A recent review left on Itunes gave me a lot to think about today when I saw it. While it was not outright negative (3/5 stars), even generally praising of the show, the reviewer did make a point of saying that the show meandered into territory outside of the scope of initial objectives and that I had 'bitten off more than I could chew' in certain areas that weren't directly related to Cambodian history.
I tend to agree with this person.
I initially thought the show would be ten, 45 minute episodes. A manageable task for someone studying full time and working part time. Two years later, having produced eight standard episodes totalling more than 10 hours of content, without having reached the second world war, I think somewhere the show may have stumbled into unfamiliar territory.
This is one problem of not having an editor, nor a deadline. But it is a problem for those that are listening to the show that may already have a strong grasp on world history, and themes, and are more looking for a series dedicated to just the Khmer Rouge or Cambodia. The problem that I have encountered is that producing a show like this, without really knowing who the audience is can produce issues when tailoring the content of the series for what could be an extremely wide audience.
I think this problem became pronounced when introducing colonialism and these kinds of themes into the show. Explaining why europeans conquered much of the world in the 'age of discovery' relies on many other pieces of assumed knowledge, as does why the french revolution happened when it did, or why.
Cambodian history has been influenced so much by the 'great forces of modern history'; colonialism, european empire, de-colonisation, globalisation, the cold war, nationalism, communism, asian history and world history. It is so hard to explain this story without referencing these ideas, and when they come up, knowing how much to explain them can be a difficult task. One that I am still learning to get better at.
I hope that this listener keeps listening to the show, and enjoys the parts of it that they find interesting. As I've said what I feel like must be at least a few other times in this blog, the show has become a way for me to explain everything that I can to the 'me' in my late teens who wanted to know about why the Khmer Rouge revolution happened. I want people to be able to listen to this show, know what 'enlightenment values' are, or what the 'reign of terror' was or how nationalism was born. I want them to know what the proletariat is. I want them to be able to pick up a book by David Chandler or Philip Short and have that experience of reading a true historian's explanation be enriched because they were aware of the basics that these authors tend to take for granted in what can be a very general audience. Not have to skip over a sentence only half aware of what was being referenced.
However, I feel I can begin to limit the topics that were beginning to creep into the show. I disagree with the reviewer in their opinion that a one hour explanation of the origins of communism was unnecessary. Knowing what went wrong in Cambodia and for other communist experiments is really only possible with reference to the theories that these experiments were based upon. BUT, as I looked over the notes that I had begun preparing for the next episode of the show, 'Part Two' of this exploration, that would have looked at the Soviet Union and Europe between the wars, well... it did strike me as biting off more than I can chew. While we still need to know about how 'revolutions', particularly communist ones, aim for one thing and turn out as another, it certainly can be less intricately explained and I want to shift the focus back upon Indochina and spend more time tracing how these ideas were imported and acted upon by someone much closer to this narrative, the Viet Minh.
So, if the person that left that review ever reads this, I want you to know that I value the fact that you listened to the show intently enough to be able to form such a reasonable reaction to it, and I hope you know that I intend to take your review as intended, constructive criticism. Thank you.