**Note: This post contains language which may offend some readers.
I was happily listening to a sports podcast (ESPN’s 30 for 30) when they interviewed a pair of documentary producers Dan Perrault and Tony Yacenda, first discussing sport mockumentaries they had produced, then they flipped their conversation to the pair’s most critically acclaimed work – their 8 episode American Vandal mockumentary which aired on Netflix. From hearing this interview alone, my interest was piqued! So I stowed the information to memory – to be used later on that night.
As my wife and I were settling in for another dinner in front of the TV, I asked Google to play ‘American Vandal’ on Netflix. And with some puzzlement from my wife (we had been following other shows) I sat back to enjoy the show and also to see my wife’s reaction as I hadn’t told her that this was a mockumentary.
Dick, dick, dick! There! I’ve gotten it out of the way! Adult language warning come and gone! If you don’t like crude youth culture and the ‘D’ word, you might not like American Vandal. The premise of the show is that an act of vandalism had occurred at this suburban Ohio highschool. 27 cars in the staff parking lot were vandalised in 23 minutes with graffiti, defaced with red spray-paint depicting the male genitalia. An eye-witness claimed that school clown Dylan Maxwell was seen doing the phallic symbols, which subsequently leads to his expulsion from school (and potentially liable for the $100K damage bill).
And when the mockumentary properly starts rolling, the two main characters are Peter Maldonado and Sam Ecklund, a pair of sophomores from the school’s Morning Show (student news program) as they interview students and teachers to get to the bottom of this ‘True crime’. Their motivation – they didn’t want to see a potentially innocent guy go down for a crime he didn’t commit, especially when facts and witness accounts didn’t stack-up. The first couple of episodes are still all about the crime, but as the series unfolds it delves into the themes of modern-day youth culture. And as unlikely as the show can be, it actually becomes a very interesting mystery, with cliff hangers at the end of each episode, and it does a commendable job in depicting today’s youth.
So as Episode One finished, I sat back and observed my wife’s reaction. If she didn’t know it was all fake and scripted, would she think that this was a proper true crime documentary? Would she believe that this act of vandalism actually occured back in 2016 (March 15 to be exact). The signs that she had her doubts was during some scenes she questioned how the documentary obtained “that” type of video footage. And for me, the weak link which exposed it as a fake, was Dylan Maxwell. In my opinion, no normal non-acting Stoner would come off like he did. To describe it, would be to say he acted like an actor being asked to act like a stoner youth. And then proceeding to apply the stereotypical stoner traits to his character, but not all that convincingly. But when I told my wife, “It’s all fake! It’s a comedy!” I could sense her pause and process this new information, and while she wasn’t completely shocked by this revelation, however the acting was 85% good enough that it could have fooled anyone who didn’t know as being a real true crime doc. And after knowing this, she got even more invested in the show, and I think she enjoyed it more than I did?
For me, American Vandal just reminds me of how grateful I am that I’m no longer a teenager! Especially thankful that I wasn’t a teenager who grew-up with social media, with mobile phones always at the ready. And I’m just so glad to be out of school, just imagining being back at school makes me anxious, that whole playground setting where everyone has a label, i.e. the stoners, the jocks, the geeks, the popular ones etc. *Shudders*.
So if you’d like a bit of a laugh, a surprisingly engrossing ‘who done it’ mystery, and a slight throw-back to your youth? Check out American Vandal on Netflix. Click HERE to begin streaming!
P.S. Season 2 of American vandal is also available on Netflix, and it’s even better and more binge-worthy than Season 1!