Within the new Netflix documentary, “Casting JonBenet”, director and writer Kitty Green offers a creative, but haunting outlook on possibly one of the most high profile child murder/mystery cases of all time, the saddening death of JonBenet Ramsey.
JonBenet Ramsey was an American child beauty pageant queen who was born on August 6th 1990 and was tragically killed in her family’s home in Colorado on Christmas Night 1996, at the age of 6. Sadly, her killers have never been identified due to mishap of the crime scene and the mysterious circumstances around her death, including the ransom note that was supposedly written by JonBenet’s killer(s). Due to JonBenet’s image as a famous child beauty queen her case generated national and even worldwide attention, which led to many conspiracies surrounding the nature of her death. Perhaps, the most popular suspicion is that JonBenet’s parents had something to do with it as handwriting experts have identified that the handwriting on the ransom note could’ve been written by Patsy Ramsey and rumours about the family including abuse and jealousy have been circling in Colorado for quire a while. Casting JonBenet explores these theories, using public opinion as a major running theme throughout.
The concept of this documentary consists of several dozen professional and nonprofessional actors that audition onscreen for the roles in the movie you are watching: Patsy Ramsey, John Ramsey, Burke Ramsey, the police officials involved and JonBenet herself. Green proceeds to record one actor after the other, usually sitting down, directly facing the camera, reciting dialogue from the real case but when speaking freely (which is more often) offering their theories and personal experience directed to the case. Whilst some of these theories may seem incredibly far-fetched (i.e. when one police chief wannabe explains his whipping tactics for rough sex in great detail) some are very haunting (i.e. when those auditioning to play the brother Burke try hitting a watermelon as hard as they can, to see if a boy their age can severely hurt a little girl’s head, as this is a popular theory into JonBenet’s death).
However, this isn’t really a film in search of the definite truth of what happened on Christmas Night 1996, it is a film to remind the public how influential public opinion can be. Many of the actors involved believe that JonBenet’s parents had a major part to play in the death of their daughter, and thus Green highlights how the Ramsey’s reputation was thoroughly damaged after the case. No matter what the actors involved in the documentary say about the case, it is evident that their conspiracies intertwine together to create a blurry picture of what unfolded on that fateful night – highlighted in the ending scene, which I thought was the best and most haunting moment of the whole documentary.
Therefore, if you want a true crime documentary outlining the events and aftermath of Jonbenet’s death then this isn’t the viewing for you, instead it offers a unique perspective into how influential conspiracies are for specific crimes – including a historic one like JonBenet’s. Overall even though this show didn’t teach me anything new about the case, it highlighted how important public opinion is in cold cases in the history of crime. As a result of these conspiracies many stories arise in the field of crime, and therefore people can easily jump to conclusions about the real truth, which is very dangerous in my opinion. I would also say, just watch this show purely for the ending, which is one of the most chilling endings I have ever seen and thankfully emphasises a major factor in this case which people often forget about – no matter what the conspiracy is for this case, the most important and saddening factor is that a little girl’s life was tragically cut short.