American Vandal, Netflix’s hit true crime mockumentary series inspired by Serial and Making A Murderer, roped viewers in with the hilarious premise of teen filmmakers trying to get to the bottom of who spray-painted dicks on 27 cars in the teacher’s parking lot at Hanover High School, but then kept them hooked with the actual mystery of who did do the dicks. It’s now been about a month since American Vandal was released and since many viewers seem to be finishing up with the series now, it seems as good a time as any for a post-finale discussion.
Surprisingly, the series ended on a relatively depressing note. Although Dylan was finally exonerated for drawing the dicks (albeit by hard evidence that revealed his girlfriend Mackenzie had been cheating on him), he still:
- Failed to secure a sincere apology from Ms. Shapiro, who had implicated him
- Didn’t get into Boulder
- Got dumped by Mackenzie
- And perhaps worst of all, realized by watching the finished documentary at a post-prom bash that he wasn’t actually a hero among his fellow students but a laughingstock they all looked down on
The series ends with Dylan’s fate hanging in the balance after he’s caught on surveillance cameras spray painting a giant dick, much like the ones in the center of the case (which is to say, sans ball hairs and with a detailed mushroom head) on Ms. Shapiro’s driveway.
But aside from Dylan’s future, which is uncertain at the conclusion of the story, the other big, obvious question remains: who did the dang dicks? Anyone who expected American Vandal to wrap up with an ironclad resolution to the story (myself included) should have probably known better. The type of crime docuseries the series spoofs typically do not end with a neat bow, instead presenting all of the information to viewers and letting them process the facts, evidence, and testimony for themselves — which adds to the social appeal of being able to debate with other fans.
So without knowing exactly whodunit, here are the top seven suspects, presented in no particular order.
Christa* is the most obvious culprit here. She had the motive (whatever went down between her and Coach Rafferty that led to her declining to join the football team and filing a student complaint), she had the access (keys to the media room), and she had the alibi (her boyfriend, Van Delorey). In fact, without saying it in so many words, it seems as if the series expects viewers to walk away assuming Christa did the dicks.
If nothing else, her inability to perform CPR despite CPR training being her alibi seems like the smoking gun — not to mention the fact that she literally stood up at the assembly about the dicks and said, “I drew the dicks.” But by not implicating Christa, the door is left open just enough to speculate that someone else could be responsible for the dicks, such as…
Sure, Mackenzie’s video seemed to exonerate him, except… what if it didn’t? What if it was still possible for Dylan to go from Lucas Wiley’s house, to Mackenzie’s house, then to the school and back? Sure, Dylan was steadfast in denying that he didn’t do the dicks, but he also lied when initially presented with the “I heart boobs” license plate prank and the driveway dick. What if the driveway dick wasn’t a copycat, but Dylan was clever enough to draw a different dick style and access the FTP site the entire time? It seems unlikely, but not impossible.
And speaking of unlikely, there’s Ming Zhang, who was described as being the “nicest kid in school” but the only one without an alibi. As The Usual Suspects taught us, “the greatest trick the devil pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” Did Ming Zhang pull a frigging Keyser Söze on American Vandal? You have to wonder why a so-called “nice kid” from Toronto would go hog wild all of a sudden and try to beer bong a whole six pack. (Side note: I fully expected drunk Ming Zhang to confess to the dicks.)
And then we have Mr. Kraz, who seems like if Dylan went and got his teaching degree from a state school with a high acceptance rate, and managed to graduate and get his teaching license by the skin of his teeth. Kraz, like Dylan, seems to be too dumb to pull something like this off, but he has the motive (disdain for the other teachers and staff at the school, wanting to look cool in front of the kids, general dumbassery), and possibly access? While Kraz wasn’t one of the select few with a key to the media room, it’s not inconceivable that there wasn’t some way for him to get a hold of one.
On the other hand, Kraz’s Jeep Wrangler was one of the vehicles targeted, although that’s something a guilty person would do to throw others off his scent.
Can’t rule him out.
As noted in the series, if a guy is willing to lie about a hand job, what else is he willing to lie about? Sure, Alex is a little weasel and most likely just wanted to get senior lunch back, but what if the reality was that he panicked after having drawn the dicks and wanted to make sure that no shadow of a doubt was cast that it was Dylan who did the dicks. For this theory to work, of course, Alex would have needed an accomplice “on the inside” of the Morning Show 9, which could have been nearly any of them.
Peter Maldonado & Sam Ecklund
The filmmakers behind the documentary seemed to have no problem with the collateral damage that resulted from their project, in unveiling hurtful and embarrassing secrets about the fellow students, their families, and school staff. So would it be that much of a stretch for them to have set up the whole vandalism crime, with the assumption that they would pin the whole thing on Dylan, clear his name, and then walk away with praise and accolades? Well, probably. But I still don’t totally trust them, either.
When it comes down to it, we’ll probably never know who did the dicks. But if nothing else, if a series about someone doing a bunch of dicks makes us think a little bit and flex our brain muscles, I don’t see how anyone can say that’s a bad thing.
* Update: Did Uproxx commenter “Jonno” just bust this dicks thing wide open?
“Yeah Christa (Car)Lyle and her Boyfriend (Van del)orey. She didn’t know CPR and her leg wasn’t really broken (her cast switches legs in the middle of the documentary).”
(Counterpoint: speculation is fun!)