In the ongoing conversation about the concept of copaganda, the real crime occupies an interesting space. On the one hand, trust in the police is integrated into the gender narrative: even when it comes to cases of negligence and institutional indifference, ultimately, it is the actions of the police that cause a return to normality and relief of fear at the end. On the other hand, few things make police departments look more cynical and incompetent than honestly documenting their real-life actions. I’ll be gone in the darkHBO’s new docuseries about Michelle McNamara, the writer of the deceased crime, and her obsession with finding the predator she named Golden State Killer, is a complex story that embodies these two points and more.
The documentary is structured around McNamara’s writing, which at one point, one of its editors compares to Truman Capote’s. And indeed, McNamara was a talented writer who intuitively understood that the true story behind a violent crime is that of broken hearts and unrealized dreams, not evil geniuses planning their next move. That’s not to say that the rapist and murderer who terrorized first northern and then southern California in the 1970s and 1980s was not scary: a tape of the perpetrator breathing heavily on the phone and taunting one of his rape victims with a I whisper, “I’ll kill you,“It’s scarier than any horror movie. But in the end, it was no match for the group of self-proclaimed” citizen detectives “(and an independent” genetic genealogical researcher “) who dedicated their lives to discovering the identity of the Golden State Assassin, with McNamara as his patron saint and semi-official cyclist.
One of the most surreal elements in this story is that McNamara married comedian Patton Oswalt, who appears in the docuseries giving an insight into his wife’s life. Since McNamara died before he could finish the book version of I’ll be gone in the darkOswalt’s memories, and those of his friends and family, are all we have to piece together his growing obsession with this case, except for his writings, podcasts, emails, and text messages, of course. Director Liz Garbus gives both the McNamara story and the Golden State Killer saga in the docuseries at the same time, providing context and even some new information for those who read the book and / or followed the case. (The infamous “Bonnie” appears to tell her story in the last episode, for example). Using the fancy type of recreations that use suggestive shots of important objects rather than non-union actors, Garbus shoots much of I’ll be gone in the dark essentially in the first person, putting viewers into McNamara’s sleepless, paranoid mentality. And yet she remains an elusive character.
The first half of this six-episode series is essentially a tribute to leather shoe journalism, as McNamara visits crime scenes, prowls on internet forums, and rummages through dusty file boxes trying to find the clue that everyone else is. They had lost. Along the way, she and we meet a network of survivors who are determined to help each other recover from the trauma caused by their mutual attacker. As seen in other recent true crime docuseries, the police simply didn’t take rape seriously in the 1970s, and Sacramento, where the Golden State Killer (then known as the East Area Rapist) terrorized single women and couples since June from 1976 to July 1979., was no exception. The women’s stories are heartbreaking, to the point that the second episode in particular can be difficult to watch for survivors of sexual assault, and the sheer volume of cases is overwhelming at times. (In addition to committing more than 50 rapes, the Golden State Killer is believed to have killed at least 13 people.) To convey these dark and disturbing emotions, Garbus continues to return to images of drowning and descent, cutting images of Creature from the black lagoon“One of Oswalt and McNamara’s favorite movies – with speculation that the killer was using streams and canals as his own private terror highway.”
Towards the end of the series, I’ll be gone in the dark beats the material covered in McNamara’s book. This is where it gets more prickly and less thorough, introducing controversial concepts like family DNA searches and briefly delving into the psychology of the true crime fandom with the help of My favorite murder‘s Karen Kilgariff. One thing that remains constant is Garbus’ commitment to McNamara’s belief in bringing victims to the fore, several of whom are given extensive screen time in the fourth and sixth episodes of the series. Relatives of alleged Golden State killer Joseph James DeAngelo also have a chance to speak on their behalf, and their sense of betrayal upon learning that a beloved uncle or cousin was actually a monster is heartbreaking, though that’s nothing compared to the fact that the tear ended the series.
An interesting option for Garbus is to give former Contra Costa County unsolved investigator Paul Holes a relatively small amount of screen time, which is unexpected given that Holes has become a celebrity in the world. of the actual crime after his successful effort to match the killer’s DNA to a suspect. Presumably, the decision was not motivated by a conscious desire to minimize the role of the police and DAs in this story; more likely, Garbus focused on elevating women, whose strength and solidarity are truly inspiring. But it does have that effect. On a less progressive note, you can’t beat the overwhelming whiteness of the interview subjects and enthusiastic fans who show up to readings and book signings, including, somewhere in the crowd in CrimeCon 2018 footage, this writer.
These are the conversations that will hopefully continue to evolve as the genre progresses. And if anyone had embraced the current movement for police reform, it would have been McNamara, whose insights into crowdsourcing investigations and victim storytelling have taken off in the four years after his death. DeAngelo, a retired police officer whose crimes (alleged, have not yet been tried) for brutality, callousness and insecurity, is now in prison. He will probably die there. But that doesn’t mean the job is done. If we can get one thing out of Michelle McNamara’s life and work, let it be this: In the face of overwhelming darkness, caring for each other is the only way to light.