Why 'Making A Murderer' Part 2 Will Make You Feel Morally Conflicted
Making A Murderer Part 1 may have transformed once-private citizens into bonafide celebrities, but Making A Murderer Part 2 shows the price of that sudden fame. The first few episodes chronicle the demise of Steven Avery's relationship with Sandra Greenman, to whom he was engaged in Part 1. Roughly a month after the show's 2015 premiere, she told the Daily Mail that they'd split due to a difference in beliefs.
"Steve and I were engaged to be married and I broke it off," she explained. "It's not that I've ever stopped trying to work for him, but it was a religious thing. I cannot marry someone that's not a Christian."
In Part 2, she remains one of Avery's staunchest supporters, except for a time, at least, there's another woman in the picture: Lynn Hartman, Avery's fiancee for roughly one week in 2016. On-screen, Greenman warns that she's "trying to protect [Avery] from the people out there who don't have good motives." Off-screen, she claimed in a Facebook statement whose veracity was confirmed by Bustle that Hartman was allegedly only with Avery for "money and publicity," and that she'd reportedly been paid upwards of $6,000 for TV appearances. In response to these accusations, Hartman gave Bustle the following statement:
"Sandra Greenman makes allegations about people that are not true. Read what the producers from Making a Murderer say about what Sandra Greenman [claims] they said about me. I can prove it is all lies to make me look bad so nobody will listen to what I have to say about Steven Avery. They did not want the letters Avery wrote to me getting out. They did not want me to disclose what Avery said to me on the phone, and did not want me to prove that they are lying, and that I believe and know that, Steven Avery is a violent criminal who is right where he belongs.
I would like to add that I was fooled by MAM Season 1 , like many others, and felt very sorry for Steven Avery and genuinely wanted to help him, and was at a vulnerable time in my own life, which I believe was the perfect scenario for Avery as he is a predator for vulnerable women. I believed in him. After the Dr. Phil show, Avery was very insecure due to all of the reports back to him by Greenman and other supporters who wanted to see me gone. Sandra Greenman was green with jealousy from the beginning. As a result, the true side of Steven Avery emerged and he showed me how unstable and violent he really is, so I broke it off with him immediately after that. I have the letters to prove it and I have letters that prove Avery was still [pursuing] me 2 months after I blocked his calls. I had to get a no contact order through the prison to keep him from contacting me anymore because I did not want to have anything to do with him after the frightening calls and letters which came after I refused to go see Avery after the Dr. Phil show."
Making A Murderer stops short of siding with Greenman, but the show gives her a platform to state her side. "I wanted to be a part of it," Hartman, who began writing to Avery in prison after watching Part 1, tells the cameras. "I don't know how to explain it but I knew, in my soul, that it was going to be a part of my life. And I knew that if there was another season of the documentary that I was going to be in it as Steven's girlfriend."
And Brendan Dassey, too, has had to fend off alleged profiteers. In a call captured by the documentarians, Dassey tells his parents that someone has been selling letters they claimed were written by him. "Today someone told me that someone was selling my letters. And then, uh, it looks like one of them sold for $200," he says. "That letter is not one that I wrote because I never swore in any of my letters and there was two swear words in there."
This, it seems, is the price of bringing national media attention to a case. Avery and Dassey have enjoyed their fair share of benefits from the spotlight: letters of support, fundraising campaigns, high-profile attorneys, Reddit users combing every inch of evidence for proof of their innocence. (Avery and Dassey were both convicted in connection to Teresa Halbach's 2005 murder, but have firmly maintained their innocence.)
With that, though, comes people looking to capitalize on their vulnerability. As a viewer, this is conflicting, as Making A Murderer has itself profited off of similar circumstances. According to The Independent, after the release of Making A Murderer Part 1, Netflix shares rose 8 percent and the streaming service added a record 5.59 million subscribers. And though Halbach's family has made their distaste for the docuseries quite clear, it was still greenlit for a second season. Yes, the show takes a critical look at the shortcomings of the criminal justice system, but it has also knowingly thrust a personal tragedy into the the public eye — now twice over.
And you could turn that ethical discomfort inward, too: as consumers, is it OK to find entertainment in such a gruesome event? It may seem easy to get lost in true crime intrigue and elaborate conspiracy theories, but Teresa Halbach was not just a character being killed off in an Agatha Christie novel. She was a person with friends and family and an entire life lost. So when her loved ones object to putting her story out there, at least in the way Making A Murderer presents it, is it right for Netflix to do so anyway? Is it right to watch it? Is it right for some people to then use its existence to take advantage of Avery and Dassey?
Just as in Halbach's case, there are no clear-cut answers, but it's enough to make Making A Murderer that much more uncomfortable to watch.