second viral videos circulating my feed everyday. I didn’t have any outlet to express myself. My friends list was outdated with high school friends who bared little connection to my life at that point. The podcast changed my life because a community welcomed my thoughts and observations. People from many walks of life congregated in many pockets of the internet, sharing their insight as to why Hae Min Lee met her demise.
During this time the web infiltrated with endless, gargantuan chatter. I even began following Rabia Chaudry on Twitter. At that time I was probably secretly wishing to be her BFF. I was always searching for Serial related tweets. Watched any and every interview. She participated in a weekly Google Hangout session called Conversations on the Serial podcast with a professor from Atlanta, Pete Rorabaugh. Either in recap or real time I’d watch those in between episode premieres.
Thursdays were the real deal. Right off the presses I’d wake up around 5AM refreshing my feed for the latest and dearest episode. You could always count on discussion boards leading new threads by the time the episode concluded.
A Serial subculture made way with jokes about the Crab Crib, Christina Guiterrez’ grating banter in the courtroom (IS IT NOT?!), parodies following Sarah impersonations and listeners showcasing their own infatuation. Let’s not forget the unforgiving months when nonstop people proclaimed, “But Jay knew where the car was!”.
Serial was in the air. While the podcast was very entertaining, the material possessed a rawness never heard before in media. Adnan Syed’s participation made Serial grade A. The intro call from prison became as transcendent as the brilliant music. I loved it so much so, I bought the original score by Nick Thornburn and soundtrack by Mark Henry Phillips.
I won’t get into the nitty gritty. I’m just sharing my experience when the podcast happened in real time. Most who have encountered me should know my opinion by now. I believe Adnan was wronged into a life sentence. Jay served as a pawn and puppet to the state. Hae encountered evil on January 13, 1999. Don or one of these Baltimore rapists/predators killed her. Evidence does not line up with Adnan or Jay being the murderer.
One of the major reasons the podcast became a juggernaut success was race. Here we have a Muslim teenage figure, his Korean girlfriend, then the weed dealer acquaintance from an underprivileged black background. No wonder Serial succeeded internationally. The story was expressed ever so greatly but the people involved connected with the audience in a multitude of ways.
Minorities are the norm in my neck of the woods but hearing about Adnan Syed and Hae felt unique. This wasn’t your Natalie Holloway of the day. I did connect with both figures in the same way of feeling restricted in my adolescence. After reading Hae’s diary recently we were one in the same: love-stricken, attached, and doting. One of my favorite things is the love story in The Breakup.
I was sprinkled with love dust when Kc & JoJo’s “All My Life” played in the junior prom sequence. All young women desire love. If they don’t tell you so, it’s because they’re being dishonest or hiding their inner wishes. It was a beautiful thing for these two individuals getting together since they possessed separate cultural, racial, and religious backgrounds. Young love ever so sweet.
In the Jay Intercept interview, there is mention he attended Warped Tour. So did I! I attended during most of high school. I’d imagine the bands he saw fall in litany with Blink 182, No Doubt, Sublime, and Green Day. In episode 9, The Deal with Jay, friends described him with a punk streak (lip piercing, dyed hair, listened to “rock and roll”). A misunderstood kid, perhaps. Minus the weed thing I could probably see us hanging.
Another reason to love Serial is 1999.
I can vicariously place myself in the position of these kids. We all bum rushed home for TRL, eagerly watched the TGIF lineup, and laughed at Saturday cartoons. I’d trade my senior prom experience over theirs. You guys got it good with your dream MTV playlist: NSYNC, Mariah Carey, and C’mon N’ Ride It (The Train). All I remember is Justin Bieber’s “Baby” playing in the dance floor, in addition to whatever mainstream hip hop made the airwaves. Girls twerking left and right. Conservative and shy, I remained mostly sedentary with my date.
Speaking of music, I loved the creativity fueled with parodies and music remixes, like this one with Biggie. When something is so adored, people find outlets to express their appreciation.
Coming across on Hae’s death I remembered of a homicide during my senior year. Whenever I didn’t feel like riding the cheesebus with annoying underclassman, I’d hop on a city bus in a specific metro stop blocks away from school. On a February afternoon, an 11th grade student was stabbed to death in that stop. If I witnessed the stabbing I’d probably mildly suffer from PTSD. Social media thrived enough within hours where rumors became reality: a student from my high school died. A Facebook photo of the guy presented posthumously before me. The next morning, the air was heavy on the heels of students and faculty acknowledging the young man’s grisly death.
Months later sitting on stage, my graduating class bearing our white caps and gowns, the girl next to me began softly crying. The principal mentioned the boy’s passing. The girl ran in his social circle. Recovering, she wanted me to observe if any makeup smudged her face. Politely I said nothing was wrong. Those few minutes served witness to a person grieving her dead friend.
Just like that you forget.
Since I’m bringing up my adolescence, I’ll have you know I’ve followed true crime since childhood. Robert Stack sealed the deal. I relished any Unsolved Mysteries rerun on a sick day or holiday break from elementary school. Yes I adamantly fanned out to my favorite Nickelodeon shows but I loved learning about mysteries, murders, and missing people. The stuff did scare me as a kid, no denying that. The opening theme is legendary.
As a nerdy Unsolved Mysteries fan, I even remember when Robert passed away. Shocked, I ran to my dad. I made him glare at our jumbo Compaq computer monitor with AOL news headlining his death. We even shared the same birthday. If you do a google search, you’ll know everything is connected. Unfortunately, at the moment, Unsolved Mysteries reached the end.
So with that, crime shows were my only fix. I didn’t dig deep in the web for after show discussion because I thought there was none. Serial happened during the right time and place. Soon after I learned a host of crime/mysterious podcasts actually existed beyond the This American Life spinoff. Articles recommended listening to Criminal, Sword and Scale, Generation Why, Thinking Sideways, True Murder.
So I did just that.
Here I am. Subscribing and discussing mysteries everyday. Without x, y, and z, I wouldn’t come across cool, intelligent, and insightful people across my path. Amazingly the case of Adnan Syed still remains as a powerful and popular topic, especially on the heels of Serial season 2 premiering any day now, all the while staying atop of the Itunes podcast charts.
For years my family would bewilderingly ask, “Aurelia, why do you watch this?”.
“Because I like it.”