Recently there has been a surge in TV shows portraying real people’s stories, whether they star in them themselves, such as Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin in Tiger King, or portrayed by an actor like David Tenant in Des.
These shows provide an insight into a variety of individuals you wouldn't usually get
There’s a reason why shows like this are so celebrated, they provide an insight into such a variety of individuals which you rarely get elsewhere. I can certainly say that at the start of this year I knew very little about America’s big cat industry, but since Tiger King most of the population now know the ins and outs of the abuse and the savage warfare of this obscure section of humanity.
As well as bringing entirely unknown stories into the limelight, these kinds of documentaries are also effective in exposing well-known individuals. A prime example of this is Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich. The arrest of Epstein was huge news in 2019, but the documentary gave us a moving insight into survivors’ stories and the horrific details of the case, ensuring that Epstein would not be let off by the public.
As a whole, shows about real people can reveal fascinating stories that the public would never find elsewhere.
From serial killers to strange cults, I love a documentary or a real-life drama as much as the next person. But there are so many problems with creating a show whilst the people involved are still alive and the issues raised are still prevalent in society.
First of all, the issue of exploitation must be raised. Tiger King proved to be one of the most popular shows of the year on Netflix but there were many vulnerable characters within that story. They were mainly used to shock the audience or seen as a figure to laugh at, despite complex personal issues, such as mental health and addiction issues.
Similar sort of portrayals come from shows with a ‘poverty porn’ lens, such as Benefits Street. They also tend to look down on individuals with social and economic issues as lesser than those in a more privileged position. This is simply cruel and wrong.
Those with an incredibly warped mindset want this type of fame for their own
There’s also the issue of portraying killers and those who have committed horrible crimes, especially while they are still alive. In the last year, a few documentaries about the Yorkshire ripper have been released, which saw victims recount their horrific stories and condemned the police heavily for their sexism and old-fashioned beliefs.
Whilst the latter part helped me to reflect on the changes society has made for the better, it is a worry that the old man still in jail is somehow getting satisfaction from his notoriety or, even worse, those with an incredibly warped mindset want this type of fame for their own.