Sarah Koenig has done many things well in Serial. But she has a big tell which betrays a serious and inexcusable bias.
She constantly refers to this story of the murder of a vibrant young Korean American honors student as “Adnan’s case.”
This has never really been Adnan’s case.
This is Hae Min Lee’s case.
By focusing on Adnan, not Hae, Serial has willfully ignored some big unanswered questions.
1. Hae’s car
If Ronald Lee Moore was a burglar (rapist and murderer) wouldn’t he have stolen the car?!
(…and how did Jay know where the car was?)
The accident in December is more important than Sarah makes out. It gives Adnan a template for what happens on January 13th.
2. Hae’s culture
This is the area of reportage most visibly and cavernously neglected by Serial.
In order to understand how Hae was murdered and by whom you have to examine who she trusted and who she would not have trusted and why.
She would not under any circumstances have given a ride to a stranger. Which meant that her body would have had signs of Moore’s typical blunt-force assault, rape, and trauma if he had been involved. He would have had to subdue her against her will in public, in daylight.
Hae, and Hyang Suk were both from a culture and a community with a strong inculcated sense of xenophobia. Neither would have allowed a strange man in their car or house willingly.
Which means that in the timeline of the last known day of Hae Min Lee’s life you have to ask who would have had the ability to convince Hae to let him (or her or them) in? Who would she have allowed in her car on the way to picking up her young cousin?
Ronald? No way.
Jay? Maybe…but highly unlikely.
Adnan? Almost certainly.
There is a heartbreaking news clip from the time of the murder trial. Hae’s mother speaks in Korean as Hae’s brother translates.
She refers to the alleged murderer as Hae’s “friend.”
The fact and force of her daughter’s murder devastated Hae’s mother. Yet even in that devastation she resorts to the word “friend” when describing her daughter’s alleged killer.
The fact of her daughter’s sexual contact with Adnan would have been terribly painful to acknowledge…because honor matters to Koreans. It is intimately layered into their language and culture.
It stays layered into their culture long after they have emigrated, long after the line one might draw between “Korean” and “Korean American.”
Hae Min Lee was a Korean American. Hae Min Lee was an American woman.
But she has yet to receive justice or anything like it from other American women who doggedly refuse to see her as a person, a sister, daughter, or friend who deserved both protecting from the law and a voice.
Serial may have done many things well, but in its haste to defend Adnan, it has left non-white, non-privileged women to fend for themselves once again.
I keep thinking about the phrase–a jury of your peers.
Did Adnan receive justice from a jury of his peers? Maybe, maybe not.
Did Hae, or Hyang Suk?
…they never had a chance.