American Vandal: More than red cherry’s

“Period after emojis? That’s, like, serial killer weird.”

Sam Ecklund- season 2

Throughout the course of the series, one thing that is pretty apparently different from your usual true crime documentary on Netflix is the amount of unfiltered language used throughout the show. From the first moment of the show, the word “dick” alone is spoken pretty much every other minute along with other profane words like “fuck” and “shit”. It’s not something you see often in other true crime documentaries, at least not in moments like the narration and interviews of people. But American Vandal isn’t like other true crime documentaries and there are two major reasons that the language in American Vandal is uncensored. The first is that American Vandal aims to be comedic. The crime itself being dicks drawn on cars is proof of that enough, but allowing the interviews and narration to be uncensored is just another way for the show to say that, “this is a comedy, don’t take it that seriously.” It serves as a constant reminder that while this show is entertaining and at times makes you forget it’s not real, this isn’t a real true crime documentary. The second reason is almost like a complete flip from the first. It deals more with it being an almost immersion-like tactic. This documentary is about high school kids made by high school kids and hearing profanity just makes sense in this context. If we went the entirety of the documentary without hearing a single cuss word spoken by characters like Dylan, it just wouldn’t be believable and the use of certain language helps to further characters and their believability which is needed to make sure the audience stays entertained and watching. Language is an important part of T.V. and selling stories like American Vandal and it’s a sign of good writing if the show is able to create a character and have the type of language they speak make sense. In the case of American Vandal, the use of unfiltered and uncensored foul language is used to both simultaneously remind viewers that this is a comedy and makes the show more believable.

When it comes to the casting choices of American Vandal, the creators Tony Yacenda and Daniel Perrault wanted to avoid stunt casting which is any publicity stunt that fils a role. Instead, they wanted actors that best fit the roles and had the ability to improvise. One of the stars from the series Dylan Maxwell, is a star himself. He is known for his funny youtube videos that resulted were a reason for his fame. One of his most notable videos Shit frat guys say which follows a skit that focuses on fraternity stereotypes and lifestyles. Jimmy Tatro’s comedic monologues have gave him a reputation to land those roles. A major factor that played into the casting was the fact that Jimmy’s expertise on sketching at the University of Arizona allowed him to master the improvising in the series. Unlike Making a Murder, this shows courtroom played out in school board meetings. Yet, it had close-minded authority figures that didn’t want to investigate- sounds familiar? Looking at a different star- Melvin Gregg- the egotistical rising basketball star, has a similarity with Maxwell. Besides the projects that he previously worked on, Gregg worked with Jimmy Kimmel- a comedian that hosts a late night talk show. It is clear that the directors wanted to focus on the fecal humor. :

The clear aspect of American Vandal that differentiates itself from other true crime shows or documentaries is its use of parody and/or comedy throughout. Now although it may not be out of the realm of possibility, dissecting a crime that involves dicks on cars seems like something that won’t become a true crime documentary. The show does a great job at sort of mixing the lines between drama, and comedy, however, with how the creators decided to shoot this. The documentary makers, Sam and Peter, attend the high school where the crime was committed and are also involved in the school’s film program. Because of that both of them, Peter more than Sam, take this documentary very seriously and do their best at creating a fair and unbiased true crime documentary.  But let’s be honest, this entire show is centered around dicks. The suspect, Dylan Maxwell, likes to draw dicks on white boards. The interviews conducted, although serious at times, are to figure out who could’ve drawn dicks on the faculty’s cars. It is so outrageous, that there even becomes a point where Sam and Peter are studying the ball hairs drawn on the dicks to see if they can figure out the true culprit. So, although the serious and dramatic aspects of true crime documentaries are apparent in this show,  the overabundance of just pure comical and satirical situations that occur make it clear the intention of this show and what the creators wanted to do. Looking at the cast that was chosen also plays a little part in determining the intention of the show. Jimmy Tatro, who plays Dylan Maxwell, is known for his comedy and satire in his own content. He made his name on YouTube where he was known for his “frat like” sketches that he would create while attending college. Not only that, but the previous roles that he had obtained were all kind of similar; the douchey high school or college kid. Personally, when I first watched the show, I knew exactly what I was getting myself into because of my previous knowledge of Jimmy Tatro. 

When dealing with a show that sort of toe the line between two different genres, the question that always gets brought up is, “who is this show intended for?” and “What is the purpose in creating this show?”. That is no different when it comes to American Vandal. As already been discussed, American Vandal is unique in the fact that it has elements of different genres. Although it is a fictional piece of art, it is intended to be a documentary. Along with that, it contains multiple comedic aspects and even contains a bit of drama as well throughout the show, which is interesting. I just believe that the desire to create a comedy show, but in a serious format allows different viewers and a broader audience to become intrigued with the show, which can always be looked at as a positive. The true purpose of this show is one that can be debated each and any way depending on how you perceive it, but for me personally, it feels that this show was created for a pure comedic purpose. If you are under the impression that this was created for a serious tone, just ask yourself one question, “Why would they center the entire season around dicks?” That really sums up everything that needs to be discussed when talking about the purpose. I mean how can a show, that is set in a high school and follows students trying to solve the crime of dicks on cars, be created in a serious matter? It just can’t. You watch this show to be entertained and laugh, not to become informed of some crime like every other REAL true crime documentary. 

            Now with this purpose being to entertain and being a satire and comedy, the next question becomes, who is the audience? Well that really just depends on what you like as a viewer. This type of comedy isn’t for everyone and it may not even be for the average comedy fans. There are constant jokes that are made throughout the show that are just childish, corny, and maybe some lack taste. However, those sort of jokes gain appeal from certain viewers. Shows like South Park, Family Guy, and others have continued to be on air for many years following this same blueprint. For that reason,  this show seems to be centered to those audiences, high school kids, and then any other person who is interested in this kind of comedy. Because it should be said again, like any other comedy show, it is probably not for everyone and will even gain a lot of straight faces and little laughs. However, the creators had a clear goal on what they wanted to create and who they wanted to create it for and that seems to be accomplished with American Vandal. 

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