"Pernicious Whiteness" · Class Action Park · The Vow

Plus the GSK sentencing, Tennant as Nilsen, and more "Unsolved Mysteries"

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Patton Oswalt remembered Michelle McNamara after the Golden State Killer’s sentencing last week. Tweeting about the case, he wrote that “the insect” — Joseph James DeAngelo, 74, who was sentenced to multiple life terms without the possibility of parole — “gets none of my headspace today.”

It’s sort of strange to think that a case, and its materials, that we’ve spent so much time discussing around here has now come to an end, comparatively quietly, the monster at the center of it wheeled out of a courtroom in late August and attended with less press fanfare than I’d have expected. Like Oswalt, I hope everyone involved can rest a little easier now…except DeAngelo, who I hope never gets another wink of sleep. (His ex-wife, Sharon Huddle, told the court last week that she had no idea what he was really up to.) — SDB


How did we get to “The Enduring, Pernicious Whiteness Of True Crime”? Elon Green’s scathing longread at The Appeal talks about how decisions made, consciously or not, to prioritize narratives about white crime and criminals affect the very definitions of those words for the consumer public:

The implications of that value judgment are staggering. Think about what it means to have white writers tell the world about crime that, most often, affects Black peopleor that white editors get to choose what crime is worth a book, a feature, a podcast. Think about how this skews some people’s perception of what even constitutes a crime.

Green goes on to talk about the assignments the Sun-Times’s lone Black reporter could expect back in the early seventies (i.e., nothing in “the white-cop-to-white-reporter-pipeline”); the contempt with which crime stories and fiction were treated; book publishing’s horror of the true-crime label; and much more. (James Baldwin comes up repeatedly.) It’s a great, frustrating read that made me even more impatient for Green’s Last Call to come out in March of next year. — SDB


Mark your calendars for a handful of drop dates you might be excited about. First up is the rest of the rebooted Unsolved Mysteries episodes, which per Deadline will come out October 19.

Express tells us three-part serial-killer docudrama Des, starring David Tennant as Scottish ghoul Dennis Nilsen, is coming to ITV sooner than planned — September, in fact. The trailer’s geo-blocked for this Yank but y’all in the crown territories may be able to see it here.

And HBO Max doc Class Action Park is mere days away! A feature on “the world’s most dangerous water park,” it hits HBO Max August 17 at midnight; here’s a trailer:

I must have seen these ads four or five thousand times growing up in New Jersey, but never went to Action Park; it was all Great Adventure (Six Flags to you non-Garden-Staters) or, if you weren’t feeling ambitious, Bowcraft. I can’t wait to watch this doc…just as soon as I climb out of the wikihole I’ve just fallen into looking for true-crime stories tied to “beautiful” Mount Airy Lodge. — SDB


The Vow, meanwhile, is already out, and you should get into it. You may have seen a number of TV critics tweeting about how addictive it is and thought, it can’t be THAT great, but it’s really good. I wrote for Primetimer about five things the HBO docuseries does right; here’s no. 4:

It's process-y but also compassionate towards its subjects. The subjects have enough self-awareness to roll their own eyes at some of the goofy lingo and childish ritual they accepted as normal — the system of sashes and stripes, for example, or Hubbardian argot like "the self-esteem module" or "overcoming your body feelings." The way cults and extremist sects rename things and shift their members' realities through language is a known quantity to many of us, and it can be easy to think less of someone for falling for, but The Vow's directors understand that that's how cults create community and then isolate their members, and the series lets us in on how that methodology succeeds without judging the victims.

The Vow premiered last night on HBO, and it’s nine episodes, so you have plenty of time to catch up — and you might consider racking up a few on the DVR so you can binge it the way we critics did. — SDB


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