Wading Shallower Waters
We watched the first episode of Making a Murderer and about half of another one and my wife and I could probably make it through the rest of the series if we had to but after being out of the loop for so long and hearing the gist of everything and then the backlash to the gist of everything already, I’m not sure that we will continue.
It happens with movies a lot of the time, that sense that there is a rush of momentum for a film and if you miss that first wave then you have to play catch up. But more than the FOMO with new TV series or big movies or whatever else (Sarah Palin speech, Hotline Bling dance, the crying Michael Jordan meme) I just think that I already know I don’t like it.
In Making a Murderer I immediately compared it to Serial, which garnered a similar reaction to the story of a convicted murder’s possible innocence. And while the same criticisms of Serial apply to the Netflix wonder, I just couldn't help but feel there was a certain lack of quality and general boringness that shared more with those late-night news magazines shows than Sarah Koenig’s phenomenon.
As I was watching it I initially felt the same indignation at this man being treated so poorly that has fueled the popularity of the series but in hindsight, I guess I don’t really know what I was fired up about or what the point was. There is no inherent connection to current political problems or social issues that the man’s innocence narrative enforces or contradicts. There is no revelation except that a man may have been screwed by the system and his own dull wits. The conflict is only that people didn’t like him and that probably cost him his freedom and maybe he didn’t kill that woman, but there is no big picture theme or meticulous quality that I think maybe might have kept me coming back for more of the 10 hours of content.
I felt the same way about The Revenant, an interesting, maybe even exciting film that falls into the category of low-brow “artsy” entertainment designed to make people feel like they saw something great. The plot was simple enough, the acting was animalistic but shallow, boiling down humanity to basic elements like pain, cold, anger, revenge — and unlike the very similar Gravity, the computer-aided, long-shot action did little to increase the tension or distract from the fact there wasn’t really a deeper level to anything in the movie. Even all of the “imagery” with the floating Indian woman or the random Catholic church, did little to explain the mountain man’s motivations or expound on the plight of “The First Nation people.”
I watched that film back to back with The Hateful Eight, and while I still don’t know if I liked it that much, there was at least real mastery to it that I found satisfaction in. I’d rather watch something good that fails than something that fails to be truly good.
But since I haven’t watched more than 10% of the series, it’s understandably unfair of me to criticize Making a Murderer based on assumptions, which is the theme of the series, I think.