This feels a little exploitative. ID and Discovery+ have unveiled their upcoming true crime slate, and it includes a special on the Hammer family, as in Armie Hammer’s family, and will explore “a dysfunctional dynasty with its male characters exhibiting all the devastating consequences of privilege gone wild.” I get that this is what ID does, and there is a whole sub-genre of true crime devoted to the crimes and misdemeanors of the wealthy (the preppy killer, anyone?), but would this special exist, even as a concept, if it weren’t for Armie Hammer’s recent implosion? It just feels a bit like latching onto a—if not a tragedy, then a sad spectacle—and piling on for ratings. As with all things true crime, I’m torn.
On the one hand, I am an aficionado, and I do think there is value—social, psychological, emotional—in studying true crime to understand ourselves. I think a large part of the appeal of true crime is that it allows us to explore darker corners of ourselves and society from the relative security of the past tense (“This already happened, let me tell you about it”). But on the other hand, true crime is innately exploitative, and I also think we must always be aware that every true crime story is the worst day of someone’s life, and we should always be aware of the lines between illumination, entertainment, and exploitation.
This special, currently titled “House of Hammer”, seems particularly sleazy for how it ties into Armie Hammer’s recent issues, which should not be taken lightly, especially with survivors still seeking reparation and justice. There was already a lot of holleration around Hammer’s disgrace, partly for the lascivious aspects of his messages and DMs, but also partly for the schadenfreude, and I’m not sure I trust an ID special to clean that up and find the humanist angle amidst all the tawdry details. Also, Vanity Fair already milked this cow, connecting Armie’s problems to the trials and tribulations of his antecedents. To be fair, the Hammer family is rife with scandals, murders, mistresses, and grifts—and oh, yeah. Everyone’s gonna watch this, huh?