Netflix’s latest docuseries ‘Trial by Media’ visits 6 different legal narrative in each episode. From racially charged tragedies , episode 2 ‘Subway Vigilante’ to the 2008 downfall of then Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich in episode 6, ‘Blago!’. The series covers how attorneys, activists and other parties interact with the media. At times, it is enlightening but at the end we are left wondering what exactly is the episode trying to tell us. What exactly should be done to prevent this from happening again?
*Disclaimer, there are short descriptions of the first episode, they aren’t really spoilers but here’s a heads up.
Let us look at the first episode of the series, ‘Talk Show Murder’. On March 6, 1995, ‘Jenny Jones’ recorded an episode titled ‘Same Sex Secret Crushes’. A man named Jonathan Schmitz agreed to appear on the show after the producers told him that he would learn the identity of someone who has a big crush on him. Little did he know that his secret admirer would be a man, Scott Amedure, his neighbour. This gay ‘twist’ was used to create laughs among the audience. Three days after the recording, Schmitz killed Amedure.
Even though the episode did not air, ‘Jenny Jones’ continued for eight years after that event. And honestly, it left us wondering, how was that allowed. The episode left us feeling frustrated. Why? Because we could not understand what exactly is the point of the episode. Did the directors and producers want us to start a thread online to talk about ‘Jenny Jones’. Or did they want us to understand and know this is what the media does.
That’s not to say that there is never a dull moment in each episode. You are brought along to each trial to see how the media plays such a big role in each of them. Subsequent episodes of ‘Trial by Media’:
- Bernhard Goetz, an ordinary New Yorker, was surrounded by four young men on a subway train and proceeded to shoot all four. Goetz was hailed a hero by the media but it all changed when the media learned more about the case.
- Police shooting of a 23 year old immigrant, Amadou Diallo. He was shot 41 times by four plain clothes NYPD cops.
- Richard Scrushy, a flashy businessman who had a Christian TV show with his wife was charged with money-laundering, extortion, obstruction of justice and bribery.
- The first trial ever to have cameras in the courtroom. 1984 trial of four men accused of gang-raping a young women where onlookers cheered them on.
With these ‘sensational’ trial cases, it is no wonder the media was covering it. During that time, real life drama was the best kind of entertainment. And we guess that even now that applies. But in 2020, we know better now than to trust everything you see on the internet, magazines and newspaper. At least we hope we do.
Each episode is directed by someone different. With it being a docuseries you would expect an overarching message among the episodes. But there isn’t one. It felt like each episode was trying to tell us a different message or we just couldn’t get the message at all.
With that in mind, we have to ask ‘Trials by Media’, what is the point of the entire series. Is it to let us know that the media has the power to control and maybe even manipulate trials and how people perceive it. Well, like we mentioned before, it’s 2020 and media coverage doesn’t just influence major cases. It is often one of the most important part of the defence or a prosecution. Don’t get us wrong, this is a really entertaining series. You know it is good when you get frustrated or feel things when you watch something. But it does leave you wondering what is the whole point of this series.
There is no overarching argument or lasting impression after watching the entire series. Maybe it would have been more impactful if ‘Trial by Media’ could answer the question of when the media has power over such cases, what is to be done. What sort of conversations did ‘Trial by Media’ wanted to start among its audience because i can tell you now, there’s nothing we want to talk about this series. With that said, ‘Trial by Media’ is BRUTALLY DISAPPROVED.
Alternatively, you can find out the release date of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why fourth and final season, if you’re into controversial tv series.