Depending on the subject, documentaries can be very emotionally heavy, upsetting and controversial. They could cover very sensitive and serious topics such as the food industry or the criminal justice system and the alleged transgressions that they’ve committed. In terms of the many documentaries regarding the criminal justice system and its’ many faults, one has become almost synonymous with the sub genre in terms of its’ notoriety.


The Netflix exclusive “Making a Murderer” details the story of Steven Avery, a man who was exonerated after spending nearly 20 years in prison for a rape and attempted murder that he himself didn’t commit. Then, he’s once again arrested for a murder of a photographer in Wisconsin. The documentary series examines, through many years and many different theories, the entire process of convicting Avery and his nephew, Brendan Dassey, of the murder.


Since then, many similar documentaries have come to light. Many have used the same type and format of multiple-part documentary series to bring national attention to a variety of issues. A recent Netflix original series has used that very same format but in a radically different way than the aforementioned series did.


The new Netflix mockumentary series “American Vandal” details the case of Dylan Maxwell, a high school “class clown” that, although having a history of rebellious acts himself, is charged and subsequently expelled from Hanover High School for the mass vandalism act of spray-painting 27 of the teachers’ cars with um, very phallic images. Through him getting expelled, Hanover High sophomore Peter Maldonado puts together a documentary about how and why he believes that Maxwell was wrongly charged with the act of mass vandalism.


The plot, while certainly juvenile and somewhat immature, is honestly pretty funny when you think about it. With the same documentary-like format that “Making a Murderer” was built on and puts a humorous spin on the sub genre. Plenty of evidence, including many interviews of the many students, are compiled in a documentary that uses Snapchats, social media posts, text messages and audio analyses of those clips to tell the story of Dylan Maxwell’s innocence.



However, the makers of “American Vandal” also spoofed the similar Netflix series regarding the Amanda Knox case by giving just as much evidence as to why Maxwell did in fact draw the graphic images on the cars. In one example, a teacher’s car tire is slashed during vandalism and that her and Maxwell have had a disrespectful history towards one another. Through prior social media posts, the viewer learns that said teacher’s car was previously vandalized by Maxwell, albeit on a much smaller scale.


Obviously, the series is fictional but brilliantly stars famous YouTube creator Jimmy Tatro as the vandal Dylan Maxwell. Tatro, in his many famous videos, played characters very similar to Maxwell so it was fitting to have him as the protagonist and Steven Avery equivalent for the show. Along with an excellent cast, “American Vandal” is a mockumentary series for a new generation by utilizing the many social media and video streaming services to tell the story of an alleged wrongful conviction. Think of it as the ultimate millennial mockumentary.


For those who don’t hande stories of wrongful conviction well but still want to watch a documentary-like series while strangely also wanting to get a good laugh, “American Vandal” will be your cup of tea.


Have you seen “American Vandal”? If so, Tweet me at @CaptainKasoff because I’d love to talk about it.