When Making A Murderer was first released in late 2015, it was a series that was released against the first wave of serious Black Lives Matter activism that was arising in the aftermath of the deaths of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin. And it shared the cultural antipathy towards police that would only grow and blossom through the George Floyd protests in 2020.
The documentary also blew up at the peak of the growing True Crime zeitgeist, over the Christmas holiday nonetheless, revealing a lurid drama of political intrigue, police corruption, and injustice brewing in the quiet backwater of Manitowoc County in Northern Wisconsin involving a man named Steven Avery.
However, it’s not necessarily the kind of story that was meant to last. Most Netflix shows are flashes in the pan, not designed for a lasting legacy or introspection. They’ll drop huge productions like Blackfish or Ava DuVernay’s 13th that leave a massive cultural impression and rarely get revisited—but in doing so they effectively become the last word on the subjects in question.
This leaves a major question—why has the DailyWire taken up the effort of releasing a 10-part documentary to relegate an eight-year-old documentary?
The problem with every DailyWire film comes from the simple fact that it is a film made by DailyWire.
Much like BlazeTV’s Re-Opening and Brietbart’s My Son Hunter, these films all suffer from the fact that they’re being released by right-wing studios and being sold as loss leaders for subscription services. Unless they start producing regular masterpieces, average film fans just aren’t going to pay $15 to watch Gina Carano’s comeback film—which leaves decent movies with a very limited cultural impact.
That said, the most interesting cultural discussions to come out of the DailyWire have been its documentaries, mostly because they’re wildly inflammatory and make people angry. What Is A Woman touched off a months-long discussion on one of the most difficult questions plaguing society, in the form of the ongoing debates over transgenderism and gender dysphoria. Candace Owen’s The Greatest Lie Ever Sold didn’t quite leave a similar impression, but I’ve noticed friends talking about it and repeating some of its talking points.
Convicting A Murder thus far stands as one of the company’s most ambitious projects, once again being directed and hosted by Owens as something of an exposé of the other side of the story portrayed in Netflix’s popular docuseries, and attempting to expose the media’s sycophantic narrative that leaves valuable facts off the table in order to make its case.
While the first episode begins with a summary of the plot of the original documentary, it rapidly transitions into an exploration of the culture that surrounded and reacted to the original show—showing just how much of an impact Netflix made when it dropped its zeitgeist-friendly bomb onto the populace.
Owens quickly singles out filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos as exploitative propagandists for their one very specific interpretation of the life of Steven Avery. Owens even makes a snide remark that Ricciardi’s interpretation of the events is implicitly tied to “her emotions” as a woman.
The original show has had its desired effect on audiences. That Avery had been wrongly framed by Manitowoc police and been successfully railroaded by the justice system served as a brutal indictment of the American justice system and a call for reform. As Owens argues, the film almost resonated as “the white person’s Michael Brown moment,” showing white audiences that they too can be railroaded by the justice system and ought to push back against it.
Those who have dug deeper into Avery have often found a more complicated portrait of his life and claimed Netflix’s series to be an emotionally manipulative work of pseudo-history that excludes vital information—including the Avery family’s history of alleged crime and sexual impropriety, Avery’s tendency towards abusing women and cats, the confusing motivations of the police and jury, and the veracity of the testimonies made against him by his alleged victims.
The public response to the show created two groups—the “truthers” vs “guilters”—who respectively disagreed whether details from Aviery’s life paint his actions in a way that would explain why a Wisconsin jury would be willing to sentence him to a life in prison, which is purposely absent in the original Making A Murderer.
Sadly, much of Convicting A Murderer’s value as a series has yet to be seen. Our friends over at the DailyWire only sent out screeners for the first three episodes thus far and four episodes have premiered since, with the series finale not dropping until October 26. It’s unclear where the series is going, but it is definitely in need of a sizable bombshell to justify itself and its premise.
The slow unfurling yarn needs to end in revelation, lest it waste 10 hours litigating yesterday’s news. It may yet do so, but the subsequent question of “why” still needs to be answered.
What does Steven Aviery mean in 2023? What does it mean for a society to put this much effort into constantly litigating and questioning the authorities surrounding one man’s guilt?
Is it enough just to damage the reputation of Netflix—given that Making A Murder is responsible for so much of the streaming service’s modern success, thus facilitating it as a vehicle for progressive programming like Cuties and Dear White People? Or does Owens have a legitimate bomb to drop that will completely reveal the ethical failures of Ricciardi and Demos in their efforts to radicalize the public against their civil servants? Should we trust those authorities in the first place even if Avery is guilty?
Those questions remain to be answered, and could leave Owens’s series as more of a solid true crime curiosity than a bombshell.