Netflix has been producing something new every week in 2018. Movies and TV series have all been the name of the game until their recent development of short docu-series.
These docu-series normally consist of 5 to 10 episodes cataloging lesser known but high impact events in the world. One such show, Dirty Money, showcases how a few business leaders have been swimming through national and international laws by finding convenient loopholes and/or tricking the mainstream public into unfortunate circumstances.
If you have seen these or other documentaries, in general, you know that the role of documentarian is to normally be unbiased so that they can present the best argument by citing all sides and either arguing against those sides to help the viewers agree with their documentary or to present all the information possible for the viewers themselves to decide. Obviously the former is more common due to the fact that documentaries should have a clear goal outlined for the viewer and while these are generally easier to tell since there is only one side to be told, Dirty Money, follows the latter form.
This is where the show has become tricky. (Spoilers ahead)
In particular, episode two discusses the online quick money loaning scandal.
Scott Tucker and his brother Blaine Tucker, along with some affiliates, were in charge of numerous companies that loaned small amounts of money to people via the internet. These loans were predatory in that they sought out low to middle-class Americans to sell to and then, within the fine print, charged massive interest rates. Five months into any loan agreement with these companies would charge "service fees" that were unbeknownst to customers, not being put towards their loans and actually accumulated more towards the interest owed on the loans. Customer service representatives are told to mislead customers once they call about their loans. The real issue evolves, however, when the show introduces the fact that all the companies are a part of a Native American company that is headquartered on sacred land, making them untouchable to state laws who are the legal authorities to deal with loan shark issues. This last loophole made the company billions and scot-free.
The series itself, however, revolves around Scott and his lawyer while he is fighting the legal battle against the state. Other detailed accounts are given but the main focus seems to be on Scott and his life. The juxtaposition creates a gap in the viewer's perception, and can lead one to think about if they agree to sympathize with Scott and his family who are now suffering or with the millions of people to whom Scott has tricked and abused?
"Tucker, meanwhile, was buying mansions and fast cars and making a name for himself as a professional race car driver, playing an elaborate shell game with his businesses that included fronting as a Native American-run operation. His on-camera hubris is astounding, even as tow trucks literally repossess his beloved hot rods from his home mid-interview.
The deceptive nature and near-sociopathic unwillingness of Tucker to recognize the ruin his actions brought upon others is another common thread throughout all the unsettling narratives featured in 'Dirty Money.'" - from the Los Angeles Times article
While you may believe that it is easy to discern the evil intent Scott Tucker had by creating these malicious companies, the episode actually spends about half the time arguing for Scott and his family. The interviewees are the narrators meaning that the only arguments from the director of the documentary are to be taken from the format and timeline of the documentary, which sometimes favors Scott. The second half of the LA Times quote makes this point. Scott is unwilling to admit fault. Viewers see this but it is still unclear as to the point trying to be made by the show itself thus leaving the viewers to question the actual intent.
Then Scott's brother, Blaine Tucker, commits suicide in a mall parking lot.
The feeling of dread from losing his brother is compounded when Scott begins to think that his brother's feelings may have stemmed from the company's turmoil. However, Scott doubles down on his notion that the government is harassing him and his family and the documentary relates these two stories one after the other to make the story seem as if the government had to do with his brother's suicide. Scott is then disassociated from the Payday Loan company at this point and considers himself a victim, a simple business person from small-time Kanas City, Missouri. The viewers are left to their own devices at this point which brings us back to the question of how should we feel with all of this information, what was left to interpretation, and who could have knowingly done these things to the American public?
Leave your thoughts in the comments.