**Dirty John spoiler alert**
It is almost natural for humans to be interested in crime and psychotic people, it is almost instinctive to become invested in movies, shows or documentaries about them.
This is evident in the popularity of movies, shows and documentaries that depict the lives and crimes of people who have done horrendous acts. Such as Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, Making a Murderer and Abducted in Plain Sight, which all had high ratings on the streaming site Netflix.
One of these shows is Dirty John. Debuting on Bravo in November 2018, the true crime series was picked up and available to stream on Netflix in early 2019. It follows the life and crimes of John Meehan, though some of the plot lines were exaggerated for dramatic effect in the show.
Meehan was a con-artist and sociopath. He would get with women to manipulate them into getting what he wants, whether that was drugs or money. The series concentrates on the last relationship he had, with Debra Newell.
Following the success of the series Dirty John, Netflix also released a documentary about the story which featured Debra Newell, her daughters and some of John’s previous wives and girlfriends. It also included the detectives working on his case and Christopher Goffard.
The series and documentary are based on the podcast and work of Christopher Goffard, a Los Angeles Times journalist who wrote about the crimes of Meehan, essentially breaking the story about the sociopath.
The story concentrates on his master manipulation, how he avoids prosecution for all the crimes he committed, his drug abuse, the psychological mind games he played on his victims and the brainwashing he did to achieve all he did.
The show starts with Debra and John meeting through an online dating app, seeming like the perfect guy from his profile Newell met him and they started dating. Things escalated quickly and the pair were married within months of meeting.
Ignoring the red flags and the warnings from her daughters about Meehan, Newell continued her relationship. Chaos ensued and despite the chaos Newell stayed with him, she even escaped his grasp but still went back to him.
While the documentary tells the same story as the TV series, the documentary tells it through the perspective of the people in John’s life who had suffered his abuse.
The show and documentary are primarily a form of entertainment, but they can also teach people important life lessons. It shows just how dangerous people can be despite the innocent and ‘perfect guy’ mask that they wear.
This story teaches people to not be so trusting and quick to jump into a relationship with someone you met online. It also shows the perspective of a person who is in an abusive relationship and the decisions they make despite knowing about the lies and the things he’s done.
While we might not be able to understand why she doesn’t leave him and why she goes back to him after she had let him, she had her reasons. First and foremost, she fell in love with him. But she was also scared, she knew when it wouldn’t be safe for her to leave.
In the documentary, Laura Richards, a criminal behavioural analyst, said: “victims are the best assessors of their own risk”. This is something that many people don’t understand when looking at an abusive relationship. This is why Dirty John is good to watch as it shows this and helps people to understand it.
The TV series has been picked up for another season, so this is not the last we will see oh John Meehan’s story.