Queer Storytelling in S-Town: An Analysis of the Use of Queerness in Podcast Production


  • Lena Albro


In 2017, a podcast called S-Town took the world by storm and became a viral hit with several million downloads during its first week. The podcast follows the host, Brian Reed, on his excursion to rural Alabama, where John B. McLemore asked him to investigate a potential homicide. Instead of a homicide, however, McLemore turns into the polarizing subject of the podcast himself, as he personifies the intersection of queerness and Southerness, captivating the audience while disrupting Southern heteronormativity. In this paper, I argue that Reed and the production team of S-Town revolutionized the art of storytelling in podcast production by queering the medium, ultimately satisfying the public's need for more authentic stories. I analyze how the podcast achieved its unprecedented success by using queerness and queer worldmaking techniques to construct McLemore's queer identity, all while using novelistic strategies and a rhizomatic narrative structure with unpredictable directions typical for queer worldmaking. Finally, I question Reed's role in the creation of the podcast to examine how he is driving the queer narrative around McLemore while entering a homosocial, codependent relationship with him. I discovered S-Town originally in PC 5970 Professional Communication II, and decided to conduct further research and analysis on this podcast in ENGL 6000 Introduction to Graduate Studies, for which I ultimately wrote this essay.