Parents' Guide to

Captive Audience: A Real American Horror Story

By Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Disturbing, insightful true crime docu points lens at media.

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Captive Audience: A Real American Horror Story TV show poster.

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The disturbing docuseries raises questions about how media chose to cover Stayner's kidnapping, and the long-lasting impact it had on him, his family, and the public's perception of what transpired. Captive Audience offers the opportunity for members of the Stayner family, including Steven and Cary's mother, their sister, and Steven's two adult children, to tell their stories. These journalistic elements are combined with scenes from the 1989 Emmy Award-nominated series I Know My Name is Steven, which are accompanied by audio recordings of writer J.P. Miller discussing how he adapted Steven Stayner's story for TV audiences. It also features Corin Nemec and Todd Eric Andrews, the actors who portrayed Steven and Cory on TV, performing on-camera readings of interviews with the two men before the series went into production. It's a unique way of deconstructing the sensational, and sometimes fictional, stories about Steven's life that continue to be perpetuated by media today. But as artistic and insightful as Captive Audience: A Real American Horror Story is, you can't help but think about the fact that it is contributing to the very phenomena it is criticizing. Nonetheless, it's a robust true crime story that will draw in viewers who like the genre.

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