Thursday, April 06, 2017

Entertainment Ethics

I listen to a lot of podcasts. I listen when I work out, when I walk my endless loops around the neighborhood, when I'm cleaning, and when I'm in the car. Pretty much if you are trying to picture me at any given moment, just imagine me with earbuds in.  I listen to interview shows, comedy shows, and NPR shows. I listen to true crime, politics, and economics. I listen to anything, really. I could probably be convinced to listen to a sports podcast if it were well done.

But recently I've run into a problem.

I concerned about the ethical implications of my entertainment. I listened to S-Town and was slightly horrified. Yes, it was really well done. Yes, it was a compelling story and I listened all the way to the end by the day after the series dropped. But at the end I felt dirty and sticky. SPOILERS AHEAD. This was clearly a story of a man who was mentally ill. The manic episodes were clearly demonstrated early on in the show. Can a mentally ill man give permission to a reporter* to use interviews with him?  Was it fair of the podcast to out a dead man as gay?  To not talk about the mental illness until the last episode? To take advantage of the man's grieving friends?  To record at the man's graveside service?

It was a well told story. It really was. But I don't think it should have been made and I don't think I should know any of this.  I'm starting to feel like my entertainment is being made at the expense of others and I don't like it.

And that brings us to Missing Richard Simmons. I have not listened to the podcast because I firmly believe the man should be left to his privacy. There have been wellness checks on him, he's in weekly contact with his family, and he just wants to be left alone. I'd be pissed if some asshole guy with a microphone tried to get into my inner circle to dredge up dirt on me and I'm not currently opting out of society. 

I struggle with entertainment. Should the accusations of sexual harassment stop me from watching Manchester by the Sea? Should I refrain from listening to music of those who have been found guilty of domestic violence (i.e., Tommy Lee, Ozzy Osbourne).  Should I dismiss Edward Scissorhands from my mind because Johnny Depp is losing his damn mind?  I have a hard time separating art from artists and frequently do just stop supporting artists to ease my own personal guilt.

But who am I punishing by not listening to Missing Richard Simmons? My silent protest means nothing. But I guess I will switch to audiobooks if the exploitative nature of podcasts continues to be problematic in my world.

*This brings up a whole new set of problems for me. Are podcast hosts reporters? Should I hold them up to the same journalistic standards I would hold up a reporter for a major news network?

1 comment:

  1. Oooh this is such a thought-provoking post! I struggle with this too! Did you watch "Making a Murderer"? I loved it -- but felt also really icky about watching it. It seemed so exploitative (not to mention lacking in professional distance, in my opinion). I don't have any answers, but I like reading about it and thinking about it!


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