Netflix comedy ‘American Vandals’ turns dark

Henry Netherland

Photo courtesy of Netflix Media Center

Dylan Maxwell puts a capital D in “Douche.” He’s obnoxious, stupid and he spray-painted dicks on 27 cars. Or does he?

One spring day after school, 27 Hanover High School teachers exited the school only to find giant, phallic-shaped monstrosities spray-painted onto their cars. Only one perpetrator comes to mind: Maxwell, a frequent dick drawer. Before even being convicted, everyone at Hanover (including the staff) already assumed Maxwell was guilty. Everyone but sophomores Peter Maldonado and Sam Ecklund. For 8 half-hour episodes, these two sophomores search endlessly to find the truth.


“American Vandal” is a new Netflix mockumentary parodying investigative true crime documentaries such as “Making a Murderer.” As ridiculous as the show’s concept is, the show itself is brilliant. The origin of its humor comes from the serious tone and solid production choices contrasting with Maxwell’s stupidity and the investigation’s ludicracy.

Despite the documentary being framed as a student project, the production value of the show is incredible. For example in one scene, there is a well-detailed 3D map created for the sole purpose of determining whether a kid received a handjob. While this situation does eventually tie back to Maxwell’s case, there are several more scenes throughout the show that seem unrelated to the original crime but somehow tie back into it.

The best factor of the show stems from its ambitious attempt at realism. Representing youth culture in media has always seemed like a Herculean task in my opinion due to its constant change of state. However, “American Vandal” does a great job presenting American teens in an accurate representation without resorting to pandering. The dialogue comes off as natural without the insertion of trendy slang.

The main gripe I have with the show is that the humor does grow increasingly tiresome as the show reaches its last few episodes. Fortunately, the show’s creators recognized this fault and completely changed its tone from a lighthearted adult comedy to a tearjerker. The show’s ending reveals the consequences of lacking ambition as well as the disastrous results of having the public perception’s effect on you affect your self perception.

Should you watch it?: Absolutely

Using a unique mixture of potty humor, amazing editing and genuinely heartbreaking moments, “American Vandal” is a must-see mockumentary, especially for fans of true crime and over-the-top. Co-creators, Dan Perrault and Tony Yacenda, have proved to be some of the most hard working filmmakers in recent history and definitely a duo to look forward to in the future.

Collegian reporter can be reached at or on Twitter @NetherlandHenry.