Following in the tradition of true crime serializations like NPR’s Serial, Netflix’s acclaimed and controversial documentary Making a Murderer delves inside the case of Stephen Avery and the potential miscarriage of justice perpetrated upon him. Exonerated on a murder charge after serving 18 years, Steven Avery was about to sue the Manitowoc, Wisconsin Sheriff’s Department before another murder charge landed him and his nephew in jail once again. Filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos meticulously followed the case for 10 years and pieced together a gripping docudrama which caused a media firestorm - and even inspired several petitions for clemency which reached the White House.
The critically-lauded series has opened up a genuine dialogue on the American legal system. However, beneath all the clamor, the documentarians actually told, albeit in a masterful and compelling way, one of the oldest tales in human history – that of a potentially innocent person railroaded by a larger, possibly corrupt system. It’s a story that resonates so well within our society that the documentary itself is tailor made for satire.
The folks at Vulture recently put together a tightly edited and genuinely amusing mash up, titled Making a Simpsons Murderer. The mockumentary follows the source material from original trailer, matching scenes from Making a Murderer with comparable shots from Simpsons episodes. The Simpsonized version also blends dialogue from the Netflix series, which are overdubbed onto Simpsons characters, with lines from the cartoon.
Throughout the well-crafted mockup, Homer Simpson plays role of Steven Avery. And like the Making a Murderer trailer, The Simpsons’ version introduces us the course of events – utilizing clips from the “Who Killed Mr. Burns” episode, “The Frying Game”, and even the X-Files crossover “The Springfield Files” – to set the stage for Homer’s initial downfall, release, and re-incarceration. The episode even juxtaposes the criminal justice system with Lionel Hutz and the Manitowoc Sheriff’s Department with Springfield’s bungling PD to disturbingly amusing effect.
Overall, the parody is striking in many ways. While The Simpsons' version is genuinely funny, causing some laugh-out-loud moments, the trailer is also peppered with sobering moments. The events depicted in the film really did happen. A young woman was murdered and two people are either responsible for it or have been given the rawest deal possible. The implications of the Steven Avery case reach beyond the small Wisconsin town where they took place, into the problems inherent within our criminal justice system, as well as the imbalance of wealth and power in our society and the protection (or lack thereof) it affords.
Much like the Netflix series, though, Making a Simpsons Murderer brilliantly frames the issues while also reminding us to search for the silver lining beneath the gathering storm. Murder and false imprisonment are certainly no laughing matters, but it’s our ability to maintain our sense of humor in the face of extreme adversity which proves our resilience and our humanity.
All 10 episodes of Making a Murderer are now available for viewing on Netflix.
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