We're well into 2017 and Netflix is continuing its winning streak by illuminating the truth in their astonishing true crime docuseries. From Making A Murderer, Amanda Knox, The Imposter and the journey to uncovering the secrets behind Sister Cathy's death in #TheKeepers, fewer sub-genres of non-fiction have been as popular as the streaming service's offerings in recent years. And come September 15, #Netflix looks to be cranking it up a notch.
A new show is currently creeping up on the horizon and it's called #AmericanVandal. Yet, while it is classed as another true crime docuseries, it promises to be so much more than that, zoning in on all the aspects that make the sub-genre so powerful in the first place and then slowly twisting them for our entertainment. And all of this is done through a compelling story about a silly student prank that vandalizes 27 faculty cars with phallic imagery at Hanover High School, leaving everyone with one question on their lips: "Who drew the dicks?"
So, what is it really about the new show that is likely to make it your next true crime obsession? Well, the main appeal of the mockumentary is of course comedy. Following in the footsteps of classics such as This Is Spinal Tap, Best in Show and more recently What We Do in the Shadows, it's another project deliciously treading along a thin line between reality and satire. But it is the way that American Vandal does this that makes it so unique.
Yes, while each easily-digestible, half-hour episode chunk employs the tricks and tropes of conventional documentary filmmaking — structurally, it really does resemble 2015's hard-hitter #MakingAMurderer frame-by-frame and at one point, it's lead documentarian Peter even alludes to how his project is "kinda like Serial" — it throws it all into the laps of teenagers in a casual high-school setting. And in the process, as well as trying to get to the bottom of whether "known dick-drawer" Dylan Maxwell really did it, the docuseries also swiftly becomes a social commentary on what it means to be a 14-17-year-old in modern-day America.
From the high school proms, summer camps and awkward hookups, to what it means to attend pumping house parties and to puff on a dirty joint behind the school sheds, it's almost like Netflix has picked up 2004's Mean Girls, suddenly dropped it into the gritty, real world and then clumsily drawn a bright red dick on it to decipher for fun. All the while though, American Vandal keeps a straight face, doesn't flinch and pushes on through, masquerading as the highest tier of investigative journalism. So much so, that we even forget to bat an eyelid when one interviewee exclaims:
"This isn’t about dicks. This is about the justice system!"
Ultimately, Netflix's new show follows the same thematic trajectory as many true crime documentaries before it. However, in doing so, the internet giant also goes where no streaming service has gone before — down an hilarious, self-deprecating road to mocking the very movement it kickstarted.
Essentially, in efforts to include even more entertaining, original content within its online catalogues, Netflix doesn't shy away from shitting all over the content that helped build up its reputation up in the first place. And quite frankly, if the wild and wacky journey that American Vandal takes us on is anything to go by, we're all for it.
American Vandal is available on Netflix from September 15, 2017:
Will you be watching American Vandal?