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Stop This Now: Podcast Edition

By Anne T. Donahue

Currently, I am listening to a podcast. And after this one, I’ll listen to another. And another. And another, until my afternoon nap arrives and I am forced to rest for several hours, lest I perish. I, like millions and millions of people on this cursed planet, love a podcast. But because I’ve been spending more time with them now than I ever planned to, I’ve noticed some things that I hate. And since I assume everybody on earth makes a point of reading every word I write, I dedicate this list of podcast things that I hate so much to you.

So! Please stop:

Being pointless
I don’t mean conversation-based podcasts (delightful!) or podcasts that investigate unsolved cases responsibly (here for solid journalism always), but the ones that resurrect a case or a crime, and then with a compelling trailer and first two episodes promise to “get to the bottom of” some sort of revelation with no real tools outside of having a narrator and interviewing someone who sort of knew a person who was friends with a lawyer in 1989.

There was one podcast that comes to mind that I will not name because I do not need the fanbase coming for me. But I will say that after three episodes of a-ha moments and countless descents into the narrator’s personal theories, I have never been angrier (yes I have) nor screamed “WHY!” as loudly as I did out the window of my moving car. What exactly are we doing here? Who is this for? Why am I now listening to a friend of a friend of a psychic pin a missing persons case on a person yet to be introduced to me?

And then there’s this: no ending. No ending at all! Not a suggestion or a reflection on the way to case reflects a problematic society. Just . . . “Well . . . it was all a dream. But if you have any tips, please email us.” Never! Get out of here! What is wrong with you? I never want to hear your voice in my ahead again! How dare you! Leave!

Ads that sound like we’re not supposed to know they’re ads
Absolutely not. Listen, Carver, I do not need to know that your wife likes to buy you MeUndies and they’ve since become the greatest item of clothing you’ve ever owned. Get a grip: we know you are being paid to record an ad, and we know that you are going to get paid for how much your ad brings the company you’re advertising for. We’re adults. We’ve watched commercials our entire lives. And I say this as someone who once had a podcast and absolutely had to sing the praises of a brand which I’m sure is lovely, but is something I have never actually used because the delivery never made it and I was never going to learn to cook anyway. Make this like Sesame Street. Tell us this episode is brought to us by the letter “R.”

Scary music or some scary voice
I mean, yes, there’s a loophole: if your podcast is about ghosts and goblins and/or specifically about “The Monster Mash” then go forth with my blessing. But a true crime podcast? With music? And spooky voices, as if inspired by the untouchable legend that is the late Robert Stack? I am ashamed. I am ashamed that I tuned in, and I am ashamed that out of the many hours one has in a day, you’ve chosen to use yours to try and make a real life tragedy seem scarier. You know who needs this? Not a soul. And especially not me, desperate for something to listen to while doing the laundry and finding herself in some self-made cavern or cubby alongside a synthesizer someone is using an echo feature on to say, “Ted Bundy.”

Podcasts about people like Ted Bundy
Something about Ted Bundy is that every person knows about Ted Bundy. He was a monster, and one that’s been romanticized about a million times through various facets of pop culture. “Famous” and/or “infamous” serial killers have been documented to the point of exhaustion, and romanticized even more than that. This is something I thought everybody had picked up on, but then last week a podcast I liked suggested a new one about the 15 worst . . . crimes? People? Something? (I don’t care) Who is this for? Why is this, exactly? Are the airwaves beginning to empty? Are we in this much need of taking up space? And would making a list like this be an honour? Who was number 16? Do they get a consolation prize?

Of course, podcasting is still a learning curve, and the true crime “boom” of the last few years helped establish the genre as something worth hopping on. But, like: we need to relax. Not everything needs several episodes about somebody else’s trauma, particularly if it ends with a shrug and the promise for a particularly exciting next season. It also doesn’t need to be covered at all if there isn’t something outside of the incident to explore and learn about. There are ways of navigating investigative podcasts in ways that are thoughtful and responsible and humanize every person involved. But when a host silently anoints himself a hero for shouting over somebody’s fence? Or veers off course to remind us of how interesting they are? Or can’t ask the question who is this for? No. No more. Please sit down, away from the microphone. I can’t do this anymore, and with another few weeks in Step One (shout-out to Waterloo Region!), I refuse to have more time taken from me.

And now for a special note from Me Undies . . .

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