If you've been on the internet since March 28, chances are you have seen someone in your social network say something about the new podcast S-Town. From the creators of This American Life and Serial, S-Town explores what it means to be an outsider in a very small community. For those listening to the podcast, seeing photos of John B. McLemore from S-Town might seem important — and while it might help you paint a picture of the cast of characters involved, it shouldn't be necessary to truly appreciate the podcast.
At first, the S-Town podcast will read as exactly the same as Serial. A crime is presented to the producers (in this case, Brian Reed), he investigates it, talks to witnesses... you know the drill. But, at the end of Chapter 2 — spoilers are to come — two major things are revealed: the murder that McLemore thought happened never happened, and, in the final moments, it is revealed that McLemore has killed himself.
His story is important to hear, and Reed does a wonderful job telling that story from his experiences in Woodstock, Alabama, his conversations with those McLemore surrounded himself with, McLemore's extended family, and certain people that may be able to speak towards his opinions and actions in town. As listeners know, McLemore had a lot to say about the world, the country, and his small town that he called "Sh*ttown", and throughout the podcast, listeners will find themselves painting a picture of the man that started the whole thing.
And that's really all that is needed. This story, while instigated by McLemore, is being told by Reed through the medium of a podcast. It is not a visual show where photo assistance is necessary, because it doesn't change what is happening in the story. Sure, you can find the photos online if you're really in desperate need of seeing what McLemore looks like, but the story is not about what McLemore looked like (even though Reed gives a detailed description of him in the first episode). The story is about what McLemore meant to his friends, his family, his town, and to Reed.
The podcast is visual in the sense that it paints a story. You may not know what Woodstock, Alabama looks like from your own knowledge, but the stories you hear, the tattoo parlor conversations, the maze experiences, and the moments making a dime into a gold coin, they all create a visual for each listener — and that's all the podcast owes its listeners.