*Amanda Dobbins: We need more expensive, mediocre, highly watchable television!
*Fennessey: One of the things I like about this show is that its pleasure is not derived from murder sequences, scenes that depict or dissect murder, or even the hunt for a killer. They’re process-driven, sure. But they are also skeptical of their heroes, unafraid to undermine their intelligence. This show isn’t about watching serial killers. It’s about watching watchers.
———-Excerpted from the Mindhunter Exit Survey
I’m just going to showcase this review of Mindhunter from Bitch Media. It highlights all the good and bad, from the perspective of a fan of Forensic Science shows.
I’m also a fan of Forensic Science shows, in general, and I did like this show a lot, but it does have some real issues. Those particular issues didnt stop me from bingewatching it though, mostly because, on the issues of racism and misogyny, I expect only the absolute bare minimum, from a White male Hollywood director like Fincher, who has never addressed those specific issues in any of his movies. (Now if this were Bryan Fuller, I’d be more upset. I expect more social awareness from Fuller, than I do from Fincher.)
Hollywood’s writers, who tend to be White and male, have a blind spot when it comes to certain issues and most of them are highlighted in this show. Not wanting to address those particular issues, (like racial corruption in the FBI and COINTELPRO) doesn’t make those issues go away, and this is something that made me increasingly uncomfortable as I watched, as I know something of the FBI’s sordid history.
I would have found this a far more interesting show had its focus been on one of the much smarter women, like the lesbian psychologist who gives the lead character all the correct answers, or the girlfriend with an actual sociology degree. I would have liked to have seen whatever dynamic played out with the killers being interviewed by someone they would normally consider one of their victims.
One thing that the article doesn’t mention is the latent homosexuality, in this all male environment, which is tinged with just a hint of violence between the main character and his interviewees. This is noticeable especially in the scene with Edmund Kemper, who makes a habit of invading the character’s personal space ,and touching him in an almost intimate manner, when they first meet. I think this is entirely unintentional on the part of the writer, but probably not on the actor’s part.
On the other hand, I do realize that’s not the show’s focus, (as its not a critique of the FBI,) and I do know more than I should about some of the serial killers being interviewed in the show, having read John Douglas’ seminal book of the same name (and all his other books). Edmund Kemper, Jerome Brudos, and Dennis Rader (known as BTK) are all featured, and I can see that much more attention was paid to getting their details correct than in approaching social issues. Also, Douglas doesn’t address any of these issues in his book, so the writers may have been performing their idea of faithfulness to the source material.
THE WHITE MEDIOCRITY OF “MINDHUNTER”
‘Ford is a mediocre white cishet male hostage negotiator for the FBI, who we are introduced to during a hostage situation. While the hostage was not harmed, the perpetrator–who was suffering from mental illness–committed suicide. We learn, though, that Ford already exhibits some of the character traits that will lead him to criminal psychology; that is, exploring not just what killers do, but why they do it. Post-hostage scene, Ford’s mediocrity is increasingly apparent to everyone except, perhaps, the writer and director, who clearly envision him as a determined and dedicated individual hellbent on finding answers, but who the audience might peg as a white guy to whom white-guy things happen.’
Mindhunter is available on Netflix, and despite its problems, is actually is worth watching, although it’s a much better show if you know nothing about the history of the FBI. Hopefully, the writer will become a little more daring with his characters and plot, in the second season.
Note: This is a vert talky show. There are no car chases, gore, or scenes of women screaming and running. The horror doesn’t derive from watching the killers take lives, but talking about why they did it, and how, and the focus, and casualness, with which they approach the concept of killing other human beings, as a hobby.