American Vandal has no right to be as good as it is

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Joined: Jan 2006
Posts: 16044
I decided to watch the first episode last night because Nim and other people said it was good. It's pretty great, actually-- I had to finish the whole show because I needed to know who "did the dicks." Which is what makes this really dumb idea for a show work so well-- the central mystery is so entertaining and it's the perfect parody of Koenig testing cell phone towers, delving into the story of a streaker, or anything on Making a Murderer. By the time these kids are tracking down details on a paint manufacturer you're right along with them and you REALLY want to know too.

For that reason, it's also so funny. A huge party central to the plot gets recreated so many times and in such granular detail it's just... I don't know? It's hilarious. There are some solid jokes too but the humor is more in the straight-faced approach to figuring out who drew 27 dicks on cars.

One thing I was not expecting though was how weirdly moving and accurate this show can be portraying what it's like to be a teenager. These actors seem so natural and the characters become so likable that by the time one has a mid-interview breakdown (which is par for the course for a true crime show, obviously) it's actually heartbreaking to watch them unravel. I was also not expecting a nuanced critique of how these shows-- which turn people into puzzle pieces for mass consumption-- inform those involved with the story and their relationship with its creator. Since it's all shrunk down to a high school level, and everyone is a jittery bundle of nerves and very unsure about themselves, it makes it sting so much more. We don't know what it's like when Koenig can't get an interview with you and thousands bombard your to chat with her about a missing voice mail or whatever, but we do know what it's like to be humiliated in 11th grade. Pieces of these kids' lives are first shown as a joke, then as a clue, and then, finally, as something we shouldn't have seen in the first place-- something private and way too revealing for someone so young. It's one of the most honest depictions of high school I've seen for a long time. I can't believe that came from a four hour dick joke.

Anyway, go watch it so I can talk to you about the ending. I need to talk about the ending.
Oct 8, 2017 4:36 PM
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Anyway, the ending...


I buy the theory Christa and Van drew the dicks.Out of all the clues given, the most compelling one is she shouts her confession out loud. I thought the outburst was a little weird-- it comes out of nowhere during that hilariously dumb cyberbullying rally-- but it makes sense if it's her trying to clear her conscience and everyone just misunderstood it. Everything is circumstantial of course, but it adds up.


Dylan's breakdown after watching the first episode at the party was genuinely hard to watch. This poor, dumb kid. Both him and Mack are better off apart, though-- clearly.
Oct 8, 2017 4:44 PM
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I love this show, and expect it to be near the top of my list for the season's best. It's one of my favorite things, which is a pitch-perfect satire of a thing that is also a fantastic example of that very thing. I was very much as into this by the end for its mystery--which I stopped thinking of as fictional in any way--as for the parody. And yes, it is very poignant and engaging on an emotional level. I also love how the show plays fair with the metaconceit of the "documentary" going viral within the world of the show. This cracks it wide open on a character level of course--you see and feel for people discovering how they are viewed by others--but it also has funny consequencs that buttress the reality of it all--Kraz's fate, for example.

So, yes, the mystery itself. I have to admit, I had a theory based on just the first episode that I felt was continually supported as the show went on. And then it seems my theory was not correct. I say seems, because we receive no definite confirmation of who the culprit is, but I was thrown.

What I mean:


I was convinced through the run of the show that Peter himself was the culprit. I feel like support is continually offered for this theory. For one, he is one of the people with access to the video equipment. Further, as people begin to point out much later, this project made him a somebody when before he seemed to be a nobody. It's also a project that gained him fame for something he had done to no acclaim in the past--making movies. There were little details, like the fact that he was known early on to have a "hot mom" that later lent support to the idea that the gym teacher would have been his initial target, and the target for his trashing of the teacher's office, because the teacher had moved on his mom. There's the fact that when Sam is tasked with trying to make the best case against Peter he can, he basically treats it like a joke, and so we don't really get anyone examining Peter seriously.

My theory was that it wasn't done to "frame" Dylan, or anything, but that he just did it, and then decided to take advantage of the situation for his own gain.

I think the theory the show ends with about the real culprit all hangs together, and there is a real point to making Peter's motives less than pure even without him being the culprit that offers insightful critique to the heavy-narrator-presence version of these projects, from Serial to S-Town. But I was still thrown because I thought it was so obvious?what the right answer was. I suppose this is a good thing, though, because I was surprised but in a way that didn't feel like cheating. That is, assuming Peter's ultimate theory is correct. Which we don't know for sure.
Oct 8, 2017 5:32 PM
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Joined: Jan 2006
Posts: 16044
NimChimpskyI love this show, and expect it to be near the top of my list for the season's best. It's one of my favorite things, which is a pitch-perfect satire of a thing that is also a fantastic example of that very thing. I was very much as into this by the end for its mystery--which I stopped thinking of as fictional in any way--as for the parody. And yes, it is very poignant and engaging on an emotional level. I also love how the show plays fair with the metaconceit of the "documentary" going viral within the world of the show. This cracks it wide open on a character level of course--you see and feel for people discovering how they are viewed by others--but it also has funny consequencs that buttress the reality of it all--Kraz's fate, for example.

So, yes, the mystery itself. I have to admit, I had a theory based on just the first episode that I felt was continually supported as the show went on. And then it seems my theory was not correct. I say seems, because we receive no definite confirmation of who the culprit is, but I was thrown.

What I mean:


I was convinced through the run of the show that Peter himself was the culprit. I feel like support is continually offered for this theory. For one, he is one of the people with access to the video equipment. Further, as people begin to point out much later, this project made him a somebody when before he seemed to be a nobody. It's also a project that gained him fame for something he had done to no acclaim in the past--making movies. There were little details, like the fact that he was known early on to have a "hot mom" that later lent support to the idea that the gym teacher would have been his initial target, and the target for his trashing of the teacher's office, because the teacher had moved on his mom. There's the fact that when Sam is tasked with trying to make the best case against Peter he can, he basically treats it like a joke, and so we don't really get anyone examining Peter seriously.

My theory was that it wasn't done to "frame" Dylan, or anything, but that he just did it, and then decided to take advantage of the situation for his own gain.

I think the theory the show ends with about the real culprit all hangs together, and there is a real point to making Peter's motives less than pure even without him being the culprit that offers insightful critique to the heavy-narrator-presence version of these projects, from Serial to S-Town. But I was still thrown because I thought it was so obvious what the right answer was. I suppose this is a good thing, though, because I was surprised but in a way that didn't feel like cheating. That is, assuming Peter's ultimate theory is correct. Which we don't know for sure.

The viral part was such a great idea because of course this would go viral, if someone was actually posting this on a week by week basis I would be all over this mystery. That made me feel complicit in the ways the show stomps all over the characters' lives. I felt guilty, like they were real people. It also made the expansion of suspects feel organic and led to some great jokes. Honestly my favorite thing about this show is that it's such a well built mystery-- Peter's investigation of what "little bitch" means is both played wonderfully deadpan and in line with his character, but it's really important to resolving that thread of the story. We need to know if so and so is actually a little bitch! That's where the genius of shrinking this down to high school drama shines-- all this petty stuff is important because everything in high school is both petty and?important. That extra y in heyy? That means something!!
Also:
I was certain Peter did it too until he got mad at Sam for not truly investigating him. His commitment to figuring out the mystery, by that point, was so earnest I thought no, he couldn't have done it. Also! There's a moment when Rafferty wins teacher of the year that shows Kratz stomping out. I thought for a second, oh, they've overshot that clue-- it's gonna become important later and Kratz was going to be involved. Nope! That was a fake out. And from the moment Mack becomes the prime suspect until we see her video I was certain?she did it, her breakdown was well-played and the reasons behind it were really good and something I did not see coming. One thing about Christa being behind the dicks (I think she did it) is that I thought we were supposed to believe Alex completely fabricated seeing someone because he alerted the staff but withheld he saw a suspect until Shapiro pressured him-- so the evidence that Van and Dylan look similar would only be relevant if Alex saw someone. I guess it's one of those things you're not supposed to be sure about-- which shows just how well these people knew how to ape these twisty truth-is-just-beyond-our-grasp crime shows.
This is definitely gonna end up being one of my favorites of the year. I wanna watch it again!
Oct 8, 2017 8:43 PM
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Joined: Oct 2017
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It's the setting which makes it work so well, only in school do unimportant things become important. Also them playing it straight, any hint that people actually thought it wasn't important or as funny as it actually was would have made the whole thing fall down.

I've also not seen another show capture how social media is actually used better than this did. The most disappointing thing for me was finding out the Way Back Boys didn't actually have a YouTube channel with all of their videos on it.
Oct 9, 2017 8:39 AM
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I have watched five episodes, I think. I can't stop laughing about the toilet seat and Priceless Moments. So see, this is a show that works for idiot viewers, too.
Oct 9, 2017 12:02 PM
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wirthlingI have watched five episodes, I think. I can't stop laughing about the toilet seat and Priceless Moments. So see, this is a show that works for idiot viewers, too.

See, some of the purposefully dumb jokes work too. Like, the hottest nana of 2016 contest is fucking hilarious.
Oct 9, 2017 2:33 PM
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Posts: 16044
This is a really fun show to rewatch.
Oct 11, 2017 9:03 PM
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