I’m about to say something that’s going to make a lot of people very angry.
And I’m sorry.
But also, I’m not sorry at all.
You see, I’m done with S-Town.
Monique Bowley thinks S-Town is brilliant. Mia Freedman and I are far from convinced. We passionately argued about it on this week’s episode of Mamamia Out Loud. Post continues below.
S-Town has broken records. With 10 million downloads in just four days it’s the fastest downloaded podcast in history.
It’s received unanimously positive reviews, with headlines reading, “S-Town review – it’s hard to recall a more touching, devastating podcast,” “S-Town Is a Well-Crafted Monument to Empathy,” and “S-Town Transcends the True Crime of Serial.”
And you know what I think about S-Town?
Fine. Like… a movie you find on Netflix that you’ve never heard of and you can’t really remember the name of right now. Or a complimentary chicken sandwich on a plastic tray at a compulsory work event. Or your bus trip to work this morning, where the traffic was moderate and only two people smelt unusual.
Pleasant enough. Not excruciating, but also far from engrossing. I could listen to it – or I could not. I’m not fussed.
I don’t find the protagonist, John B Mclemore, interesting or moderately relateable. His conversations with narrator Brian Reed just sound like the nonsensical ramblings of an angry man.
— The Tuscaloosa News (@tuscaloosanews) 28 March 2017
I don’t care about clocks or mazes or dungeons or hidden gold. Half the time I don’t understand what Mclemore is talking about. It’s slow, like a pretentious art house film that you see at the cinema and decide halfway through you’d rather stab yourself in the eye with a fork.
So I’m indifferent to S-Town. And this shouldn’t be an issue. In an ideal world I could stop at episode four and move on with my life. Listen to other podcasts, get on with my job, maybe even marry one day and have a family. But I can’t.
The real problem is that I’m not allowed to not like S-Town. There is no discussion to be had. If you don’t think S-Town has revolutionised and reinvigorated the podcast medium, then you’re doing it wrong.
At times, I've felt like I'm listening to the wrong podcast. That I've missed something. But. I. Haven't.
It's everyone else who is wrong. You 'famous critics' with your fancy 'stars' and 'iTunes' chart. You're all wrong.
This is a classic case of the Emperor's new clothes. And we've all been duped.
It's been produced by the biggest name in the business. Every news publication you respect has classified it a masterpiece. There's a complex analogy about a clock and the main character is a tortured, complicated man who uses a lot of big words. And, of course, there's a twist.
"The problem is you expected a true crime podcast," people say to me.
Um. Yes. Precisely. Because it was very purposefully marketed as one.
The preview introduced us to Alabama, where a murder had taken place. Indeed, that's where the story begins, but it's not what it's about. I felt cheated - we were goddamn clickbaited by a podcast.
"What episode are you up to though? You just need to keep going," others insist.
Four. I have dedicated four hours of my extremely precious time to this story, and if it still hasn't grabbed me, then I'm out. Art, literature or storytelling shouldn't feel like hard work. A good story should unfold effortlessly.
Saying "oh it doesn't get good til episode five!" of a seven episode podcast, is like saying "You have to watch this television show... it has a slow first season, and the second one is awful, but the third season will blow you away."
I don't have time.
"You're such a millennial," people say. "You want everything now. You don't know how to appreciate a classic."
You can listen to the full episode of Mamamia Out Loud, here.
A prerequisite of a brilliant classic should be that people want to voluntarily consume it. Great art shouldn't be painful. That's just pretentious and arrogant.
There is an enormous amount of intellectual snobbery going on here. Those who switch off just don't get it. If you don't like S-Town, it's your fault not theirs.
You can like S-Town. I'm totally cool with that.
But I need to be allowed to not like S-Town, and you need to not try and convince me otherwise.
Mostly - because you're wrong.
Simply, it's fine.