American Vandal

American Vandal delighted Serial fans everywhere, with their in-depth mockumentary-style coverage of a high school, in which  the most likely suspect was accused of spray painting penises on the teachers’ cars. Like a wrongfully convicted murderer vindicated via podcast, two student journalists cleared the perpetrator’s name and acquire justice for the school’s teachers.

Season two takes on a subject just as crass as the last one, revealing further details about the world of the producers, Peter Maldonado and Sam Ecklund, whose first series fictitiously went viral on Vimeo before being picked up by Netflix. This makes the villainous ‘turd burglar’ seem more plausible; their identity is the most compelling of a plethora of mysteries forwarded by fans for journalistic investigation.

First, the turd burglar claimed credit for “the brownout”where the entire student body’s bowels were upset in one fell swoop by spiking a Catholic high school’s lemonade. They strike again when a piñata splatters an unsuspecting class with something other than candy. A third “poop crime” followed, in the format of dried cat poop raining down on a pep rally via a T-shirt cannon, powdering the same poor students with branded Ts and a fine mist of faeces.

True crime shows are often rich for parodies like with their endless iterations of overly dramatised cases. The snappy names for incidents, re-enactments and a visually satisfying cork board become all-the-more fascinating when connecting normally mundane social realities and school customs to the question of truth and justice.

In doing so, the show offers a full exploration of a new and perplexing generation, populated by curated Instagram accounts, suspiciously cancelled Uber rides, secretive Airbnb bashes and ceremonial vape pens. Providing more than just a backdrop, this look at youth culture poses exigent questions about how the changing digital landscape affects developing and often insecure minds.Along the way, they also make shameless poop jokes and puns at every opportunity. The humour hits home at every level, from the potty mouthed hosts to fine tuned satire.

As you get increasingly more invested into the crime, genuinely contemplating the identity of the turd burglar and pondering over the disgusting clues, the obscene context only gets funnier. Why would the suspect replace a lemonade with a horchata after knocking over someone’s drink if he didn’t know the crime was coming? If his confession was legitimate, why did he wrongfully assume the faeces in the piñata was human? And the most baffling detail of all – if the school’s theory is correct, why did the student they accused poop his own pants during the brownout?

Between the poop jokes, there are real moments of suspense and societal interrogation. Whichever draws you in, both strengths make the show well worth your time.

Image: Chris Hoyler via Osan Air Base

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