"When someone 'one dies, there are always unanswered questions. But what happens when you lose someone and they leave a trail for you to follow after they leave? "
Chris Stedman explains the central vanity of his Unread podcast. The four-part series sees the writer and podcaster commemorate his friend Alex, who committed suicide in late 2019, via storytelling, vocal notes and testimony.oignages of mutual friends. It also follows Stedman's quest to gain a better understanding of his friend's life, digging into parts of his story he never knew existed. Bringing together a touching story and a gripping mystery, Unread has received critical acclaim from Vulture and has been a podcast highlight of the year since its July release.
While a podcast may seem like an odd medium for some sort of eulogy, in the case of Chris and Alex it is perhaps the one that makes the most sense. Their decade-long friendship largely unfolded online, and Stedman learned of Alex's death via a posthumous email from his friend. "It was shocking and horrible to receive, but he made it all very clear," Stedman said. "Towards the end, however, there was one detail that didn't make sense to me. It included a link to audio files of him talking to someone he had met.very nearly a decade earlier on a fan forum, which looked exactly like Britney Spears. "
In the weeks after Alex died , Stedman couldn't stop thinking about why he included this detail and decided to search for the duplicate of Britney, who was called Alice online. In the process, he tried to figure out why Alice had Counted so much to Alex, as well as considering how online fan communities have given him a sense of belonging. ask how our digital lives can provide our loved ones with a semblance of our existence long after we are gone.
"I met Alex in his early twenties, alive in Chicago, and he cracked me up, "says Stedman. " After years in the closet, I thought the bestThe way he survived was to present a "polite " version of myself, but he didn't care. He was himself without apologizing and allowed me to be too. "
The couple bonded around A mutual love for music, especially the Spears discography. "There is something about her that is so real," he says. "She 'sa superstar, but she also has her own struggles. In an age of a perfectly organized online presence, Britney feels authentic. This is why many of us in marginalized communities see ourselves reflected in her. "
Stedman moved to the East Coast to work, but the couple kept in touch, often sending each other more previews of Britney's songs. As a check on controversial conservatory has risen, Alex has expressed his supportnot. "He was on the Free Britney train before it even became a thing," Stedman says. "It 's very bittersweet now to see how much progress has been made in his case, because I know he would have been very happy.
Central to the discussion about Spears 'legal autonomy and the powerful fan-led Free Britney movement is his sanity - something Alex struggled throughout his life. "He sometimes felt like people wouldn't believe he had these huge struggles, or he felt like there were people who only wanted him when he was the life of the party, "says Stedman. "I have heard echoes of this in Britney's court testimonies. The world is only interested in rewarding certain aspects of who she is and will punish her for those other equally valuable parts.
Production of the podcast in collaboration with the family of Alex, Stedman is careful not to detail why Alex committed suicide, but rather to be honest about the circumstances of his death and to open conversations about the suicide.
"His is a life that is usually not celebrated," Stedman says. "Part of what made Alex so special is also what made his life so difficult. He struggled to keep a job, he was a wandering spirit, and he prioritized love and relationships over traditional notions of “success.” The world wasn't necessarily built for people like him, but I still wanted to honor memory and find out what Alice had meant to him. "
Alice 's voice recordings are strange in their Britney-ness, while explaining how a digital friendship can be as meaningful as one in real life. While the question of his identity remains very vague most of the time, while Stedmanapproaching his research, we are starting to understand Alex's reasoning for including him in his latest email. The result is a deeply moving final episode where Alex's dying wishes lead Stedman to rethink his own life. "I'm so skeptical in general, but this research allowed me to do what Alex would do, which is to embrace the fantasy of it all," he says.
As the show garnered praise for providing a new take on 'stan' culture (intense fan behavior) and the famous Free Britney , Stedman considers his legacy to be more far-reaching.
"There is this culture of silence and shame surrounding suicide - one of the things that I have found really rewarding is hearing from people who have struggled with suicidality themselves or who have lost a loved one and found the show useful for the sake of it.their own treatment, ”he says. "We often think of suicidality as someone having an irrational moment, but there is nothing irrational about not wanting to be alive in a world that doesn't seem to care whether you live or die. Although I am devastated by Alex 's departure, I do not judge his decision. "
In the end, the unanswered questions that remain - about Alice and Alex's death - becoming the meaning of Stedman's journey, rather than a means to an end. "I started by trying to figure out exactly what happened and looking for points where I should have seen that something was wrong with Alex, but this process has helped me become more comfortable with strangers ", He said. "Part of learning to live with loss is learning to accept uncertainties. I'm in a different place now and all I want to do is do Alex justice. I have him.me. "
Unread is now available on all podcast platforms.
In the UK United and in Ireland, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or by sending an email to [email protected] or [email protected] . In the United States, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the Crisis Support Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international help lines can be found at befrienders.org .