I’ve gotten a few notes asking me if I’d seen the new Netflix documentary American Murder: The Family Next Door about the murder of Shan’ann Watts and her two children by her cheating sociopathic husband, Chris Watts.
As cheating sociopaths are my particular wheelhouse, I watched it last night. Apologies to any of CN who haven’t watched it, consider it a discussion on the extremities of devaluing.
Let me be quick to add, I don’t think every cheater is a sociopath. But I do think every sociopath is probably a cheater. And a subset of them are murderers. Because, why wouldn’t they be when they have no operating conscience?
The part of the story that will be familiar to every chump here, however, and that makes compelling viewing, is the mindfuckery. The arc of the affair. The gaslighting — is there someone else? — no, no everything is fine. The complete cognitive break between what he is doing (leaving her, withholding sex, hiding his phone) and what he’s saying (“I love you TONS!” “I miss you!”)
And Shan’ann’s breaking heart. And her sweet, innocent kids.
My thoughts on the film in no particular order.
1.) Big takeaway, nothing surprised me. I must have a particular kind of poisoning reading the stories here every day and my mail, and knowing that we have one member of CN, Tessie, who survived a murder-suicide of her cheating ex and her son. So I know that sociopaths are real. I was married to one, who threatened my life. I know that they aren’t that rare. (An estimated 1 to 3 percent of the population.) A bland man who fronts a family life while fucking around on the side? He’s Every Fuckwit.
2.) You can clock Chris Watts doing the charm, self-pity, and rage cycles. How did I know to write that? Because I lived it and observed it, and a bazillion of you have observed it too. There’s Chris chummy with the cops. Gosh! The baby’s blankets are missing! Gosh! Here’s her phone! Aren’t I a helpful lad? There’s Chris making his faux plea for his family’s safe return. “I just MISS THEM.” (Which is a really WEIRD thing to say! It’s never more emotional than he “misses” them. No sobbing. No fear. No PLEASE ANY INFORMATION OMG BRING THEM HOME breakdowns. Just all about Chris Watts. He misses them. Like he misplaced the channel changer.)
Rage cycle is off camera. That’s where he confesses to strangling Shan’ann and dumping the babies in the oil tank.
3.) Shan’ann is Every Chump. You can feel her desperation. Is she a bit cringe-y and oversharing on social media? (Asks the woman who runs an infidelity blog). Sure. Is she a bit assertive with her early impression management that her family life was #blessed? Yes. And I also think the poor woman believed it. Her gratitude for finally meeting a Nice Man. I could see her doing that thing chumps do — projecting her family dreams on to this blank lump of a guy, who is playing along. AND HOW THE HELL COULD SHE TELL THE DIFFERENCE? He’s there playing wash-the-dishes man, or take the children on an outing man. But Chris Watts never EVER looks at those babies or Shan’ann with connection. He looks like a guy playing a part. His soul is a potted fern.
4.) Shan’ann is Every Chump Part 2. She can’t understand the devaluing. And he won’t explain it to her, he just keeps using her. Up until the night he murders her. He has sex with her first.
5.) The OW is forgettable. He lied to her too? Ho-hum whatever. She seems seriously irritated and flippant in police custody. Are there three missing people presumed dead? Hey, HE LIED TO HER.
6.) Shan’ann’s tribe are real. I was impressed with how loved Shan’ann was. How her friend Nickole senses something is off very quickly and jumps into action. How fiercely her parents loved her. How her father breaks down. All of these deep, deep loving people are in contrast to Chris Watts who can’t gin up much emotion. I don’t know about you? But if my babies were missing? I’D BE HYSTERICAL. Shrieking. Rending of garments. Barfing. All of it. I would be FLOODED with emotion — as you can see the people who loved Shan’aan and her children are.
Not Chris. As the neighbor says, “Something’s not right with him.”
Your thoughts, CN?