Dirty John and serial predators

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We review Dirty John, the Netflix series about John Meehan, a serial predator

Dirty John and serial predators

Dirty John tells the story of John Meehan, a man who by all accounts looks perfect, but who keeps a dark past and hidden intentions. This series of eight episodes is based on a homonymous podcast in which the story of this character was told. The narrative thread revolves around the relationship of John Meehan, played by Eric Bana, with Debra Newell, played by Connie Britton. However, as time goes on, we will become aware of other aspects of John's life and his past, and we see that it is no longer a problematic relationship, but rather a male predator case.

Leer en español: Dirty John y la depredación en serie

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What is Dirty John about?

The very successful and millionaire Debra has a profile on dating websites to look for romance. She goes to several dates with men she meets online and never feels admired or attracted to anyone. She, however, is looking to be the owner of her sexuality and is determined to continue dating men who may be interesting. Her daughters do not always agree with this, since Debra has already been married four times with men who, as the series suggest, have disappointed her. One day she meets John Meehan, a handsome man with whom she can have an interesting conversation and a good time. In the first episode of the series we can see how the relationship between Debra and John moves quickly and ends up in a hasty marriage after only a couple of months of getting to know each other.

Debra's daughters are always on a defensive stance. Due to her mother's success and money, they distrust any man who approaches her, because they fear that men want to cheat her to keep everything she has. The series manages very well to make us believe at the beginning that perhaps the daughters exaggerate in the protection of their mother and in the distrust of the men and then make us change their opinion and put ourselves on their side.

We see, then, throughout the eight episodes, a complex man that we do not understand sometimes, but whose actions will make sense as we get more and more information. The more we go into his past and his history, the more we fear for Debra, because, at the same time as she, we learn about what goes on in John's head.


You can see in the series a concern to give visibility to the problem of men cheating on women. The series wants to free Debra from all guilt and give the impression that she is a victim of John's manipulation. Eric Bana makes a brilliant interpretation in John's role: subtle and calculating, he convinces us at the beginning of being an absolutely normal man, while later becoming a scary character that we fear and in whose mind we want to enter. Connie Britton, on the other hand, makes sometimes an irresponsible interpretation of her character. Debra is a successful woman who has created an empire out of her own work and her genius. In this sense, the series underestimates her by showing her ridiculously gullible and naive.

If the series wanted to show the subtlety of male manipulation within a toxic relationship, it would have been more interesting to see ourselves seduced by John's character while seducing Debra. Instead, we see a naive and incredibly insecure woman whom we sometimes judge to be gullible. And it is not like that: the victim should never be blamed, because, in fact, it is never her fault. This is a psychological and manipulative violence much less obvious and explicit, so it is somewhat more difficult to narrate. Although flawed, Dirty John is a good first try.

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LatinAmerican Post | Juliana Rodirguez

Translated from "Dirty John y la depredación en serie"