\ ˈrā-dē-ˌō land \
the aggregate of listeners within the reach of a radio station’s transmission
The podcast Radioland is built on the idea that our understanding of the world is shaped by the media we consume and the stories we tell. These mediums are a part of how we explain the world to ourselves and others, and how we represent ourselves to ourselves. We see ourselves in characters in TV shows and movies—characters who share our occupation, age, heritage, gender, skin tone, sexual orientation, etc.. In part through them, we understand our identity, our world, and our place in it. While this may not happen as directly as a mind-controlling radio broadcast, it’s a very real aspect of our engagement with media and the socially constructed narratives we build through it.
As an example, for approximately six months of my life, I was subjected to a form of gay conversion therapy administered by an ecclesiastical leader. During that time I was not “out” to anybody but this ecclesiastical leader and was restricted from the internet and all forms of media that were not produced by my church. Thus there was only one source to explain to me what being gay was, and it claimed that being gay was at best a delusion and at worst a disease caused by sin. I was being told a story about myself—a story that reinforced years of repression and anxiety—and I was believing it. And I hated myself for it.
I won’t get too into the details of that experience here. Suffice to say I got out of it. I managed to escape that paradigm, come out to my family and friends, and start getting real therapy to treat the anxiety, depression, and suicidality that conversion therapy had intensified. As a part of that healing process, I was told to write about my experiences—to tell the story of it to myself so that I could re-understand it in a more objective light. Repeated attempts at this revealed the documentary mode to be inadequate in expressing what I felt about my experiences, and I instead wound up writing a series of prose poems. Those poems described dreamlike scenes that, though not conveying literally what happened, captured my feelings about what happened more adequately.
Those poems became the basis for Radioland. Some of those poems, as well as other poems, music, and soundscapes, are included in the various episodes of Radioland, and the whole podcast could serve as an allegory for my experiences, or more broadly for any experience of trying to sort out what is real and what is fake, what is absolute and what is subjective—especially when one finds the generally accepted narrative confusing and hurtful.
Though Radioland may have some pretty heavy origins, our team has put a lot of effort into making this podcast fun and enjoyable. We truly hope you have fun listening, but we also want you to be aware of this background and these underlying themes. We want you to understand the importance of seeing past the broadcast; of taking an active role in shaping the world we live in through engagement with the stories we tell about it; and the importance of recognizing when the accepted narrative is unnecessarily hurting ourselves or others.
In other words—whether you’re a Gabe Rodriguez trying to make it on his own for the first time, a woman striving for respect in a male-dominated industry, or queer kid being raised in a conservative religious community—you are not a scarecrow. You’re real.
—Samuel Burton, director and writer of Radioland