In case you haven’t heard, Dirty John is back on Netflix for another season.
Far removed from season one’s gritty source material – the Dirty John podcast from LA Times reporter Christopher Goffard – season two of the anthology tells the story of scorned suburban wife, Betty Broderick.
After meeting in Indiana during their college years, Betty (Amanda Peet) and Dan Broderick (Christian Slater) married in April of 1969.
The Netflix series follows the couple from their humble beginnings, Betty in the “heroic” role of working mum, parenting alone and feeding her children using food stamps, and Dan as the absentee father dedicated to his studies at both medical school and law school, through to their successful, affluent life in San Diego.
As their four kids grow, Dan builds a successful law practice, and Betty enjoys a day-drinking, socialite lifestyle.
But their life, heavy in materialism and 1880s glamour, takes a turn when Dan has an affair, leaves Betty and marries his secretary, Linda Kolkena.
Then, things get messy and “revengey”.
Despite Betty’s early depiction as a loving wife and mother, the subtle hints of a marriage lacking love devolves into a five-year legal battle over money, property and custody, which is interlaced with Betty’s self-destruction.
Her obsession with her ex-husband and his new wife sees her excluded from her friendship group and her mental health deteriorates to the point of a psychiatric ward session.
Her increasingly abusive behaviour includes threatening phone messages, vandalism, breaking and entering, and burning Dan’s clothes, and climaxes in Betty shooting Dan and Linda.
The depiction of Dan is problematic; the series toys with victim blaming and hints his “gas-lighting” contributed to his death in a way that would enrage feminists (myself included) if the genders were reversed.
Betty Broderick receives encouragement from other women who send her letters of support in prison.
This is not the first time Betty Broderick’s story has been told on the small screen.
The murders were the subject of a 1992 tele-movie and she and her grown children were interviewed by Oprah Winfrey that same year.
In the interview, Betty Broderick claimed she had the “the perfect marriage.”
However, her daughter Kim, who testified against her at trial, told the Los Angeles Times her mum got mad at her dad all the time.
“Once, Mom picked up the stereo and threw it at Dad,” she said.
“And she locked him out constantly and he’d come around to my window and whisper, ‘Kim, let me in’.”
It’s another Hollywood true crime story and it’s super watchable, with some problematic underlying tones of ‘he might have deserved it’.
Now streaming on Netflix.
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