I’ve been really into American Vandal lately. The show is a mockumentary where 2 high school kids solve mysteries at schools. They uncover secrets and truths about a somewhat silly case in a very serious manner – perfect crime satire.
“I’m making a documentary about Dylan’s case, kinda like Serial.”
“… That’s a terrible idea.”
For the most part, it’s hilarious. Other parts though, can be slightly aggravating if you realize that these things happen in real life – forced confessions, a justice system that doesn’t always work, lies stemming from ego and fear, scapegoats and more.
Even though they are solving a silly case (Who drew the dicks? Who is the @turdburlgar?), scenes of police officers and teachers coercing a person to confess could be quite realistic. Fake confessions happen all the time and innocent people get framed, often times choosing to settle as the next best choice because proving innocence just seemed so impossible.
The show spoon feeds you evidence and proof throughout the story so it’s easier for you to digest, but for the most part I can’t help but agree that my stereotypes and pre-assumptions also make me jump from lead to lead. What kind of a student looks like he/she would vandalize 27 cars with drawings of dicks? What kind of a student would put laxatives in the cafeteria? My mind can’t help but form some sort of visual, some sort of pre-conceived notion of who this person may be.
Kids who are bullied. Kids who have no friends. Kids who are stupid, do drugs, don’t have a happy family background, aren’t well-off… kids who don’t seem like they’ll have the brightest future based on my own standards. Kids who are not on the swim team, do not write for the newspaper, aren’t Ming (lol). Those are the kinds of people I automatically place higher in my list of suspicion.
American Vandal does a good job of making me rethink about where people are coming from. They unpack assumptions and stereotypes and with its mockumentary style, depicts a kind-of real look at all the different sides of a person.
At one point, one of the prime suspects who was exonerated goes back to committing illegal deeds. As an audience member who has watched him regain innocence painstakingly, I wanted to scream, “WHY?” but he only mumbled that everybody saw him in a certain way. Everybody treated him in a certain way because of who they thought he was. And after awhile, you start to wonder if maybe they are right. Maybe that is who you are. Maybe after a long time of that, you actually become that person.
It made me sad to hear him say that. We all argue that every person has a choice and if they are in a place they are unhappy with, it’s because they made the choice not to change or do anything.
Sometimes I wonder if choice is all a fabricated dream- something the privileged say and never really understand. It’s easy to say you decided not to improve yourself. You decided not to get help. Don’t blame the system. Maybe some of us just don’t want to tackle the system, maybe some of us just don’t want to put in the effort to find a collaborative solution. Change starts with yourself, but what about the rest? Can you really do it all on individual perseverance alone, with no resources, no support, no access, no opportunities? A few do – the success stories we hear about, but the majority most likely do not.
I don’t believe in absolute truths. I believe there’s a different truth for each person and that’s based on what they believe is true. So if you don’t believe you have a choice – a real choice that will constitute feasible change – do you really?