Clearly a riff on the streaming giant's acclaimed true crime series Making A Murderer and The Keepers, American Vandal is a half-hour true crime satire that explores the aftermath of a costly high school prank that left twenty-seven faculty cars vandalized with phallic images. Over the course of the eight-episode season, an aspiring sophomore documentarian Peter Maldanaldo investigates the controversial and potentially unjust expulsion of Dylan Maxwell, the troubled senior accused of the phallic vandalization.Written by
A mockumentary is usually filled with many gags and many ridiculous characters and situations. This one is different because the subject matter is very serious, a person's future is on the line at a very young age, there is really only one funny person, and he is the one in trouble--for being funny. This mockumentary gains its humor not from gags or jokes, or from ridiculous characters, but from the juxtaposition of a very serious true crime investigation, within an Southern California American High school where the social culture of the kids is portrayed in much more realistic way than is typically shown on TV or Movies. Which almost always show High School life in ways that are not like High School at all. That's because they almost always use unrealistic hackneyed tropes instead of trying to be realistic.
Here they try to be realistic, and succeed. Which means lots of hedonistic behavior involving openly used drugs and casual sexuality mixed in with typical High School caste consciousness and other realistic views of modern SoCal High High School life. But without going over the top in any of these areas which is what happens often in certain types of movies that try to portray High School life in a hedonistic way, where they usually always end up too unrealistic because of going way over the top and making them ultra-hedonistic beyond average. This show wisely avoids that pitfall. Throw into the mix a High School version of Bart Simpson as a stoner as your protagonist, and you have a recipe for great viewing. Of course without a Bart Simpson type as the creator it wouldn't work as brilliantly as it does. It is unlike anything ever seen on TV or Film, and I think a must see.
I can see many people really hating this because it is not being judgmental over the hedonism by High School age kids, which I imagine is the real reason behind the attacks on the show by some reviewers since it is so well made. This is not something for prudes or people who think kids need to be brought up without exposing them to certain ideas about sex, drugs, and so on. That reaction by many plays perfectly into the humor of the series which takes its cue from real types of High School age kids instead of the commonly artificial and false portrayal of American youth on TV and movies. The uncanny "life imitates art" aspect of the story that is sure to occur in response to this show makes it even funnier because in fact the criminal act that is the basis for the story, is in reality a symbol for the series itself and the reaction that is sure to follow. It will be judged accordingly in the way the criminal in the story is judged. And as predicted kids will love it while many older people will find it embarrassing and juvenile or even immoral and bad. Bart Simpson would be proud.
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