A documentary about a case in 2011. Gil Valle, a young police officer in New York City, is an apparently happy man with a wife and child, but he develops a habit of getting on the internet, logging into an S&M site, and discussing with others his fantasies about kidnapping, torturing, raping, killing, cooking, and eating some of the girls he knows.
He never really DOES anything that would indicate he's moving ahead with his plans. He illegally looks up data on some of the girls on a police data base. He and his family make a weekend visit to one of the victims he's described -- "My mouth waters", he tells an internet buddy -- but he doesn't buy the duct tape, build the oven, or do any of the other things he writes that he's done.
Did he commit a crime? "Yes," according to the jury; "No", according to the courts. He's convicted of conspiracy to murder, spends 17 months in jail, and is then freed. His wife has left him and he now has trouble finding dates on a web dating site.
To be guilty of conspiracy he must have made an overt act. But what is an "overt act"? He described precisely what he would do on the internet. Is that an overt act in itself? Gil gets to explain his side of the story at length, and his mother, with whom he now lives, is supportive to say the least. And the talking heads -- lawyers, psychologists, and activists -- have their say. I forget who it was who said, "For every expert, there is an equal and opposite expert." The film itself is edited with irony, in such a way as to make us gawk at Gil. "I'd like to take bacon strips out of her belly," writes Gil. Cut to Gil innocently frying several slices of bacon at home.
As with so many other social problems, some sort of balance is required. Gil's mind is a olla podrida, no doubt, but is he a criminal because of what he's been thinking? Call the thought police.
The best comment is from one expert who says that science isn't very good at predicting individual behavior. (He is so right.) But he wouldn't be shocked if Gil wound up in jail again. "We don't choose what arouses us," yes, but there are as yet unknown neural pathways involved. At this point it's guesswork. The answer probably won't lie in simple-minded explanations like child abuse but in further explorations in the field of neuroscience.
An astrophysicist put the conundrum well: "The most important discoveries will provide answers to questions that we do not yet know how to ask and will concern objects we have not yet imagined."
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