Netflix is well known for hard-hitting documentaries and thought-provoking series with the likes of Making a Murderer and Afflicted. These successful series are one part fantastic writing and one part driven by the data generated by millions of people watching shows on demand. A fantastic example of this formula in action was American Vandal which has just returned for a second season.
What is American Vandal All About?
The first season of American Vandal focuses in on Dylan Maxwell and the accusations pointed at him where 27 cars belonging to teachers were vandalised. The costly prank left all 27 cars defaced with spray-painted penises; yes, that is the plural of penis, though the Latin “penes” is also acceptable. Season one surrounded two student moviemakers Peter Maldonado and Sam Ecklund investigating the story to find who really did it.
Season two follows a similar concept with the two filmmakers investigating a different case in another school. This time, American Vandal investigates a series of poop-related pranks starting with a tainted lemonade source which left the majority of the students at St. Bernardine’s school unable to control their bowel movements. Posing as The Turd Burglar, the prankster posted videos of the incidents to Instagram and tagged students, even going so far as to leave calling cards at the scene of the crime.
American Vandal follows the journey of two student filmmakers unravelling a deep web of dark secrets behind The Turd Burglar and the events within the school but also provides a very real commentary on the dark side of the relationship between teenagers and social media.
Is American Vandal Real?
Apologies, I should have cleared this up at the start. When the first season of American Vandal came out, it actually left many people confused, wondering if this story about a student spraying penises onto 27 teachers’ cars could be real. A lot of this was down to some fantastic acting from little-known actors like Jimmy Tatro and Tyler Alvarez, the latter carrying into the second season.
Spoiler alert, but American Vandal is not real. It falls into the mockumentary category, but it’s very well done. Netflix managed to put together a fantastic piece of entertainment here because they know the formula behind great documentaries. The same formula is what made you binge watch Making a Murderer but now it’s purely entertainment based on fictional events.
If you look up The Turd Burglar on Instagram, you’ll even find the account used by the filmmakers
I can honestly see how some people might sit down and, without even thinking, might believe this is a real documentary. If you look up The Turd Burglar on Instagram, you’ll even find the account used by the filmmakers to post videos and grab screenshots. Warning, semi-graphic stuff after you hit play:
So, Is American Vandal Based on a True Story
No. Look, I know Netflix did a really convincing job and the cast of American Vandal is great, but it’s complete fiction. American Vandal is not based on a true story, nor is it inspired by real events. Sorry.
American Vandal Review: Season Two Is Worth a View
I binged season two and I’m not ashamed of that. It’s so silly in parts but Netflix has mastered grabbing your attention. Regardless of this being fake, it’s a really entertaining series. Just like Making a Murderer, I found myself tapping to start the next episode, hungry to see how things panned out. It’s gripping but also complete nonsense, the latter does not matter one iota.
There’s also a more serious overtone throughout the second season of American Vandal that picks apart how we all behave on social media. Much of the filming cuts away to smartphone footage and shakey recordings and much of the detective work focuses in on the use of emojis and even looks back at the infamous iPhone glitch. So even amongst all the fiction, there’s plenty of reality for you to digest.
All in all, I fully recommend you hit play on this, seriously. It’s brilliant and full of shit.