A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Mindhunter is a psychology-themed period crime drama intended for adults. It has brutal acts of violence, bloody, mutilated corpses, detailed discussions of torture and murder, as well as discussions about infamous serial killers (it's all in context, but extremely graphic). It also contains full-on nudity, simulated sex acts, drinking, cigarette and pot smoking, and cursing. It takes an interesting and entertaining look at how the study of psychology and criminal behavior is used to solve violent crimes.
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What's the story?
Based on the book of the same title and co-produced by David Fincher and Charlize Theron, MINDHUNTER is a crime series set in 1979 about two FBI agents trying to broaden criminal science by understanding the psychology behind human behavior. Special Agent Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) is a young, somewhat sensitive hostage negotiator and training instructor who is convinced that the FBI needs to spend more time understanding why people commit violent crimes the way they do. After learning more from a sociology post-grad (played by Hannah Gross), he convinces the unit chief of the FBI National Training Academy (Cotter Smith) to send him back to school to study criminal psychology. He's recruited by Bill Tech (Holt McCallany), a special agent in the FBI's Behavior Science Unit, but despite their best efforts, they simply don't have enough knowledge to truly understand what motivates violent crime. They begin interviewing serial killers behind bars to learn more about how they think, and use what they learn to resolve open cases. Helping them with the process is Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv).
Is it any good?
This entertaining crime series takes a fictional look at how psychology and traditional investigative field work can be combined to help solve violent murders. It explores the idea that psychological profiling can reduce the number of suspects and help law enforcement understand motive. It also reveals the early misunderstandings of criminal behaviorism, as well as the stereotypes that existed about those who studied and applied it during that era.
Full of dramatic and unsettling moments, the series is also cerebral and thought-provoking. It relies on an academic understanding of psychology, sociology, and criminal behavior to authenticate the plot. The late 1970s aesthetic applied to every aspect of the series helps keep it in context. However, it's also disturbingly violent. If you can get past this, Mindhunter is a good option for adult serial crime fans looking for a show to commit to.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about psychology. How does the study of how criminals think help law enforcement? Is this approach foolproof? Do you think the way TV and movies represent this kind of work is accurate?