American Nightmare

American Nightmare
American Nightmare
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Since true crime docu-series came to Netflix, the streaming service has become known for them. The world can watch some of the strangest and most controversial criminal cases from around the world put under a microscope on their television — such as Making a Murderer or The Tinder Swindler. And American Nightmare fits right into that fold.

The series chronicles the events surrounding Denise Huskins’ kidnapping in 2015. She lived with her boyfriend Aaron Quinn in California when an intruder broke into their home, drugged them, and took her, only to release her 48 hours later. But the couple and their families didn’t just have to deal with one tragedy; they then became victims of what’s often called “secondary victimization” by law enforcement: They believed it was all a hoax. They thought Aaron and Denise had staged it all like some sort of reenactment of Gone Girl, which had come out the year before.

But where American Nightmare succeeds is not just in telling this story about victims but contextualizing their absurdity from every angle possible. While injustice-highlighting docuseries aren’t new, it shows how high they can run and how much they can headbutt.

In other words: Where a lot of docuseries will focus on one key failure in the justice system, American Nightmare hits them all: confirmation bias; victim blaming; impeding your own investigation. It’s fishy for investigators as soon as Aaron starts recounting the home invasion — that there were multiple men involved wearing wetsuits, that he waited until late that morning to report it — but why? Why would these men wear wetsuits? Why would they say they’re actually after his ex-girlfriend? Yes, that seems odd; but every crime is unique. That’s not what investigators think.

So going through this story beat by beat again doesn’t drive home any points we haven’t heard before. It’s the interrogation footage; TV footage and public docs that show more than tell; it’s watching investigators tell Aaron they’re trying to understand how he’s a monster instead of listening to Aaron recount the event again. At every turn there’s documentation, which makes for an emotional narrative that leaves you wondering how the ball was dropped so many times.

Though other victims’ stories are featured here and there, American Nightmare is pretty focused on Denise and Aaron — mainly because nobody else could be seen as making this all up. But with each similar case we hear about, what initially comes off as odd becomes less odd (and more real). When Misty Carausu — one of the officers with Dublin Police Department who eventually catches the perpetrator of these crimes — starts seeing connections between her case and others’, you can’t help but wonder how often things fall into place right before our eyes.

And that’s why — even though this is a story where we know most of what happens in the end — there’s a subtle feeling of dread throughout American Nightmare. Will her kidnappers really let Denise go? What happens to Aaron? Why aren’t police doing more? That feeling never quite goes away even long after the final episode, because while this might be the first time we’ve heard this story, it wasn’t theirs; Denise and Aaron got a mostly happy ending, but they rarely do.

This is the starting point of a new era for true crime shows. They named this American Nightmare. From beginning to end, the series focuses on victims and very little about the person responsible for their pain until final minutes. We are not shown interrogation footage where he tries to explain why he did what he did. Nor do we see him walking into a courtroom for first time ever- we get few pictures when investigators briefly talk about his past.

There’s been an increasing trend in media lately where criminals aren’t given platforms through being acknowledged by name; this was no exception with Denise’s kidnapper barely being featured and no court room shots included in American Nightmare which keeps its focus on victimhood rather than perpetratorship while still allowing them to have their own power over these aspects that hurt them most- making people watch us instead of everything else around here!

In our day and age where every new true crime show/movie only serves as another opportunity for someone somewhere out there who might eventually solve some mystery or at least stir up some interest in it – it’s refreshing when things can just be laid out so clearly like they were with this one. This isn’t like Unsolved Mysteries 2.0 with Google Drive fulls of evidence waiting for you to scroll through but then all that’s left is how you feel about what happened during investigation or even after because there will always be threads left loose & unanswered but no one said anything different from start so don’t go thinking you’re gonna get closure now.

Don’t tell me anything more than I need know about kidnapper while telling me everything about Denise & Aaron that works in their favor – it forces my attention onto them and away from trying too hard solving cases which seems fine by me! Others should take note moving forward.

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