Editor’s note: This article contains spoilers from Season 1 and 2 of Netflix’s American Vandal.
Who knew that a true crime satire would provide surprisingly intelligent insights on Gen Z, bullying, the injustices of high school, and the downsides of technology, which would–quite literally–make you go “oh, shit.” I know that this sounds oddly niche, but this is the premise of Netflix’s original series, American Vandal.
The series’ first season started as a mockumentary documenting the case of Dylan Maxwell, a former student of Hanover High School who was expelled due to false accusations which implicated him in the vandalization of 27 cars with spray-painted dicks. In its sophomore season, we are brought into the world of St. Bernadine High School- a “basketball business with an academic facade”- that has recently been plagued by a series of poop-related crimes perpetrated by an individual masking himself as the ‘Turd Burglar’ whose prime motive is the notion that St. Bernadine students are ‘full of shit’. To alleviate the complaints of concerned parents and donors, the school along with corrupt officials are quick to pin the blame on tea-fetishizing, British-accent-mocking, and all-around weird guy Kevin McClain, which automatically gives him an expulsion despite their lack of hard evidence.
While the second season of American Vandal doesn’t give us the answer to our burning question since season one (Who drew the d*cks?), it still shares the quintessential elements that have made American Vandal the show it is. Firstly, Peter Maldonado and Sam Ecklund are still as charming and intelligent as ever. The focus of the mockumentary initially fits the qualities of a perfect suspect (making them an easy scapegoat but in true American Vandal style- this is disputed). Most notably, high school culture is dissected and exposed and the crimes building up the premise of the season are nothing short of niche and creative, to say the least.
The writing for American Vandal’s sophomore season is nothing short of stellar and exceptional. While this is designed to be a mockumentary, it never misses a beat with great use of wit and logic to move forward with the case at hand. Plot twists are found in every nook and cranny of the show, constantly leaving viewers on the edge of their seats who are practically waiting for a new surprise to set them off. And of course, since the show is overtly satirized, you can expect hilarious one-liners and moments that can easily be used for out-of-context and usually spoiler-free accounts.
— American Vandal out of context (@VandalNoContext) September 20, 2018
— American Vandal out of context (@VandalNoContext) September 19, 2018
The characters of a show make it all the better as the cast makes up American Vandal more impactful and important. While they can’t exactly be labelled as ‘lovable’, these characters effectively make viewers sympathize with them despite their actions and involvements. Somewhere in the core of this show is an emotionally driven narrative which simply works for the series.
can't stop thinking about the teacher in the new american vandal who celebrates kurt vonnegut's birthday and says she feels like sandra bullock in the blind side
— rachel syme (@rachsyme) September 20, 2018
Most importantly, American Vandal forces us to view the tortures of high school and technology in a new and enlightening lens. The series shows the downsides of technology’s ubiquitous presence and the overall shittiness (no pun intended) of high school, but it never blindly condemns these things. If anything, it forces us to face reality and take whatever insight we can get from it.
Anyone watch American Vandal Season 2 yet? Probably the best critique of social media culture that's been done: We all live two lives, the real one and the one we frame on social media.
— Andrew Perloff (@andrewperloff) September 20, 2018
Overall, through its many strengths, American Vandal shows us that while our generation can be seen as a bunch of d*cks who are full of shit, we are often misunderstood and our mistakes are almost always put under a magnifying glass. As best implied by the season finale and as I attempt to rephrase:
“We aren’t the worst generation, rather we are the most exposed, making it easier for us to be subject to excessive ridicule. It’s inevitable for us to hide under a mask of our choosing, but in a society wherein almost nothing is real, what matters is that there are people who know who we are under these facades and that we are still capable of being happy with or without it.”
Featured Image via Netflix.