Richard Alexander Murdaugh was convicted of the murder of his wife and child on Friday, March 3. A week prior, Netflix released its docuseries “Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal.” The series covered all deaths considered related to the Murdaugh family, and there were five deaths in total: Mallory Beach, Paul Murdaugh, Maggie Murdaugh, Gloria Satterfield and Stephen Smith.
The filming for this docuseries began filming in 2021 following the double homicide of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh. At the time of filming, Alex Murdaugh had not only been charged with the murders but also with stealing money from clients at his law firm. The show’s release coinciding with the conviction of Alex Murdaugh was described by series creators as serendipitous; however, it feels more like a cash grab than anything else.
Netflix has continuously proven that it cares about views and virality above all else. With the cancellation of beloved shows from “Inside Job” to “The Midnight Gospel,” Netflix shows it does not intend to maintain production on shows that do not hit the top 10 list upon airing. “Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal” fulfills this requirement, but only with the help of an ongoing trial. A trial that has been closely scrutinized and observed by the public, making it only natural for them to flock to the newest piece of the puzzle. For some, this is all this case is: A puzzle to be analyzed and deciphered, disregarding the reality of the situation.
The series in itself is well-made, and it supports the humanization of the people involved, the town and the sobering truths revolving around these incidents. The victims of this family’s crimes are able to give their rendition of the circumstances that surrounded the deaths of five people. Their interviews allow the audience to conceptualize what it was like living in that low country town under the thumb of a wealthy and controlling family.
The series also provides the collection of all the information on one platform. Rather than trying to piece together every date, person and location, “Murdaugh Murders” equip viewers with all of those. The docuseries is an invaluable source for following this case. In an age where many do not read or watch the news, receiving the information this way is much more palatable.
However, the apprehension that these benefits may be lost in the approach to consuming media that is becoming more frequent. The increasingly worrisome culture surrounding true crime would turn homicide cases into plots not centered in reality. The avid consumption of true crime has seen the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer and Richard Ramirez idolized and romanticized, a case that was also turned into a Netflix series, and the complete erasure of their victims.
When presented in the way that the Murdaugh Murders are in this docuseries, with dramatic music, a reenactment of the boat accident and the shootings as well as recurring cut shots of police tape and lights, it would be easy for viewers to forget the authenticity of what happens on screen. It would allow audiences to discredit the humanizing aspect of the series, warping them into characters rather than people. The possibility of this feedback from consumers is only exacerbated by the timing of the premiere. People currently obsessed with the case can watch their fill until moving on to the next atrocious killing or crime.
The fact that Netflix released this series right at the end of the Alex Murdaugh trial is not a coincidence. While an informative and somewhat touching watch, this release date may accumulate views but at the cost of a misinterpreted message and distorted feedback.
Kirsten Abbey is a sophomore studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Kirsten know by emailing her firstname.lastname@example.org.