John Wayne Gacy: Devil in Disguise
By Martin Brown,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Docuseries about famed serial killer has sexual violence.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
John Wayne Gacy: Devil in Disguise is a portrait of a serial killer. Any positive messages come from the law enforcement side of the docuseries: finding Gacy, proving his guilt, and providing closure for the families of his victims.
Positive Role Models
The primary focus is on Gacy's behavior and what it means to be a sociopath and mass murderer. On the law enforcement side, some of the documentary subjects show deduction, ingenuity, patience, and compassion.
Violence & Scariness
The documentary is centered around Gacy's series of abductions and murders, which are described frequently and in detail. He also subjected his victims to horrific sexual violence.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Sexual acts including rape, sexual assault, sodomy, and others are spoken about and described throughout the documentary.
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Mild profanity is occasionally used and includes "s--t," "damn," "hell," etc.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Alcohol use is described at times throughout the series. Some interviewees are seen smoking cigarettes.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that John Wayne Gacy: Devil in Disguise is a documentary series about Gacy, the serial killer who murdered at least 33 young men and boys in the 1970s. The documentary is centered around a rare interview with Gacy from 1990, ten years after his conviction, most of which has not been seen by the public. Gacy is famous for how well-liked and respected he was among his friends and neighbors, and how normal he seemed. The documentary focuses on how a predator and sociopath can hide in plain sight, and how his acts may have been unknowingly enabled by his community. Gacy's murders were sexually motivated, and the documentary speaks candidly about sexual acts, including sexual assault, pedophilia, grooming, and sodomy. Both the violence and the sexual acts are discussed objectively, as part of the crime investigation, but are consistent topics of discussion throughout.
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John Wayne Gacy: Devil in Disguise
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What's the Story?
JOHN WAYNE GACY: DEVIL IN DISGUISE is a documentary about the notorious 1970s serial killer. The series details Gacy's case, his background, how he was caught, how he committed his crimes, and how he was convicted. It also explores the legacy of his case. Gacy was notoriously well-liked and respected among his friends and neighbors, and one of the main focuses of the documentary is how a serial killer can hide in plain sight.
Is It Any Good?
True crime series are incredibly popular, but it's worth asking how learning about crimes of the past can be relevant to today. John Wayne Gacy doesn't quite carry the name recognition he had even 25 years ago, but his story still carries weight. Devil in Disguise focuses on how a serial killer and predator was able to assimilate into suburbia. It uses little-seen interviews with Gacy, as well as new interviews with his investigators, prosecutors, friends and neighbors. The subject is fascinating, but Devil in Disguise doesn't do much to appeal to viewers who might not already be interested in serial killers, or Gacy himself. In that sense, it feels like it's arrived 25 years late.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about John Wayne Gacy. What did you know about Gacy before watching the documentary? What inspired you to watch it? What can be learned from Gacy's story? Why do you think true crime documentaries are so popular?
How did investigators catch Gacy? What skills were needed to catch and convict him? What unique things did the investigators and prosecutors do in this case? How did luck come into play?
Why does the documentary emphasize how normal Gacy seemed? How did that affect how investigators treated him? How did friends and neighbors think about them? How did the revelation of his crimes change their perception?
- Premiere date: March 25, 2021
- Network: Peacock
- Genre: Educational
- TV rating: TV-14
- Last updated: February 28, 2022
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