Vulgarity And Vandalism: American Vandal’s Appeal

Warning: this article contains language. Mostly, dicks.

The word is used over 180 times in the new lovechild of Funny or Die and Netflix, American Vandal. And despite the obvious satire of shows like Making A Murderer and season one of Serial, Vandal proves it can stand alone from either. Here are some reasons why you should watch it, if you haven’t already.

Peter and Sam
Source: Netflix/Tyler Golder

Pacing

Unlike the Murderer and Serial, this show is masterfully paced. There are only eight, bite sized episodes with a running time of 30 minutes. They feel like five. Granted, this is a work of fiction, unlike the true crime series it satires, and has the advantage to plot and plan each episode. If you like cliffhangers, this is the series for you. Each episode ends with one, except for the last, which has a thoughtful Peter doing voice over about the lessons he has learned. And there are many of those, too.

Peter and the Wayback Boys
Source: Tyler Golden/Netflix

An Actual Story Is Told

Under all the satire, exaggeration, and of course the layers of dicks, you’ll find something surprising; an actual story. The high school narrative that Vandal presents could give 13 Reasons Why a run for its money, with dynamics between students and faculty, boyfriends and girlfriends, the popular and the not. Vandal plays with stereotypes and then turns them around as they “get the truth” about what it means to have a motive. The main character, Dylan, is an example of this. A parody of Steven Avery from Making A Murderer, he exemplifies the dumb stoner everyone knew from high school who could definitely be capable of such a crime. As Vandal progresses, you see a teen who just wants the same things as most of us: acceptance.

27 Dicks on Cars
Source: Netflix/Tyler Golden

Dick Jokes Galore

Yes, this is a reason. Vandal reminds us of the absurdity of true crime shows with something as simple as dicks spray painted on 27 cars. The “dicks” are referred to so much by the documentarian and the students and staff that by the end of the series you feel numb to them, and the joke. This represents the gruesome elements of crime that the public chooses to obsess over, making these awful things numb after a while. “She was stabbed six times, not three.” “There was a bloody towel in the garbage.” “What about the brain matter found in the freezer?” Often with true crime, you see an alarming acceptance of murder in order to uncover the truth. These were people who were once living, their death and bodies discussed nonchalantly in the name of finding their killer. Keep this in mind while watching American Vandal. And for a bonus chuckle, read the episode titles.

Mrs. Shapiro - American Vandal
Source: Netflix/Tyler Golden

But Who Drew Them?

Vandal is loyal to its hook from start to finish; who drew dicks on 27 faculty cars? It’s an actual mystery that demands you to think about every possible theory with each new episode. The filmmaker Peter lures you into one theory, just to present damning evidence of another. Everyone from Peter himself to the faculty gets named, and by the end of the series you’re left questioning all of them. If you enjoy mysteries, conspiracy theories, and unexpected suspects, watch this series. It will scratch your Whodunit? itch while making you laugh.

If you’re already obsessed, good news: season 2 is already in the works. In the meanwhile, what is your theory?

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Author: Danielle Santos

Writer, pluviophile, and National Novel Writing Month municipal liaison. Let's be friends! @DanielleJSantos on twitter.

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