Well, were viewers — viewers like me — manipulated by Netflix’s 10-part documentary series “Making a Murderer”?
This question is not an unfair one to ask and it’s the natural progression and response to the hype machine, i.e., this show is getting considerable hype (especially since it was perfectly dropped during the Holiday for maximum binge-effect) and once that hype peaks, then there comes counters, as in, wait, maybe Avery is guilty and the film-makers manipulated us. After all, this is a Hollywood-production. We are seeing what they want us to see.
Film-makers Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi have repeatedly said they did not set out to ascertain Steven Avery’s guilt or innocence. Instead, they sought to explore the workings of the American criminal justice system. They also have said repeatedly that they reached out to Special Prosecutor Ken Kratz to be interviewed for the series (they asked him three times) and he didn’t want to participate.
Now since the documentary has dropped, Kratz is on the defensive saying the film-makers left out crucial evidence that pointed to Avery’s guilt. Well, here’s an obvious counter to that: Avery’s trial was six weeks. Even a documentary stretched out over 10-episodes, roughly an hour per episode, is not going to show a 6-week trial or be able to introduce every element or piece of evidence that was introduced at trial.
The film-makers said they showed what they felt was the prosecution’s strongest evidence and the defense’s strongest evidence and what viewers take away from it, they take away from it.
Moreover, aside from the brother’s press conference speeches the film-makers were able to film, they also weren’t able to get Teresa Halbach’s family for interviews. So, if you’re keeping up, that means they weren’t able to get people from the prosecution’s side or Halbach’s side. The only side that agreed to do interviews were Avery’s defense attorneys and his family.
In other words, yes, that’s going to create the sense that the documentary is bent in favor of Avery’s innocence and therefore, Avery himself. Moreover, it’s not as if the film-makers left out some of the unsavory aspects of Avery’s actions and/or character, such as the fact that he burned a family cat. Yes, that’s troubling, but it’s up to one’s interpretation if that’s the stepping stone to more sinister actions or the isolated action of a dumb, young teen.
So, no, I don’t feel as if Demos and Ricciardi manipulated me in the sense that I had an unjustified view of Kratz or the prosecution.
My view of Kratz and the prosecution was not shaped by the film-makers. It was shaped by Kratz and the prosecution itself, i.e., their words and their actions, along with others (the police, the judges and even Brendan Dassey’s “defense” attorney and private investigator).
Now, obviously, on a fundamental level, of course I was manipulated by Demos and Ricciardi. That’s the goal of art, especially the television medium: to manipulate the viewer to feel emotions of some sort. And they certainly achieved that, but I don’t think they did that in a dishonest or overly-dramatic fashion as to cast erroneous shade on Kratz.
Kratz was and is a slime ball all on his own.