a.k.a. men kill women and other men don’t seem as outraged as they should be tbh.
Wow. Wowza. Wowzacopter. Alright. Let’s take a breath and a step back. We are again talking about Mindhunter, the ten-part Netflix original that recounts the establishment of the FBI’s criminal profiling unit. A week ago, I wrote a review of the premiere episode; the general vibe being that it was a well-crafted and interesting af show, but was a bit unsettling in terms of the…well, not even the constant discussion of brutally violent rapes and murders of women, but the strange lack of believable revulsion to that.
Honestly, my dudes, the only reason I am writing about Mindhunter again is that I am a woman and I have a lot to say about that. I have a lot to say about the representation of women in the media, and boy oh boy, is Mindhunter a complicated case. We can look at it through two lenses.n
The first is easier to discuss: women characters. Of the four main characters, two are women. I would argue that Debby and Dr Wendy are far more interesting, nuanced and engaging than Holden and Bill. In the beginning, it was hard to see what role Debby would play as Holden’s girlf. I was concerned she was just another means of growth and development for him. I’ve read a lot of criticism of her and while I agree she is pretty much just a receptacle for Holden’s wanky monologues, I also like to pretend she’s real.
Seriously, imagine Debby as a real person separate to her interactions with Holden; she’d very much be a character in her own right. She is symbolic of the liberation and independence of women at the time, as much as that pisses Holden off. It’s an important theme in Mindhunter because that emancipation is the source of anger deeply embedded in both the ‘bad’ (serial killers) and ‘good’ (not serial killers) men. The show would beg me not to be so clear-cut about the morality of men, and I’d agree; there is no such thing as perfect good or perfect bad. But, remember that time Holden says, “could you just be my girlfriend?” and Debby’s like ‘wot u mean open ma legs and not have An Opinion,’ and he’s all like ‘ahhhhhhhhhhh yeah girl sounds good da faq?’ : / : / : /
Our second lead woman is… get ready for this… spoiler alert… a lesbian. Oh, fuck. Remember how after the first episode I was begging for more women? And then I fucking get A QUEER WOMAN WHO IS A MOTHERFUCKING (probably shouldn’t use that cuss when talking about this show… could get confusing and literal) DOCTOR?! Well, shit. Sign me up.
Dr Wendy joins the team because she sees the invaluable worth of knowing the ins and outs of serial killer psychology and pathology. In that, she’s completely right. Pretending that serial killers, murders, rapists, and paedophiles are just born evil is a dangerous ideology. Dr Wendy is concerned with the objective and scientific documentation of criminal deviancy. I love her. She is intelligent and pretty much always right and likes cats and loses her shit when a dude uses the C-word. Why she is sidelined so much in every fucking episode is beyond me. BUT I GUESS, I AM A WOMAN, SO WHAT WOULD I KNOW? AHAHAHHAA. WHERE’S MY LIPSTICK?!
Separate to Debbie and Dr Wendy, women play the role of wives, receptionists, teachers, and victims. Is it good enough? Well… it is the 70s and while I’m not excusing sexism, the lack of women characters is understandable. However, what is not understandable, excusable, or all good in the hood is how women are discussed in the show. This is the second lens.
I am not a precious person. I am not overly sensitive. But, Jesus fucking Christ… Holden… dude… what the fuck is wrong with you? The audience of Mindhunter watches him try to worm his way into the minds of these criminals. He constantly is justifying his choice of language, questions, compliments, and behaviour around demonstrated around them. Straight up – it’s all unscientific. Maybe it is the only way to really get to know them, idk. I’m not really interested in that. What I am interested in is the fact that the white guy sure as hell doesn’t seem truly repulsed by it all. He says he is. He says he’s doing it all for the greater good, but unlike Holden’s partner Bill, his own insights seem to come from being like them, rather than just logically understanding them, like Dr Wendy does. And, it’s the fucked up original content that he comes up with that I’m like… ah… how… why… dude… about. Also, he is totally BFFs with Ed Kemper. He is unsettling. The way he interacts with the deviants is unsettling. His relationship with Debbie is unsettling. I don’t like him.
That’s the show’s biggest flaw. It’s literally about the dehumanisation of women and subsequent attempts to understand it to stop it, yet, I come away from Mindhunter with the messages that men hate women and we get fucked up a lot because of that. I know, oh, I just know it’s not what the writers and directors meant to do, but the show is so cold. It’s void of humanity. Remember how I compared it to Criminal Minds and Law and Order? Well, when Spencer Reid or… what was Vincent D’Onofrio’s character’s name in Criminal Intent? When they get all up in the mindset of the deviants, it doesn’t make me pull at my collar, cross my legs and look for the nearest exit, you know? The exploration of evil in Mindhunter seems like an exercise in (maybe) science, in self- satisfaction, and in prestige, rather than a collaborative effort to stop men from raping and killing women.
Look, I was very engaged in the show and I’m kinda pissed that I was. It’s another example of Fincher filming white dudes sitting around smoking in dimly lit rooms. They’re all talking about how they are being ‘emasculated’ and shit. There is an underlying statement of misogyny every time one of them talks about being misunderstood. I should fucking hate it. Yet, nah. Like Seven (1995), Zodiac (2007), and Gone Girl (2014), I like it a lot. Maybe it’s the human fascination of why people do such fucked up shit that makes the show (and those films) so damn watchable. I just wish Mindhunter wasn’t real… you know? And I wish that at the very least, since people out here in the real world treat women like objects, like things, that our shows and films could give us sanctuary from that. Mindhunter doesn’t, but hey, there is always the second season.