American Vandal is a new Netflix original series that everyone has binged or is planning to. While parts of this show are somewhat unrelatable, this series is as entertaining as it sounds.
The series is a satirical take on true-crime series, with the focus being on 18 year-old Dylan Maxwell, a high school student from Oceanside, CA, who’s accused of vandalizing 27 cars in the faculty parking lot with… phallic images. Peter Moldonado is another student who leads the narrative, playing the part of the documentarian who is determined to find the truth.
The whole series kind of shadows the Serial podcast from 2014, hosted by Sarah Koenig from This American Life, where she follows the conviction of Adnan Syed after the court found him guilty of murdering his ex-girlfriend on circumstantial evidence. American Vandal uses the same plot devices like constructing a timeline step-by-step and the use of audio dispositions that gives it the same feel.
What really makes American Vandal a classic is the way evidence is presented. The students’ whereabouts and actions are archived through Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat, which are used as this B-roll footage while the narrative drives on. It’s amazing how the series captures covers how public the lives of these students are, while showing YouTube pranks that you can’t help but smile at- it gives a glimpse into how satirical the show is.
“The whole thing is trivializing the nature of true-crime dramas,” said Tyler Strong, a recent graduate of Castleton University. “It’s about the most trivial thing ever- drawing dicks,” he says through a smile,“I can’t help but be entertained, though.”
This is what he show is all about. It’s the dumbest thing in the world, drawing dicks, yet there I sat, for hours, trying to figure out, “Who did the Dicks?” It’s the most aggressive shot anyone can take at a genre, essentially stating that the true-crime genre is the laziest there is. If you can make someone drawing dicks so interesting then you can make anything interesting. An article from Vulture truly phrases it the best when they claim the the series, “can’t help but succeed in a strong investment in its’ mystery.”
The other thing American Vandal does well is cinematography. All of the shots in the show are intentionally dark. The establishing shots are lit beautifully, while the archive footage taken from students’ Snapchat and Instagram accounts is intentionally poor. “Whoever did the post-production- they did an amazing job with this,” said Vincent Guerrera, another graduate from CU majoring in photography. “The way they lay-out situations and set it up with students filming it is next-level.”
The only thing that the series kind of falls short with is timing. Toward the end of the show, I found myself just wanting to finish it. It gets to the point where the novelty of the show wears off and I knew that if the series could have just been two episodes shorter, it could have been flawless.
Overall- you need to sit down and watch. Find your friends, your significant other or put on some headphones by yourself and give it a go. Sure, sometimes the show can get a little fatigued with high school hook-up culture, but it’s so well-put together that you’ll find yourself invested in the characters and the case.