Podcast of the Week: ATLANTA MONSTER
It’s no secret that true crime narratives dominate the podcasting medium, and we’ve covered a few in this series before. But for those still searching for something to scratch that itch, ATLANTA MONSTER is a brand new podcast series that’s happy to lend a hand. Telling the story of the nearly unheard of Atlanta Child Murders that occurred between 1979 and 1981, host Payne Lindsey dives into the decades-old cold case of a serial killer that claimed the lives of nearly 30 young, African-American males.
Payne’s previous podcast, UP AND VANISHED, dealt with a similar cold case, investigating the disappearance of Georgia high school teacher Tara Grinstead in 2005. It’s particularly notable for being far more “live” than something like the ubiquitous SERIAL; episodes were released as the investigation was occurring, and it’s interesting to see Payne and his team become more savvy and experienced muckrakers as the podcast goes on, if nothing else. The big news occurred in February of last year, when the police made two arrests based on the dirt the podcast churned up. While ATLANTA MONSTER is presented with a similar hotline nature, it feels far more solidified and polished than its predecessor. Ultimately, this is for the better; while the sense of raw scrappiness is diminished, there’s a much more authorial eye present here, making it clear that there’s something larger to be said.
You see, as I’ve referenced before, the best podcasts aren’t ever really about their topical subject matter, and ATLANTA MONSTER is no exception. While the brutal killing spree at hand offers base-level thrills and chills, from its first episode ATLANTA MONSTER makes no secret of the fact that this is really a story about race in America. And what a sad, painful story it’s set up to be. As is common knowledge now, the police have often not been willing to give communities that are lower on the socioeconomic ladder the same attention they’d give to cases involving affluent, mostly white members of society, and while the gloves are still on this early in the podcast, blood will boil as realization of law enforcement’s apathy towards the killings settles in. A sound bite comparing the case to that of Jack the Ripper sets the stage perfectly: in the eyes of society, the communities affected by this serial killer are those who this sort of thing is “supposed” to happen to, which prevents a larger awareness and motivation to catch the killer. How else can we explain the fact that even with the millennial obsession with true crime this is the first time the vast majority of us will be hearing of the Atlanta Child Murders?
If you find yourself reaching a bursting point when it comes to true crime, ATLANTA MONSTER may contain some additional hurdles: it doesn’t shake or break any formulas or parameters, and consists of the familiar interpolations of talking head interviews and news casts to set the stage and tell its story. But especially with the larger commentaries on race and police conflict operating in the background, its pilot episode suggests that it’s fully capable of separating itself from and transcending a large majority of its peers. If you want to get wrapped up in another torrid case of murder and intrigue, ATLANTA MONSTER just premiered today and is a worthy antidote for your commute.