Why are we so obsessed with Making a Murderer?
There seems to be this fascinating dichotomy in our culture right now as we are disgusted with our level of violence, and at the same time, obsessed with it.
Most evenings, my husband Josh can be found in the kitchen doing dishes while listening to episodes of Serial on his iPhone. Then, later while I'm engrossed in writing, he’s plugged into his laptop next to me, watching episodes of Making a Murderer.
What these programs have in common is that they both document the cases of real life murder mysteries and other crimes, and they are both extremely popular right now.
I haven’t ventured into either of these dramas on account of my ultra-sensitive soul that tends to absorb both darkness and light very deeply and personally. That, and my utter lack of time these days. On average, I might be able to fit in half an episode of Parks and Recreations each day before our son is ready to go to bed, and after that, it’s time to write. So while we’re on our family walks around the park, I just have Josh tell me all about what's happening in the plots. He generally knows my heart, and what it can handle at this point.
At breakfast this morning, Josh was messaging my cousins about Making a Murderer, so out of genuine curiosity I asked him what the draw was.
“It’s the mystery,” he said with confidence.
I wasn't satisfied. “There are good mysteries in the world, too. Like the mysteries of God and stuff. Are those just as enthralling?” I asked.
“Mm-hmm,” he nodded, both of us knowing that’s the right answer; both of us knowing that’s not the most honest one.
He thought about it for a second, and then it came to him. “Really, what it is is that we all have this innate sense of justice. No one wants to see a guilty man walk free, and no one wants to see an innocent man suffer.”
Yes, that actually makes a lot of sense, and is also more along the lines of those good mysteries of God and stuff that truly are the most enthralling. We like stories, and we want justice.
The thing about these programs, however, is that they don’t seem to satisfy that innate sense of justice that comes preinstalled in the human soul. They actually seem to exploit it to the point that we’re not even sure what justice looks like anymore.
Josh has just finished the last episode of Making a Murderer, and has also done some research on the case outside of the show. Not only is he trying to decide if Steven Avery is innocent or guilty, he’s also trying to decide if the creators of the show are innocent or guilty. Because, he says, in a court of law, evidence cannot be withheld for the sake of justice. But on Netflix, it absolutely can for the sake of entertainment.