Why is America obsessed with "Making a Murderer"? (and "Serial", "The Jinx" etc.)

You can’t get a sip of hangover elixir from the water cooler without Gerdy from accounting asking if you’re watching Making a Murderer on “the Netflix.” She of course is...
Photo via: thewrap.com

You can’t get a sip of hangover elixir from the water cooler without Gerdy from accounting asking if you’re watching Making a Murderer on “the Netflix.” She of course is binging it, surrounded by her 17 cats, in between sessions on FarmersOnly.com. But that’s neither here nor there.

This proverbial oasis in the abysmal desert that is your office was usually reserved for the alpha males highest on the food chain to discuss Game of Thrones theories and regurgitate the latest SportsCenter news. But this bipartisan programming has crumbled party lines and brought to light a common thread between the Bravo binging Kardashian loyalists, the NPR types and the non-premium cable purists who’s favorite show is Modern Family. *Cringe*

But why is this modern day mix between America’s Most Wanted and Law and Order SVU more prevalent in society than rufilin in the Cosby household? Dateline has been airing this type of programming since roughly 1972 and Nancy Grace has covered equally if not more gripping examples of injustice and drama through 3 bouts of liposuction and 2 OJ trials. It’s nothing novel. So why now? Netflx has carefully brewed a near perfect potion in their premium programming cauldron, composed of the following:

But first, halftime.

Streaming Services: Here is how I would sum up the importance of premium cable streaming services in the US: if ISIS really wanted to cripple the US, they would shut down Netflix, HBO Go, Amazon Prime, and to a lesser extent, Hulu. This psychological waterboarding would bring America to its knees as it was forced to watch non-HD, basic cable. The inception of what I like to call “binge-and-purge” watching has created an obsessive cult who gorges on the latest show du jour and can’t shut the fuck up about it the next day, much to the discontent of those one episode behind.  And this made for TV, real life crime drama is a perfect shitstorm of weekend wasting and Monday morning office chatter.

Crime: According to my research roughly 97% of what is on TV is either a cop-drama or Real Housewives show. It’s natural that typically law abiding people are drawn in by the grittiness of crime … and rich, basic white women comparing boob jobs and designer dogs.

People are starting to realize there is social injustice: “Gee wilikers, Peter, did you hear that white police officers are killing the minorities in unprecedented numbers? I just read it in the Economist and it was confirmed via an NPR report.” – Said every middle class white guy ever.* As much as I tried, all of my jokes for this point fell into the “too soon” category. But, surprise, there is a ton of bad shit going on in the world and most stupid people are just coming out from under the rock made heavier by the weight of their trailer home and GED. Thank you Netflix.

Maybe everyone is a sociopath: I’m just going to throw this one out there. Maybe this touches on that inner sociopath that everyone buries deep down with the memory of wedgies in the 3rd grade, getting publicly dumped in college and a fart actually being a shart at work that one time. Nope? Just me? Moving on …

Social media: For his part, I blame Mark Zuckerburg and his propaganda, trend manipulating, advertising revenue machine; Facebook. Sadly, people far smarter than Steve Avery and his nephew treat Facebook trends as Cronkite-esque gospel. And who wants to be left out of the Buzzfeed inspired conversation while waiting for a conference call to start? A textbook case of FOMO has brought this show from a small fire to an out of control inferno.

Above all else …

These are real people: Sure it’s easy to turn off the TV and not feel empathy for the C-list telenovela actor turned framed rapist in an re-run of Law and Order, but these are all real people. Congratulations, you have a soul! 

We can relate to each and every one of these characters: Adnan could be the token Pakistani of your friend group, Bowe Bergdahl could be the guy next door and Steven Avery could be the president of the blue collar comedy tour fan club. It easy to feel bad for the chromosome missing Avery, an underdog vs. the slightly more mentally capable Manitowac County Sheriffs department. And who can’t relate to Adnan, just your run of the mill teenager trying to get to second base and take a bong rip before track practice?

For the first time, we get an unprecedented look into their lives, their inner workings and the people most effected by their crime (or lack thereof). Netflix tugs at our heart strings, as evidenced by social media pundits signing WhiteHouse.gov petitions that a mid-level government secretary will feign a consideration at. If you have the ability to cry at the end of the Notebook, the 3rd time you saw it, do you really think this gripping tale of a few dim witted pea brains being framed for murder won’t tap a nerve in your emotionally unstable self?

This show concocts a perfect storm of gripping drama, exasperated by current events, starring empathetic characters delivered via our favorite streaming service. Congratulations Netflix for ruining many a New Year’s resolutions to rid one’s self of your mesmerizing guilty indulgence.

TeeTime’s Two Cents/Epilogue:

Draw your own conclusions, as I’m sure you already have publicly to ANYONE who will listen, since you are suddenly an innocence project lawyer. Or you play one on Facebook anyways. Remember that it’s called Netflix and chill, not Netflix and social justice. And keep in mind that just as easily as Manitowac may have framed Steven, the producers of this show are framing a story to fit their own agenda, whatever that may be. So Carmen San Diego generation, just because you, your gritty partner Steve and your crime sniffing dog Blue solved a couple of Clue’s in your youth (and watched a Netflix documentary) doesn’t make you suddenly more capable than even the dumbest of the Manitowac County prosecutors or public defenders.

*This is more or less paraphrased directly from one of Chappelle’s best skits of all time: police brutality. Go watch it.

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