REVIEW: ‘Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez’

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Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez

Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez, directed by Geno McDermott, is a Netflix Orignal three-part documentary series exploring the trial, conviction, and death of Aaron Hernandez, the New England Patriots tight end who was sentenced for killing Odin Lloyd and two Boston-area men. Hernandez was a star football player who, in 2013, had just signed a five-year, $40 million contract with the Patriots. However, he didn’t become a household name until the media frenzy around the now infamous murder case began.

Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez explores the secrets that were uncovered during the trial, including Hernandez’s abusive upbringing, involvement with gangs, and other factors that clearly contributed to his violent behavior.  The series features exclusive courtroom footage, Hernandez’s phone calls from prison, and interviews with those who knew Hernandez and Lloyd.

From the start, Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez delves into Hernandez’s history. Despite what many would assume, Hernandez did not grow up in poverty. He grew up in a fairly safe area and went to a good high school. Additionally, his father played football at UConn. Despite their status in Bristol, Connecticut, where the Hernandez family was well-known for their achievements in sports, Mr. Hernandez was very abusive, especially when he drank. Many of Aaron Hernandez’s friends recall most of his erratic behavior stemming from his unstable childhood home.

Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez

The documentary delves into just how much of Hernandez’s life was hidden from his father, including his various relationships with men. The exposition scenes of Hernandez’s background are played in between recorded phone calls from his time in prison between him and his mother where he is clearly being homophobic and later with his fiance being incredibly transphobic.

While the background is fascinating, it is concerning as to why Hernandez’s bisexuality matters. The implication here is that Hernandez’s upbringing and the fact he was forced to stay closeted is why he eventually made the horrible choices he did. That is a dangerous implication to make, especially considering that of the 7,120 hate crime incidents reported in 2018, more than 1,300 — or nearly 19 percent — stemmed from anti-LGBTQ bias. That means nearly 1 in 5 hate crimes were motivated by anti-LGBTQ bias.

A more telling look at what led Hernandez to become the violent person he was is actually the series’ investigation into his college career. While at the University of Florida, Hernandez assaulted a bar manager. Despite sucker-punching the man and bursting his eardrum, he was never charged. Later during his time in Gainesville, Hernandez was involved in a shooting where he was also never charged. These types of altercations aren’t unheard of among college athletes, as many college stars are able to get away with violence and other forms of aggression without consequences. Following the loss of his father in high school, Hernandez no longer had the strict order to his life he was so used to.

However, that environment completely changed when Hernandez was drafted to the Patriots in 2010. Coach Bill Belichick runs the program like a military operation. Everyone is expected to work incredibly hard and losing isn’t on the docket. Despite that, Hernandez living and working so close to his hometown of Bristol, Connecticut meant that he could still hang out with an unruly crowd. Similarly to his sexuality, connecting Hernandez’s use of marijuana to his violence and criminality is inappropriate. While weed or any substance including alcohol can be dangerous for young minds, there is no evidence that it rewires the brain or makes users more violent.

Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez

During the second trial Hernandez was involved in, his sexuality did come up and was something the prosecution tried to use to explain some of his anger. However, one of the lawyers on Hernandez’s defense was gay and quickly shut down the argument. The court ruled that unless the prosecution wanted to disclose all evidence to the public, as the trial was open to the media, it would have to be thrown out, which ultimately, it was. Later, a reporter outed Hernandez to the public and implied Odin Lloyd died because he found Hernandez with another man. The idea of people who are closeted being violent because they are closeted is unfounded. It is frustrating that the documentary focuses so heavily on Hernandez’s sexuality and also the sexual abuse he faced as a child without understanding or explaining the ideas it is perpetuating. While the documentary does discredit the claim about Lloyd’s death, it still forces viewers to draw a lot of conclusions about Hernandez’s violence being tied to his closeted sexuality, or his sexuality in general.

Hernandez was an impulsive person who could at a moment’s notice go from being a jovial, friendly guy to a violent, vile, and degenerate human being. It is clear that he hid and pushed down a lot of his emotions and self-medicated in unhealthy ways. Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez consistently tries to blame Hernandez’s violence on his closeted sexuality, drug use, and even CTE, a neurodegenerative disease caused by repeated head injuries also known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. As the series repeatedly makes faulty and concerning correlations, it never calls the issue what it is: toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity is “what can come of teaching boys that they can’t express emotion openly; that they have to be “tough all the time;” that anything other than that makes them “feminine” or weak.” More and more research shows the way the patriarchy treats men hurts them and can lead to violence. The term was never even mentioned in the documentary series.

The best part of Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez is the ending and understanding exactly why Hernandez killed himself. Abatement, the archaic Massachusetts law, allowed Hernandez to have his record wiped clean following his death and is more than likely the main motive for killing himself. The idea that he killed himself for his family is far more interesting than the narrative that he killed people because of his rage over his closeted sexuality.

Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez is streaming now on Netflix.

Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez
6.5/10

TL;DR

The best part of Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez is the ending and understanding exactly why Hernandez killed himself. Abatement, the archaic Massachusetts law, allowed Hernandez to have his record wiped clean following his death and is more than likely the main motive for killing himself. The idea that he killed himself for his family is far more interesting than the narrative that he killed people because of his rage over his closeted sexuality.