If you think watching Netflix's new Amanda Knox documentary is the right thing to do, you need to examine your morals

Amanda Knox’s apparent disregard for the Kercher family has been downright unbelievable. The kindest thing she could have done since her release from prison would have been to slip away, out of sight. But she has exploited her situation for all it’s worth

Charlotte Gill
Tuesday 13 September 2016 12:07
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Amanda Knox Netflix Trailer

Serial. Making a Murderer. Who Killed JonBenet? The Jinx. When will the public appetite end for documentaries about murdered people? Apparently never – which is why Netflix’s latest documentary about Amanda Knox is generating so much enthusiasm. “Can’t wait for this”, “Wanna watch this!” and “Saturday night saving” were just some of the comments I saw on Facebook groups in the wake of news that it would soon be available to binge-watch.

Over the past few years, audiences have become increasingly bloodthirsty. In the US, over 19 million tuned in to Making a Murderer in the 35 days after its release alone. Netflix is awash with films about the abducted or dead, now that the living don’t sell. National broadcasters have desperately tried to keep up, with Piers Morgan getting his own Killer Women series for ITV earlier this year.

My viewing habits are hardly holy, and I confess that I was lured into Making a Murderer at start. It was gripping and bizarre, and – being based on events in Wisconsin – felt removed enough from my existence to constitute entertainment. But in the months after its release, I noticed a concerning cultural trend: the public’s need for grizzly amusement had begun to eclipse concern for grieving families. And it’s gone too far.

Unlike Making a Murderer, the events surrounding Amanda Knox feel more proximal, and perhaps that’s what has awoken my sensibilities. Meredith Kercher was in the year above me at Leeds University. Though I did not know her, one of the clearest memories of my first year is standing on campus, looking at the flowers and candles laid out next to her photograph, and realising she could have been anyone of my friends on a year abroad.

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The near-decade since her killing has played out worse than anyone could have imagined. Amanda Knox’s apparent disregard for the Kercher family has been downright unbelievable. The kindest thing she could have done since her release from prison would have been to slip away, out of sight. But she has exploited her situation for all it’s worth, with insensitive interviews, a lucrative book deal, and now Netflix.

In a trailer for the documentary, Knox stares into the camera, dead behind the eyes. “I am you,” she pleads (NB: No, you’re really not). It’s edited in such a way as to make everyone ask: did she or didn't she do it? The deliberate sensationalism is tacky and frankly, I just wish she’d go away.

But with vampiristic prowess, she sucks harder on the fame machine – and has been busy promoting her documentary at the Toronto Film Festival.

In the interim, the Kercher family’s pain has been exacerbated and sidelined, and will be elongated further. Unfortunately directors aren’t interested in dignified silence, instead focusing on she who shouts the loudest, whoever she may be.

What worries me particularly about murder documentaries like these is that many seem to be put together by those who have sympathy for suspects. In Serial, which centres round the case of a strangled schoolgirl, it feels like the creator really likes the man jailed for her murder. During one episode, she comments on his big brown eyes and suggests he doesn’t really look like a killer. It makes for uncomfortable listening.

Crime documentary makers are not objective, nor jurors; they are sensationalists there to provide entertainment to bloodthirsty viewers. And what they produce – around 10 hours of addictive viewing, followed by endless media discussion surrounding it – is another person's lifetime of misery.

Since Meredith Kercher died, I have avoided everything that monetises her murder: the 2011 series with Hayden Panettiere; the film The Face of an Angel. I think of the flowers and candles, and a 21-year-old life cut short, and turn away.

I urge you to do the same when this documentary comes out. It’s not Saturday night fun; it’s cruelty for a family still suffering from an unthinkable loss. The right thing is not to watch it.

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