I’ve finished the S-Town podcast. (It’s amazing how time spent in traffic, commuting, and walking fly by compared to when I’m listening to music, which now seems less entertaining to me.) The seven-episode podcast is about the investigation of journalist Brian Reed into the claims of horologist John B. McLemore, who emailed Brian about an alleged murder in the latter’s hometown of Woodstock, Alabama. It features their recorded conversations as well as interviews with Brian’s family and friends, who all eventually get embroiled in an entirely different controversy among themselves.
As a gay man myself (spoiler!), I wasn’t as captured by the revelations on/by John, so I wasn’t exactly in tenterhooks at the end of each episode or whenever a secret was revealed. As I listened in, however, I was conscious more about how the controversies were ultimately a family matter that didn’t need to be exposed in such a public, not to mention, unflattering way—and I didn’t understand how everyone didn’t pause, especially after episode 2, and think about keeping their dirty laundry private, except that Brian has become a family friend and a minefield of resource for the parties involved. It feels not only voyeuristic, but also manipulative, in that they become unwitting participants to an edited soap opera. (The manner by which each episode ends with a teaser about what’s coming on next does not escape me.) If you actually liked the podcast without any moral guilt, let me know in the comments.
Meanwhile, I’ve removed Still Processing from my feed. Since it was recently 4th of July, their latest episode is devoted to barbecue. And here’s what the hosts have to say about barbecue. Barbecue!!!!
Wesley Morris: “… It will be useful to talk about the politics of this food, the realness of this food, the actual legitimate quality of the food…”
Jenna Wortham (italics mine): “… Where does barbecue come from? Who has the right to make barbecue? What does it mean when we sit down and eat it in a restaurant that’s black-owned? What does it mean when we go to a restaurant and sit down and eat it where it’s white-owned? Is it Southern food? Is it American food? Is it Black food? I mean, there’s so many questions about barbecue that we need to get to the bottom of before we can actually eat any.”
There’s a part of me that wants to feel guilty especially after reading reigning Drag Race winner Sasha Velour’s interview, where she said,
“I hope my legacy is that sometimes that level of thought is an asset, especially now in this political moment, because this political moment is very anti-intellectual, anti-information, and anti-historical.”
… but I’ve had it with this politicization of everything, such that barbecue is now considered as co-opting black identity or culture (at least as far as the episode’s intro is concerned—I was so repulsed I didn’t proceed any further and deleted the show off my list because I refused to be high-jacked into a needlessly political conversation about barbecue that’s not even about vegetarianism.) The self-righteousness was off the charts, I wonder how they go through life without going into a huge debate about the uprightness of the food and clothing they buy and transportation and services they use. (Jenna admitted to having used Uber at an earlier show because she said she had no other option. Uh yeah, walking.) As a Filipino who sees barbecue as something that’s actually proletarian—and I mean that in a good way especially as street food culture goes—I’m repelled by the dogmatic possessiveness over an ubiquitous food item or cooking process present, familiar, and comforting all the world over.