Stream it or skip it?

This week, HBO Max officially transitioned to Max and one of the first new releases is a true crime documentary that fits in with the streamer’s unscripted ethos. let’s take a look at How to create a sex scandal.



Opening shot: Shots of desolate suburban streets and homes are accompanied by a harrowing news voiceover: a group of men and women have been arrested for forcing children under the age of 7 to perform at a local swingers club.

The essence: In the early 2000s, adoptive parents Margie and John Cantrell moved from California to Texas for a peaceful retirement, but upon arriving in Mineola, Texas, they agreed to raise a few more children. Hunter, Shelby, and Carly were siblings placed in Child Protective Services away from allegedly abusive and drug-using parents, and later placed in Cantrell’s care. Shortly after, Margie was looking to buy a property where a former swingers club had been when children reportedly claimed it had been a site of sexual abuse and rape. But How to create a sex scandal he argues that this never happened and that the children were forced to put their own parents behind bars.

What shows will it remind you of? There’s no shortage of docu-series centered on stories ripped from the headlines, but the gist of this one might remind you of The trials of Gabriel Fernándezwhich explored the systemic issues that led to the abuse and eventual death of its titular son. How to create a sex scandal he deviates in his story, but still questions the external forces that lead to these results.

Photo: Max

Our take: How to create a sex scandal is immediately captivating: not just because of its subject matter, but because of the involvement of nearly everyone involved in the scandal, even those who may be lying about the truth. The first hour is straightforward, and even the twist at the end is expected, but it sets up an absolutely riveting story about deceit, coercion, and the fallibility of the current foster system.

Directors Julian P. Hobbs and Berndt Mader set the scene by explaining the backdrop of Mineola, Texas, touted in the miniseries as a “God-fearing” town and a typical conservative community that is scandalized by the idea of ​​a swingers club. in your neighborhood. Even as the documentary shifts its focus to the scandal in which a foster mother uncovered a pedophile sex ring, it never loses sight of the kind of conservatism at the center of the story that sees anything “different” as a threat.

In that, How to create a sex scandal is a treatise on class and identity-based politics in our country, and shows how far people will go for money, calling God’s name all the way to the bank.

Sex and skin: Although the subject is centered on sex, the documentary does not recreate any scenes of abuse.

Parting shot: Margie walks towards the camera as an explosive accusation is unleashed on her and her husband.

sleeping star: Texas Monthly executive editor Michael Hall, who first broke the story, appears throughout, providing little glimpses of evidence that we should question everything we hear.

Most of the Pilot-y line: “They told me, ‘keep your mouth shut in this town. Don’t make waves. I made waves,” says the adoptive mother named Margie Cantrell at the outset when describing how the “scandal” was uncovered.

Our call: TRANSMIT IT. A three part docuseries, How to create a sex scandal turns what is usually a true crime documentary on its head.

Radhika Menon (@menonrad) is a TV-obsessed writer living in Los Angeles. His work has been featured in Vulture, Teen Vogue, Paste Magazine and more. At any given moment, he can reflect long and hard on Friday Night Lights, the University of Michigan, and the perfect slice of pizza. You can call her Rad.

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