The 2010s: The decade where America started to feel a lot less shame about diving into true crime and has fallen under the genre’s spell.
True crime offerings are certainly nothing new (howdy O.J.!), but the plaudits and obsession attached to current genre titans Making A Murderer and Serial have injected these sorts of programs with a level of public prestige that Investigation Discovery’s slate has never been afforded. One work these docs/podcasts owe a supreme debt to is Errol Morris’ landmark documentary The Thin Blue Line.
The 1988 doc focuses on the plight of a man (Randall Dale Adams) sitting on death row for the murder of a police officer. Its impact as a piece of filmmaking (you will see it on every “best of” list until the day you die) and on the course of events attached to the players involved after its release has been pointed to as a milestone marker for what a non-fiction film can achieve. We’re quite bullish on the importance of The Thin Blue Line and have a 79 second video tucked above to sell you on its immense value.
Speaking of Morris, he weighed in on Making A Murderer in a recent interview with Slate.
The purpose of documentary—whether it’s true crime or anything else, for that matter—is not just to give us reality on a plate, but to make us think about what reality is. And I believe Making a Murderer really does powerfully engage us. It’s engaged millions of people. One thing that you do learn in an investigation is that we’re all prisoners of narrative, and we can’t escape from narrative; we need stories in order to figure out what the world is about. If the police come up with a story, they don’t look for any evidence that would suggest otherwise. And if you don’t look for evidence, you don’t find it, often. I found it extraordinarily powerful, and ironic, because there really is no investigation in Making a Murderer.
By the way, Errol Morris will have a six-part true-crime flavored series available to binge on Netflix in the not too distant future.