2019, Podcasts

The Last Days of August (2019)

This is an interesting story of what caused a porn star to take her own life. In many ways it’s like a less accomplished version of Shit Town. So I’m sorry to say that there will be minor spoilers for both podcasts in this review. If you haven’t listened to Shit Town (i.e. S Town) yet, you really, really should.

And if you’ve listened to Shit Town you’ve got some slight idea where this is going, so sorry for that mild spoiler.


Back in 2017 a porn star hung herself in a park. The podcast tries to understand why she did it and what version of events is true. Because, the thing is, there are a bunch of different narratives:

  • Twitter bullying caused her to do it
  • A bad scene with a notoriously rough male porn star caused her to do it
  • Her husband’s control caused her to do it
  • Her husband’s neglect caused her to do it
  • Her husband killed her.

You get the idea. As with the death of anyone, especially anyone famous, people expect easy answers where there aren’t any and substitute theories for those answers when they’re not forthcoming.

The podcast looks into all the theories and, in the course of events, has some extremely moving moments, some really illuminating moments and at least one extremely intense interview with a very defensive porn star.

One of the things I personally found very fascinating was the question of whether or not the husband was emotionally abusive. Because, the thing is, I am a very trusting person. And I found him, in his interviews, to be incredibly upfront, honest and rational, only to find that the host was extremely skeptical of everything he said. It made me think about abuse. I was listening to this when I learned that my formerly favourite baseball writer has been charged with assault of his wife. The fact that it took until this man was 44 for anything to come out about his abuse seemed shocking. But listening to the husband in this podcast made it make so much more sense: people can put on different fronts and convince some people that they are a certain type of person, while behaving very differently towards others. (Please don’t equate what Jonah Keri did with what the husband in this podcast did or didn’t do. That’s not what I’m saying.)

At the end of it, this show ends up doing what Shit Town did: it goes in search of a mystery and finds the mundane; like Shit Town it shows that, instead of simple, easy to understand narratives of good vs. evil, life is complicated and kind of uninteresting, and all of us are complicit in life’s tragedies. For that, it is well worth the listen, because this is a lesson a lot of us have yet to internalize and we need it as much as we ever have in these days of conspiracy theory popularity.

One other thing: also like Shit Town it shows that any one person’s life, when examined this closely, will not stand up to rational scrutiny. And that’s because none of us are acting as if we are being watched, as if our lives were about to become the basis of a documentary or podcast. That’s also worth remembering next time we judge someone for not grieving the right way or not acting the right way when confronted by tragedy.


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