Steven Avery and Why Documentaries Are Most Often Propaganda

The usual reaction from watching the 10 episode Netflix series, Making A Muderer, is one of disgust and contempt for the Manitowoc County justice system. It’s hard not to, by episode 8, want to see the defendant Steven Avery freed and compensated for undue time behind bars, and watch the prosecution team and many of the Manitowoc Sheriff’s Department serve lengthy prison terms for the perversion of justice that the filmmakers clearly show the department perpetrated over almost two decades.

And now, many who’ve watched the show have an opinion about the best way to proceed with the case, should it be opened up again. It comes as no surprise that a good many bloggers seem to think what the show wants them to think. And that is that the “murderer” should be freed due to lack of evidence. It’s quite miraculous that so many can become experts in law just from watching a 10 hour dramatic docu-series. Now, is this because they have read similar cases like lawyers generally do to find similar threads, or do they just feel ways about stuff? Do they want to feel right about freeing the defendant because of an emotional charge they got from the show, or do they know that the defendant is innocent because of level-headed study?

I hate to think that they might fail to go beyond what they saw and accept the angle the filmmakers decided to show. I’m not saying that either of these “sources” are correct or wrong. It’s almost impossible to know what happened in the case, especially if we a) aren’t there to witness what went down firsthand, b) a forensics expert, c) any number of experts that it would take to understand the gravity and/or complexity of this and any criminal case, etc., etc. It just seems odd to think that the average citizen, who watched the documentary and are in Avery’s corner, can be so certain that he is innocent of all charges in the murder case. That since it was pretty clear he was falsely¬†convicted of the rape charges he served 18 years for, he is automatically given a get-out-of-jail-free card for the murder case.

The thing is that, just because the film passes itself off as a documentary, doesn’t mean it always presents the facts. As any film financier or group of financiers know, it’s not wise to fund a film that won’t fill the theater or sell advertising, so most of what we see is geared toward getting us to feel ways about stuff so that the investors can profit from their investment, or the filmmaker can afford to make their next film and make rent on their apartment. At the end of the day, movies are a business just like anything else, especially in America, obviously.

So, to blindly believe what filmmakers want us to believe, just because they show us a view from a particular angle that tugs at our heart strings is naive, sometimes foolish, and possibly dangerous. Well, instance of that last link, very dangerous.

On the other had, what if the Sheriff’s Department really did frame him?

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