Three’s a Trend

So actually there are only two of these that I can think of right now, which means that this post is anticipating a third one, which I’m guessing will happen verrrrry soon because I am something of a cultural prophet.

Here’s what I’ve noticed: a rise in the true crime meta-doc.  What is that, you ask?  It’s a sub-trend of the true crime trend, which has been ongoing for the past few years, and sees us revisiting crimes––some major, some less so––of the past, oh, forty or so years (OJ, Robert Durst, Making a Murderer, et al).  But in the true crime meta-doc, instead of just going over the facts of the case and maybe positing a new theory as to what happened, the director charts the progress of a fake-film he/she is “making” about the true crime case.  The first example of this is Kate Plays Christine, about the news anchor Christine Chubbuck, who killed herself on air in 1974; the meta-doc came out the same year as a narrative film on the topic, called simply Christine, did.  I saw the narrative film and didn’t have much interest in seeing the meta-doc, until Richard Brody told me I was a moron (which is true) and so now I am faced with the dubious task of seeing the documentary and un-seeing the narrative film.

And then this year, after the deluge (okay fine, maybe there were just two?) documentaries about JonBenet Ramsey’s murder, came the supremely weird (and possibly exploitative? also h/t Brody) Casting JonBenet, in which actors from the Boulder area, where the Ramsey family lived, audition for a possibly fake (unclear) movie about JonBenet and, during their try-outs, talk about everything from their experience with prostate cancer to their own family members being murdered to their mostly crackpot theories about the case.

Now––why the new meta-doc trend, and why return to something like the JonBenet Ramsey case, which has been covered in myriad ways ad nauseam since the girl’s murder in 1996?  My theory is that these major cases were cultural traumas, and therefore we just can’t let go.  For a bit more on that, let me introduce Neil Smelser, sociologist.  Take it away, Neil!:

The idea [of mass cultural trauma] is that certain historical events are so profound in their cultural and personal impact that they develop the features that resemble psychological trauma, namely that they’re permanently unsettling, that you can’t forget about them, even if you try to forget about them, there’s a kind of compulsive need to relive and re-experience.

The murder of one child, however adorable and young she was, might seem like small potatoes in the face of the Holocaust or slavery, but Ramsey was, I’d argue, emblematic of American innocence, and the fact that her murdered has never been solved (though I have a guess as to who it was) means the Freudian compulsion to repeat is heightened. And we’re repeating via meta-doc because all the more straightforward ways of doing so (made for TV movie, documentary, interview with family members, books on case) have been done already, and thus we have to resort to more avant-garde/oblique projects.

What will the next true crime meta-doc be?!  Here are some guesses: Ted Bundy (movie’s in the works, so the timing is good!), Laci Peterson, and… Son of Sam?  I am stuck on this one.  Help me out, people!

One final note: I would like to have a feather boa cape-thing (what is the word for this?) like the one the ersatz JonBenet wears in Casting JonBenet.  Thankssomuch.

Screen Shot 2017-06-25 at 4.19.28 PM

And SCENE.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: