When it comes to true crime, I am a sensitive viewer. As a general rule, I stay away from media portrayals of real life violence as much as I can. So it came as a complete surprise when I — like many many other people — got hooked on the Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer. In less than a week I’ve watched seven episodes of the ten episode series (a working mom’s version of binge watching) and already know I’ll be resistant to pull back from that constant state of wondering, “Is Steven Avery guilty?”
What follows is kind of an exploration for me about what I’ll read and watch in the weeks to come that will be provoking and uncomfortable (and yet compulsively watchable or readable) in the way that Making a Murder has proven to be. Here’s what I’ve come up with:
About Steven Avery’s Case
My first stop will be Michael Griesbach’s book The Innocent Killer. The documentary left me with the feeling that this case (like all cases) is more complex than can be shown in 10 hours. And there’s no denying the prosecution didn’t give the filmmakers the same access as the the defense. Griesbach is a prosecuting attorney Manitowoc County, so I’m keen to hear his take on the case.
Whatever your opinion about Avery’s guilt with regards to the Halbach murder, it’s difficult to get over the fact that Avery lost years of his life because of a wrongful conviction — years that likely cost him a relationship with his children. I can see myself watching The Central Park Five out of a desire to understand how those who are wrongfully convicted function after society has treated them unjustly.
Having already watched (and been stunned by) The Changeling, a film in which Angelina Jolie plays a mother who knows that the kidnapped boy returned to her is not her son at all, I’ll probably watch it again. Jolie enduring the horrific effects of public slander by corrupt police shares a certain kinship with Avery.
I can also see myself picking up Jo Nesbo’s thriller, The Son, a fast-paced read about a web of corruption.
Voodoo Histories is a non-fiction work that examines the psychology behind what makes conspiracy theories addictive. It does so through the lens of twelve real life cases including JFK’s assassination, the first moon landing, and 9/11. Also, awesome cover.
In many ways, I think it is the landscape of Making a Murderer that will stay with me. All those lingering shots of Avery Auto Salvage through the changing seasons seem somehow haunted and foreboding. I’ve put a hold on Frozen, the first book in Kate Watterson’s Detective Ellie MacIntosh series, which takes place partly in the rural backwoods of Wisconsin.
I have to say I find Making a Murderer depressing as hell. There’s every possibility that I’ll want stay in that pocket of bleakness after the show is done. In that case, I’ll reach for Canadian author David Richard Adam’s Mercy Among The Children, a novel that dwells in rural poverty and relentless tragedy.
How to you cope with the end of Making a Murderer? What did you watch or read next?