Louder Than Words: “Moonface” Podcast
Moonface, a 2019 fiction podcast created by James Kim, shows that language transcends words, effective communication isn’t always verbal, and not all narratives are interpreted the same way. Kim constructs an evocative story about Paul, the son of South Korean immigrants, whose mother doesn’t know he’s gay. Paul speaks English. His mother, Korean. The story centers on the power of understanding without relying on words.
Moonface, an audio story in six episodes, packs in a powerful punch of emotions. The story challenges the ways we interpret and deconstruct narratives, particularly non-dominant ones. It’s a coming out and coming of age narrative from the perspective of Paul, a first generation son of Korean immigrants.
Paul lives in Downey, California, part of the gateway cities and home of the first McDonald’s. A man in his late twenties, he lives with his mother. His father had passed away years ago. Paul wants to come out to his mother and mention his new boyfriend, but the language barrier makes it difficult. Paul fears that his mother would reject him.
Kim uses sounds — moaning during sex, eating at the dinner table, and background music at a LA nightclub — to accompany Paul’s story. If the story happens to be just that, noises, I believe I’d still understand what’s going on. The sounds emphasize the tension and the subtlety during interactions. Plus, there’s no translation when Paul’s mother speaks, highlighting the language barrier between them. Like many children of immigrants, Paul’s fluency in Korean has dwindled over his childhood years. And his trouble in expressing his emotions and desires strains the relationships with his friends and boyfriend.
Moonface also demonstrates how non-dominant narratives (marginalized, international) get misconstrued. Paul, wanting to get into podcasting, signs up for a podcast storytelling workshop. During the workshop, his peers misunderstand the purpose of a favorite podcast he shared. The podcast, about hiking, is entirely noise and no dialogue. His peers believe that there’s no clear narrative arc. The podcast episode follows the host’s trek through the forest and ends with a crowd’s cheers. How his peers translate it shows the experiences and perspectives that don’t fit into mainstream storytelling.
Credits: Paul is voiced by Joel Kim Booster. His mother is voiced by Esther Moon Wu. The podcast features music by Andrew Eapen (from Oyster Kids), Big Thief, and more.
You can listen to Moonface on any of the available platforms here. For more podcast recommendations, check out the tag. If you want to check out other recommended media, browse through this tag.
Author: Brahidaliz Martinez
Brahidaliz (pronounced Bra-da-leez) is a 2019 graduate of American University’s MFA in creative writing program. Their cross-genre chapbook, Coquí’s Song, is forthcoming (2023) from Mason Jar Press.
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