A plethora of thoughts and deep-seated questions were on my mind during and after listening to S-Town. What is the meaning of life? How much of our potential is being wasted? Why are people the way they are? How important is a community to our individual lives? These thoughts rotated through mind but one thing was constant, S-Town made me think.
S-Town which is short for Shittown is an investigative podcast put together by the team behind “Serial” and “This American Life”. It’s narrated mellifluously by Journalist Brian Reed who tells the story of a man John B. McLemore and a small town in Alabama. It all started with an email titled “John B. McLemore lives in Shittown, Alabama.” In this email, McLemore says there had been a murder in his town that had been covered up”. This leads Brian Reed on a complicated journey into S-town. Reed recounts to listeners the story of and perceptive on the people and happenings of S-Town Alabama, most importantly John B. McLemore.
S-Town Investigates Life
The beginning of the podcast starts with Reed narrating the workings of a clock and the practice of horology in a sinister yet intriguing way that gets you hooked immediately. This remains the theme throughout the whole podcast. In the span of its seven episodes, S-town covers issues like depression, isolation, greed, mystery, grief, tolerance, intolerance, kindness, truth, and human intentions.
I think the producers of S-town intended for it to evoke the kind of emotions and reactions it did in its listeners but I don’t think they could have fathomed how much. S-town is a lifetime piece and a peep into the soul of man as is. It’s a naked and bare representation of life without any cosmetic coverings to make it bearable for the observer and so S-town is in some ways, ugly. But what is life without euphemisms, mildness, and cushions? Every now and then it is in fact, ugly.
John B. McLemore’s life evokes not only empathy but a need for listeners to look within and at their own lives. As far away and foreign as S-town might be for most, in the end, you identify with some characters and empathize deeply. S-town is a metaphoric giant mirror that reflects our deepest darkest thoughts, shortcomings, fears and collective ignorance. To explore these topics in the crudest way (by observing another) was therapeutic at best and disturbing at worst.
I recommend S-Town to everyone. Listen here or download it on iTunes.
Have you listened to S-Town or a similar podcast? Leave you thoughts and comments below.